Book Publishing FAQs

I have written a book, how to get the book published ?

Writing a book was half the journey and the other half begins now. It will produce enduring results if you have it published through a reputed publishing house. A good publisher is simply the one who can take your work across the globe and transparently pay you your deserving royalties.

Which publishing option is right for you?

Well, the answer depends on what you wish to map out of your writing and your ambitions in the literary world. Broadly there are three kinds of publishing options:


Traditional publishing: The books which you see at major bookstores are all by traditional book publishers. They carefully scrutinize the manuscripts which come to them, filter and publish only the ones they can do justice to. The single most differentiating factor between traditional and other publishers is the fact that the others do not have any retail book distribution network (i.e. ability to sell through bookstores). Also, since the publishers have a qualified editorial and creative staff, their products are excellent in quality.

Self-publishing: Self-publishing is essentially a publishing service where the authors pay them and use their services for editing, cover designing, and printing. Once the book is ready, it can be sold through book-selling websites. These services are also called Print-on-Demand services.

Many self-publishers have argued against traditional publishing, creating an aura of negativity which in turn has benefitted their businesses. It is certainly an alluring shortcut for authors, who want to save the time and effort of pitching their manuscript to traditional book publishers.

The below chart highlights the differences you can expect to see and experience between traditional and self-publishers. This will help authors make well-informed decisions regarding the publisher they choose.

FactorSelf-PublishersTraditional Publishers
Ease of approachExcellentRather rigid
Waiting period for evaluation of manuscriptMinimum time 2-6 weeks or more
Quality of productBooks are edited & produced at poor  standards – all elements (from quality of content, to the cover, to production quality ), suffer due to thisHigh standards of editorial & production maintained
Marketing for authors /booksNone /or as per the author bearing costsThe publisher spends on promotions
Eligibility to contest in literary awardsNot eligible. Eligible
Monetary returnsMinimumFair
Retail book distributionNilExcellent
Possibility of using the creative content for other mediums (eg. films, TV, etc)Low / NilGood
Possibility of getting published100%Depends on evaluation of the manuscript
Most important: cost of the bookINR 2-3 per page (ie. a 100-page self-published book will be priced at INR 200- 300.These books are sold mostly on the self publisher’s own portal and are bought generally by the author’s own friends or the author himself/herself. Regular buyers would not generally pick up  a poorly produced book at those prices.All the top end, international and Indian book publishers are now producing at INR 0.5/page to INR 1/page (ie. a 100-page book will not cost more than INR 100 to buy. It is meant to be sold to book buyers.

Accelerated Publishing: 

This is the new age publishing route, which brings together the best of both traditional publishing and self-publishing. It is a platform-based approach which enables the author to carry out the publishing process on their own and the books are made available across the globe in paperback and ebook formats. It allows the author to understand how readers are reading the book, and using the data and analytics, the author can alter the book to improve the commercial success of the book. As the same happens the book is moved to commercial publishing with all the aspects of traditional publishing kicking in this phase. The investment by the company is the technology platform, which is not chargeable to the author. The author and the company earn money from each book sold.

You may look at Pencil (www.thepencilapp.com) for accelerated publishing. (Note, ‘Pencil’is a sister entity of Leadstart).

How do you pitch to a Publisher for publishing a book?

Through a Literary Agent

What are the trade norms between an Author and a Literary Agent?

This varies from project to project. Fifteen percent is the general norm Literary Agents charge as commission, from everything related to the book sales. This broadly includes an upfront fee if the publishers offer the same; royalty on all books sold (including audiobooks and e-books), paid excerpts from other forms of media (newspapers, magazines, websites, etc.); in short, everything that the content monetizes.

What services do literary agents deliver for their commission?

Typically, Literary Agents pitch the author’s proposal or manuscript to publishers and helps the author to negotiate the best deal. As the agent makes money from the deal, he tries and gets the best he can. Most agents edit and fine-tune the book pitch. They have an idea of which publisher is looking for what genres of books hence they pitch accordingly, which drastically improves the chances of the book’s success with the publishers. Once the contract is signed, they act as the author’s face to the publisher.

Do publishers pay Literary Agents?

Generally, they do not pay. Literary Agents earn their commissions from what they make for the authors they represent (i.e. it comes out of the author’s royalty).

What royalty is a good royalty?

Just like any regular deal, it depends upon who is in greater need. If the manuscript is extraordinary and the author is a proven best-selling author, publishers pitch to get the rights, leading to better deals for the writer. If the manuscript has been rejected by several publishers, the one who picks it up and invests logically negotiates harder. Hence royalties have no fixed rates. An industry average is 5-7 percent of the cover price or 10-15% of net receipts.

How do I pitch a manuscript myself?

Do your homework well. The following pointers may be of help to you.

Pitch to the right publisher: most authors make the terrible mistake of assuming all publishers publish everything (eg. spiritual, children, fiction, investment, management, etc.). Trying to sell a non-priority genre to a publisher is like selling snow to an Eskimo – your snow may be fabulous but he does not need it. The genres publishers want to buy are listed on their websites or can be understood from the books they publish.

What is in it for the Publisher? For a moment assume you are the publisher and think of all the things you would look at before buying the manuscript. Publishing is not a charity business, people do not enter the industry to serve art. They exist to earn returns on their investment. Before you approach any publisher read the Leadstart Manuscript Evaluation Metrics, it will give you a clearer understanding of the publisher’s requirements. Each publisher has its evaluation methodology, this is ours.

Stand out from the crowd: Leadstart Publishing is a medium-sized company and still receives about 70-100 manuscripts a day (2000-3000 manuscripts a month), and publishes only 12-15 titles every month. The manuscript evaluation team has only 6 people and we ensure that every author who writes to us gets a reply, even if we reject the work. We require a concept note, a synopsis, the full contents page, two sample chapters, and your CV. We ask for your CV to know what you have written till date. If you write a blog, mention it. If you have been published elsewhere, mention it. Your synopsis is a key element in your pitch. The synopsis must be so compelling that the evaluator is forced to read the sample. The sample chapters need not be the first two, only the best two.

Sound Professional: being a first-timer is not a problem, but being silly is an issue. Please read through the things written by others on the internet before you start approaching publishers. Many authors feel they present themselves more strongly in person, so ask to meet if possible. if being an author you fail in your written skills, what impression can you possibly create with the publisher? Any legitimate publishing company starts work with you only after they have evaluated and chosen your manuscript to publish.

Is obtaining copyrights to my work compulsory?

Not really. You get the copyrights of any original content you have created as soon as you create it. It is mentioned on the imprint page of all published books. But you cannot stop someone somewhere in the world from creating the same content and publishing it. He will own that copyright. Hence, it is better to publish the content as early as possible. It is a good idea to register the copyrights with the IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) authorities to protect your work. Some lawyers specialize in this work. Also when an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is assigned to your book, it protects the work to some extent.

How do publishers evaluate a manuscript for publication?

The evaluation of a manuscript differs with each publisher and no other publisher that we know of has disclosed their evaluation tool publicly. We decided to be transparent here as well, and the following is the gist of our manuscript evaluation metrics. We have disclosed enough information to allow any writer to approximately evaluate his/her manuscript.

Please read: Leadstart Manuscript Evaluation Metrics

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