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Kenneth asks, "I have written a 55,000 word manuscript. How do I get it published without costing me an arm and a leg. This is my first book but I have started on a second."
You basically have three options. The first is called self-publishing where you hire out printers, editors, and so on and do all the marketing and try to get the book in the hands of reviewers. That takes anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000. People go into it with great enthusiasm but there are always problems.
The second option is to find an agent who will represent it to a publisher. You need to go to the bookstore and find a book similar to your own. If and when you do that try to find out the publisher and the agent who represented the author. This is the central way to get a book published. It's a ruthless world, this publishing world. Not knowing whether the manuscript is fiction or non-fiction there are ways you approach an agent. Write a proposal with a cover letter and some sample chapters that give the agent an idea of what you've done. Make it very good. Indicate to the agent who you think the audience is. Get a Writer's Market book or go online here.
It's about $3-4 a month and worth it I think. You need to do a lot research and find the best agent to take your manuscript and get it to the publisher who could use it. That is the single best way of doing it. And in dealing with an agent don't pay them for "reading the manuscript" or anything of that nature. They are in the business of finding manuscripts for publishers and should survive by doing that.
A third option is Print on Demand or POD. It has some very interesting, intriguing aspects to it. Some of the more popular POD publishers are iPublish and Lulu.com. You have to be a bit wary with them and check them out fully. Most will cost you between $1,000 and $2,000 to get a decent book in your hand that can be published "on demand." It's a risk. You have to factor in the marketability of the book, how much you are willing to market it, and so on. But, it is a clear alternative to going through the agent and publisher.
Trafford.com is another POD that has a decent reputation.
I would look at all options. Self-publishing is very arduous but if you have the time and money it might be worth it. The classic text on self-publishing is The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing by Tom and Marilyn Ross. They do a splendid job in going over all the facets of publishing. It's interesting to read even if you opt for another option.
Make sure you research an agent and find one who will give you an honest appraisal of your manuscript. That's very important.
It shouldn't cost you an arm and a leg to publish but it is fraught with anxiety.
Spend some time studying publisher contracts for certain. The best book I've found is The Writer's Legal Companion by Bunnin and Beren.
Always believe in what you've written but be very wary and ask questions of people who claim they are going to do wonders for your book.
Look at the Ross book, look at the online POD publishers and try to understand the publishing process as much as possible.
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