The Classic. Like a cocktail that never goes out of fashion or a comfortable sweater that still looks nice at formal events, traditional publishing is the most common goal for many writers. What’s not to love? All of the editing, cover art, marketing, and logistics are taken care of at no cost to the author. You might even get a nice advance payment against royalties. All lovely.
However, traditional publishing has a massive barrier to entry. Shifting readership and how media is consumed in the digital age is also forcing publishers to adapt and adopt new strategies. Advances are shrinking while small- and micro-publishers are emerging, often focusing on niche genres and markets. That Golden Goose book deal with a six-figure advance is an endangered species these days (not that it was ever overly common). First-time authors will likely need to help market their own books and themselves. You’re not just a writer anymore; you’re also a brand. Being a reclusive artsy genius isn’t usually going to be practical.
If you’re aiming for traditional publishing, looking for an agent is a solid first step. Check out r/Pubtips on Reddit to learn the basics. Whether you land with a Big Five House
or a micro-publisher, that’s still progress. But be wary of “Vanity Press” publishers. These are the sharks that will promise you the trade experience but require you to pay out-of-pocket for art, editing, promotion, or even to “buyback” your own copyright. It’s all of the downsides of self-publishing with an extra edge of predatory behavior. Pay attention for any red flags and read over contracts carefully, then give them to friends and family you trust for additional eyeballs.
While getting a solo book published can be daunting, keep an eye out for anthology submission opportunities for short stories.