"Three Mock-Up Music Posters," Dominique Bloink. Grade 10, Age 16. Gold Medal, Design

In this month’s Ask Ned, Ned discusses the book publishing process and how to choose a cover.

Brenna Asked:
When you write a book, how do you get it published, and how do you get a cover for it? Like a picture on the front? Thank you.

Ned Answered:
Brenna, there are many ways that a book can get published. The easiest way, if you have money, is to pay someone to publish it for you. This is called a “vanity press” and plenty of people who want to see their work in print simply pay to run off a few hundred copies. There’s nothing wrong with that!

If you want a larger audience, however, the next step is self-publishing. This can be done using print-on-demand services like Lulu.com. With Lulu, you print your book for free and then the company takes a cut of every copy sold. You can print whatever sort of book you like and, through eBooks, you can actually make money doing this.

Moving away from self-publishing, there are independent book publishers and major book publishers who may want to publish your work. Indie publishers tend to focus more on niche markets while major publishers include Random House and HarperCollins. You will need an agent to approach the major houses.

Now, as to the cover for your book, depending on how you publish the cover can come from one of two places. If you go with a vanity press, self-publish, or even work with an an independent publisher, you can pick your cover. Small publishers often don’t have budgets for a big art department and are happy to take suggestions from authors.

If you work with a major publishing house, though, you will not be picking the cover. The book company’s art department will select the most market-friendly cover possible — or farm the task out to a design group. Although they might want your input, they have the final say, and you’ll have to trust them.

Good luck!

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Have questions about writing, or the business of publishing? Ask a real writer! Ned Vizzini is the author of It’s Kind of a Funny Story (also a major motion picture), Be More Chill, and Teen Angst? Naaah…. Ned has spoken at over 200 schools, universities, libraries and organizations around the world about writing and mental health. He currently reviews books for the L Magazine and is writing for season 2 of MTV’s Teen Wolf. His work has been translated into seven languages. His next novel, The Other Normals, will be published in fall 2012. E-mail your questions to askned@artandwriting.org.

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