Ready to Publish,
But Don’t Know Where to Start?
Ready to Publish,
But Don’t Know Where to Start?
In a nutshell, here are the main differences between traditional publishing and self-publishing:
– If you self-publish your book, you will pay the publisher for the costs of cover art, internal layout, external layout, and printing. You will pay for any book promotion, and it will be mainly up to you to generate book sales. Because you’ve paid for the publishing costs, you will likely receive a higher royalty percentage from the publisher as compared to traditional publishing royalties.
Then print-on-demand (POD) technology came along and turned the book publishing business upside down.
Print-On Demand Publishing
Nowadays, instead of paying for several thousand books to be printed, the self-publishing author has to pay for only the initial setup costs and cover art. With print-on-demand technology, the actual books are printed only as orders are received. No more book inventories. No more books gathering dust in closets and garages.
With the advent of print-on-demand technology, self-publishing a book has become faster, easier, and cheaper.
Now let’s get back to the book you’ve just completed, and the decision you’re facing. Should you self-publish your book, or should you seek a publishing contract with a traditional publisher? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both.
If you place your book with a major commercial publisher, it will get noticed by influential book reviewers and booksellers, and this will almost certainly generate healthy sales numbers.
If you hope to get a writing career off the ground, a growing audience of readers is essential. To build that audience, you’ll have to place your book with a traditional publisher. Then you’ll have to build on that momentum with another book that also appeals to a wide audience of readers. Over the course of your first few books, you’ll build a reader base that won’t let you down. A few lucky writers have been able to launch careers with self-published books, but it’s extremely rare.
A traditional publisher can take a year or more to publish your book even after you’ve signed the publishing contract and delivered the manuscript. With self-publishing, you can hold your book in your hand within a few weeks of the date you send your manuscript to the publisher. More importantly, it will be available for purchase at online booksellers. If patience is not a virtue you embrace, then you’ll probably prefer the faster pace of the self-publishing process.
Unless you get sucked into buying one of the costly editorial or book promotion packages offered by the big POD publishers (my advice: don’t waste your money), you can have the cover art and interior layout done for a few hundred dollars—a thousand at most. Some online publishing services even allow the author to do the setup and provide the cover art, so technically savvy authors can publish their books without any up-front costs at all.
Available to Everyone
If you’ve tried to snag a publishing contract with a traditional publisher, then you already know how daunting that can be. Most of the print-on-demand self-publishing firms will publish books that traditional publishers won’t touch. As long as your check clears the bank, they’ll publish your book. If you’ve struck out in your efforts to place your book with a traditional publisher, or if it’s clear that your book doesn’t have sufficient commercial potential to meet that high threshold, then self-publishing is a viable option.
Most traditional publishing contracts give the publisher the right to make decisions about book content, promotion, and distribution. Some authors don’t like giving up those rights, especially for nonfiction books that may carry religious, political, or other themes that are important to the author. Generally speaking, traditional publishers don’t like to get into squabbles with authors about content, but the fact is, they typically have the right to make whatever changes they feel are necessary in order to help them sell more copies of the book.
Though this isn’t true of all self-publishing contracts, many of these firms are fairly liberal about the author’s rights. In some cases, canceling a contract is as easy as sending a registered letter to the publisher. In other cases, the publishing contract may cover only a year or two. This means that the author still has the option of placing the book with a traditional publisher once the self-publishing contract has expired.
Higher Per-Copy Profit
Self-publishing firms typically pay a higher royalty than traditional publishers. The publishing contract sometimes stipulates a specific cost per book. If the author pays $5 per copy for a book that sells online for $12, it’s easy enough to see that the author’s profit per copy sold is much higher than a 10 percent traditional publishing royalty would be.
Requires Literary Agent
Difficult to Get Foot in the Door
The Bottom Line
If you’re still unsure about which Publishing Option is best for you, here’s my advice:
– If your manuscript has a decent chance (i.e. at least a fifty-fifty chance) of snagging a traditional publishing contract, and if you hope to start a new career as a writer, then you definitely should go for the big prize of a traditional publishing contract.
– If it seems unlikely that your manuscript will appeal to literary agents and traditional publishers, and if you have no desire to launch a writing career, then you should not put yourself through the hassle of looking for a literary agent and traditional publisher. Go straight to self-publishing. Then, at least, your book will be available for friends and family members—and maybe it will attract a wider audience if you put some time into book promotion via online social media.
– If you want to launch a writing career, but your current manuscript does not have the commercial viability required by traditional publishers, then you should shelve the current manuscript, do what you can to learn from your mistakes, and start writing another book that will have stronger commercial potential.
By now I hope you understand that before deciding whether to go the self-publishing route or seeking a traditional publishing contract, you need to know where your book stands in terms of commercial viability. If you’re new to this business, you probably need some help with that.
Still Not Sure About a Literary Agents?
For more than twenty years I’ve been helping writers get their first books published.