You’ve written your first book.
You’ve written your first book.
Now you want to get it published. But how? Should you seek a publishing contract with a traditional commercial publisher such as Random House or St. Martin’s Press? Or should you go right to self-publishing? The success of your book, and your success as a writer, can hang on making the right call.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of self-publishing vs. traditional commercial publishing.
Advantages of Self-Publishing
- It’s quick. Your book can be available for purchase at online booksellers within a few weeks.
- It’s cheap. Unless you get sucked into buying a costly editorial or book promotion package (my advice: don’t waste your money), you can have the cover art and interior layout done for a thousand dollars or less.
- It’s easy. As long as your check clears the bank, they’ll publish your book.
- You’ll have literary control. Unless your book has potential libel or other legal issues, the self-publishing firm won’t mess with the content in order to improve sales viability.
- You’ll enjoy higher royalties. Since you’ll be paying the publishing costs, your per-copy earnings will be higher than with traditional publishing.
Disadvantages of Self-Publishing
- It’ll be up to you to generate book sales. Unless you spend time promoting your book on social media, you’ll likely sell fewer than a thousand copies. Book-promotion packages offered by large self-publishing firms rarely generate high sales numbers, despite their promises.
- You won’t be able to rely on the editorial staff. Most self-publishing firms hire out the developmental and line editing to . . . well, to anybody willing to work for peanuts. It’ll be up to you to make sure your book is something you can be proud of.
The Advantages of Traditional Publishing
- Your book will get noticed. If your book is released by a major commercial publisher, influential book reviewers and booksellers will pay attention, and this will generate healthy sales numbers.
- You’ll reach more readers. This is critical if you hope to launch a writing career. To build a wide audience of readers, you’ll have to place your book with a traditional publisher. Self-published books rarely generate enough sales to build a readership base for the author.
- You’ll have the benefit of competent editors. Major commercial publishers hire good editors, and they’ll make sure your book is as good as it can be before it’s published.
- You won’t have to pay a dime. The publisher will take care of cover art, page layout, distribution, and promotion.
The Disadvantages of Traditional Publishing
- Your book will have to reach their high threshold. Traditional publishers want to publish books that will appeal to a large audience of readers. Unfortunately, that sometimes takes precedence over literary merit.
- You’ll have to secure the representation of a literary agent. Most major commercial publishers depend on literary agents to screen submissions, and you won’t even get your foot in the door without a legitimate, competent agent holding it open for you.
- The publisher’s schedule may not fit yours. The commercial publishing process can drag out for a year or more, even after you’ve signed the publishing contract.
Tell me about your book...
I’ll tell you how to find the right publisher.
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.
The Bottom Line
Here’s the advice I give to writers who are trying to decide which publishing option will work best for them:
- 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 publisher.
- 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.
- 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 there’s no reason to 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 social media.
I Know This is a Lot to Absorb
If you have questions about the book publishing business, give me a call at 505-401-1021 OR