You may have noticed we talk a lot around here about how to self-publish a book, and the different self-publishing platforms you can use to turn your manuscript into a beautiful published book that readers will want to buy.
But before you can self-publish your book, you have to ask yourself one important question: Should you self-publish your book?
There are, of course, pros and cons to the self-publishing world and frankly it’s not for everyone. So how do you know if self-publishing is right for you or not?
To answer this question you need to start by getting clear on your goals as an author. Then, you need to look closely at the different methods of publishing a book so that you can determine if self-publishing fits with your goals, or if you should choose another route.
Defining your Author Goals:
Whether you already have a manuscript, or are just beginning to think about writing a book, one of the best things you can do is get clear on your goals for why you want to publish a book.
Understanding why you’re publishing a book will help guide every decision you make along the way – starting with publishing and all the way through your marketing efforts and even book distribution.
Now, likely you have more than one goal for publishing your book, and that’s okay. It’s perfectly normal to have multiple reasons for why you want to get your book out there. We recommend grabbing a journal or a blank piece of paper and start writing down every goal that comes to mind.
If you’re having trouble getting started, ask yourself these three questions:
- What am I hoping to accomplish as an author?
- How will I measure success and progress along the way?
- What is most important to me in this process?
Some common goals we see from different authors we work with include:
- They want the recognition and personal accomplishment of being someone who published a book
- They have a story to tell that they are passionate about
- They have advice they want to share with the world
- They want the professional credibility that comes from being a published author
- They want to publish a book as a way to gain more leads for their business, or as a way to sell their services
- They want to raise awareness about a particular issue, or make the world a better place
- They want make money selling books
- They want to see their book in bookstores
- They want to be a professional writer and make their living as an author
These are just some of the common goals that we see from authors. Yours might look different but the best thing you can do is get crystal clear on why you are publishing a book, so don’t skip this step.
Once you have your list of goals, go back and rank them in order of importance. Knowing which of your goals is the most important will have a big impact on your decision to self-publish or not.
After you get clear on your author goals, it’s time to look at the different forms of publishing a book to see which one is the best choice. Now, it might not be a perfect fit but likely one of the publishing routes will line up more clearly with your goals than the others.
For publishing you really only have three options:
- Self publishing
- Traditional publishing
- Choosing a hybrid publisher
We will look at each of these one by one.
Why Choose Traditional Publishing
You may be tempted to skip over this segment because you’ve already decided that traditional publishing isn’t for you. However, I encourage you to keep reading because the benefits of getting a traditional publishing deal are still very relevant and, depending on your goals, isn’t something you should overlook. While we are obviously in the self-publishing industry, we still believe in the value of traditional publishing, and depending on your specific circumstances it might be worth it to get a book agent and land a publishing deal.
With that being said, why do some authors choose to get a traditional publisher? Arguably the main reason is that getting a publishing deal is incredibly hard, and if your book is good enough to get picked up by a publisher that acts as a right of passage almost, proving that your book is better than most of the books out there.
Even though self-publishing has grown in popularity over the years and there are many incredible self-published books out there, it’s still true that having a traditionally-published book automatically elevates your book. It’s like a little stamp of approval that separates your book from the books that aren’t worth reading.
This is also why it takes so long to get a publishing deal. You have to start by getting a book agent, you have to write a book proposal, and you have to spend time and money building your author platform so that when you do get a book deal you are ready to go.
If you believe in your book enough to get it traditionally published then I encourage you to try. Skipping this process and going directly to self-publishing could be undermining the credibility of your book.
Some of the other reasons you may choose to get a traditional publishing deal:
- You want more people to take you seriously – particularly media, podcasts, blogs, book reviewers and influencers in your field.
- You know that the publisher is going to do a lot of the work for you, like cover design, copy editing, formatting, printing and setting up your book’s distribution
- You want to get your book into bookstores. (Typically bookstores will only accept traditionally published books.)
- You’re not in a rush. Finding an agent can take months if not years, building your platform can also take years, and then getting in the publisher’s queue takes much longer.
In other words, if you’re not in a rush and you want all the benefits of a traditional publishing deal, then this might be the route for you.
Should You Self-Publish Your Book?
Some of the biggest reasons that authors choose to self publish are because it’s faster; they don’t want to give up creative control of the process; and they want to keep all their profits.
It’s true that self publishing is faster than getting a traditional book deal. You don’t have to spend all that time trying to find an agent, writing a book proposal, and then waiting while your agent shops your book. Then of course once you do land a book deal it could be 6-12 more months before your book is on bookshelves. Some authors just don’t have that kind of time to wait so they choose to self publish as a way to get their book out in front of people faster.
Now, while self publishing is faster, our formula takes roughly 5-6 months to get a book to market. That’s because we believe in taking our time and not cutting corners.. So while yes, it is faster, it still takes time and you should be realistic with your expectations. And frankly, getting it done faster should not be your biggest motivation for self publishing.
Another nice aspect of self publishing is that you as the author have total creative control. You can choose what editor to work with, and you can hire and work with your own book cover designer. You get to manage the entire process from start to finish, which can be a major selling point for a lot of authors.
You also get to keep all the royalties from your book sales, versus sharing them with a traditional publisher.
You may be asking yourself: why would anyone choose to traditionally publish when they can handle the entire process themselves and keep all the royalties? Well, like everything in the publishing industry, it isn’t without its downsides.
For one, you likely won’t get your self-published book into bookstores. While self-publishing is starting to gain some traction as a legitimate form of book publishing, most bookstores and libraries still prefer traditionally published books and rarely accept self-published books.
With self publishing you are also at the mercy of print on demand technology. Print on demand has made it easier than ever to be an author, but it also means that the quality of your book might be lacking compared to traditional publishers. And, there may be slight nuances within each copy that is printed.
You also won’t get the media recognition that you would with a traditionally published book.
This is why it’s important to go back to those three questions and really get clear on your author goals and what you hope to accomplish as an author. If your goal is to be a New York Times Best Selling author, then self-publishing is probably not for you. If your goal is to sell 100,000 copies, or make $100,000, then self-publishing is not for you. If your goal is to be a household name, then self-publishing likely isn’t for you.
If these are even close to some of your goals then you may want to consider getting a book agent and going after a traditional publishing deal.
Some other reasons authors choose to self publish:
- They are using the book as a calling card for their business to land more clients or get more speaking engagements, and waiting years to get a traditionally published book means they will lose out on a lot of business
- They are a renowned expert in their field and already have a well established following, so they don’t need a traditional publishing deal to build their authority
- They’ve already traditionally published a few books and have built a following of readers, so now they want to self-publish their next book to forgo the lengthy waiting times and smaller royalties that come from a traditionally publisher
- They have a niche audience looking for very specific advice, who don’t care if the book is self published
- They’ve heard that even if they get a traditional publisher they will still be required to do most of the marketing and selling themselves, so have decided to self-publish instead
- They don’t want to deal with rejection, or they’ve tried to get a traditional publishing deal and were rejected enough times that now they just want to get the book out into the world
- It’s a personal achievement to finally write their book
- They think self-publishing will be easier
Is a Hybrid Publisher Right For You?
Hybrid publishing combines traditional publishing with self publishing and is designed to take advantage of the best of both worlds. So how does it work?
A hybrid publishing company – sometimes referred to as a vanity publisher – will publish your book under their publishing name to give it some credence. But unlike traditional publishing companies, hybrid companies don’t require that you get a book agent and send them a book proposal. Instead, you pay them an upfront fee to get the book to market and typically they will publish any book they get paid for, making the process much less selective than traditional publishers.
However, like a traditional publishing company they will take care of all the production of the book including copy editing, cover design, interior formatting, distribution and sometimes they will even upsell you on marketing packages to help get your book in front of readers. Most hybrid publishers also have additional services you can pay for, such as creating an audio book, hitting a best seller list, etc.
Because vanity publishers do this for a living, they are able to get your book ready for market in a very professional manner that will look closer to a traditional publishing quality versus if you were to do it all by yourself.
So what are the cons? There are a lot of hybrid publishers out there and they don’t all produce high quality work. And frankly, a lot of them tend to make promises they can’t deliver. If you choose to go with a hybrid publisher, do your research first. Find a reputable hybrid publisher and be prepared to shell out a lot of money to get your final product.
If you are in a hurry, and want a one-stop shop that can turn your manuscript into a book, then a hybrid publisher might be a good fit for your goals.
How Do You Decide Which is Right For You?
There is no one size fits all in the publishing world. What makes sense for one author won’t for another. That’s why to determine which route is best for you, you need to get crystal clear on your author goals and rank them in order of importance.
Now that you know more about what options you have for publishing, which of them fits with your highest ranked goal? Which option hits the most number of goals? This process should help you start to begin to narrow down if self-publishing is right for you, or if you should go a different route.
If you are still unsure which publishing option is best for you and would like to talk to an expert, book a free consultation with Joel Pitney to determine the best path forward for your book.