About the Path to Publication Series
For the next couple weeks I’ll be breaking down the two most common paths to book publication: self-publishing and traditional publishing. That way, you know the ins and outs and can make an informed decision about with path suits you best. Always remember: There is no one right path to book publication
So what does it mean to self-publish? Essentially, you are the author and the publisher. You’re listed as the publisher on the book’s copyright page, you publish the book at your expense, and you assume responsibility for producing a professional book and distributing it to the public.
When you self-publish, you’re in the driver’s seat — which is one of the reasons so many entrepreneurs choose this path. They want to be in control. With that comes responsibility, as you are essentially acting as (or hiring) a project manager from start (idea/book topic) to finish (physical book or ebook/marketing). Instead of turning over the manuscript to a publisher and waiting for instructions about next steps (such as reviewing the copy edit or giving interviews for marketing and publicity purposes), you’re guiding the manuscript through each step until you have a finished product.
"When you self-publish, you're in the driver's seat." (Tweet)
Many companies, individuals, and services exist to assist author-entrepreneurs with the self-publishing process, at various costs, so you can heave a sigh of relief: You aren’t expected to figure it all out yourself. (Whew!) What that looks like is different for everyone. Some people hire a project manager to oversee the process and hire individual contractors. Some people hire a copy editor and a designer. Some people hire a proofreader. Some people hire all three of those people, and more.
"Many companies, individuals, and services exist to assist author-entrepreneurs with the self-publishing process." (Tweet)
Does it seem like it would be easier to hand the process over to a publisher and call it a day? Self-publishing has pros and cons. Let’s walk through some of the big ones.
So much falls into the “pro” column, but the biggest is control. As an entrepreneur, you know how critical your brand is. Your book is an extension of that brand, so you want to be in control of the book on every level: the product, the time line, the marketing plan, and more. You want to choose your cover designer — and the final design. You want to decide when the book will launch and what you will do to promote it on (and beyond) launch day.
Your book can be a passive income stream, particularly as time goes on. (Tweet)
Another big pro is financial. Your book can be a passive income stream, particularly as time goes on. (Once it’s out there in the world, it stays there. People can always find your book in an Amazon search.) When you self-publish, you keep much more of your profit. Traditional book publishing contracts are written in favor of — surprise! — the publishing house, not the author. Many authors earn just 10% of each book sold — and that’s after they’ve “earned back” any money that was paid up-front in the form of an advance. (The full term is “advance against royalties.” Let’s say a publisher offered you a deal that included a $5,000 advance and then 10% royalties after the advance “earned out.” That If your book retails for $10, that means you’re looking at $1 per book sold — AFTER the first 5,000 books sell. Tricky business!)
The flip side of having control, of course, is that you have much more work to do to keep the project moving forward than someone being published traditionally does. (More on that process in next week’s blog.) You already have a full plate.
(As someone who self-published myself, I don’t necessarily see this as a con. I knew how I wanted to position my book, and I was willing to do the work, so it made sense for me to self-publish. It didn’t hurt that the self-publishing process through Amazon is pretty foolproof.)
With regard to money, there definitely are more up-front expenses with self-publishing, as you’re paying for your team and marketing. (Don’t be fooled, though: MANY author-entrepreneurs hire editors and spend money marketing even if they publish traditionally. So it’s not necessarily an either-or situation. Unless you’re Tom Clancy or Brene Brown, you aren’t getting a six-figure marketing budget from a publishing house. Those days are long gone, publishing folks will tell you.)
MANY author-entrepreneurs hire editors and spend money marketing even if they publish traditionally. (Tweet)
When you self-publish, you need a team of experts in order to produce a professional book. You’re an expert at whatever your business is; you want to hire experts in book editing, design, and launching/marketing. Everyone has a zone of genius!
It used to be that you could pick a self-published book out quickly when placed next to a traditionally published book, because the cover looked amateur, the paper quality was not great, and it was riddled with typos because the author had not hired a proofreader, let alone an editor. That’s no longer the case (thank goodness!) and today, self-publishing is a respected path to publication. One of the biggest reasons for that is that so many self-published authors today take the publishing process seriously and realize that they need help from publishing professionals. They hire editors, cover designers, and other professionals to produce a top-quality product. Publishers have also stepped up their game as far as paper quality, cover paper material, and more.
When you self-publish, you need a team of experts in order to produce a professional book. (Tweet)
Entrepreneurs often know that they SHOULD publish a book to help up-level their business but the process seems so daunting. I explain all the time that it isn’t difficult; it’s just unfamiliar. Don’t let that stop you!