The two most common paths to book publication, self-publishing and traditional publishing, each have both pros and cons. As a writer, you need to know the ins and outs of both so you can decide which to pursue. No matter what you decide, always remember this: There is no one right path to book publication.
Introducing Jodi Brandon
I've invited the amazing editor Jodi Brandon to the blog to tell you about the pros and cons of self-publishing and traditional publishing.
Jodi has more than 20 years' experience in book publishing. After many years working in traditional publishing, Jodi and her husband relocated from New York to Philadelphia and she launched her freelance editing business.
Jodi's passion these days is working as a book editor and writing/publishing coach for creative entrepreneurs and solopreneurs who want to level up their business with a book.
So, over to Jodi...
Traditional Publishing 101
Years ago, authors wrote a manuscript, photocopied it, sent it off to whichever book publisher they hoped would publish it, and waited. Today authors query a literary agency with their manuscript idea. The agent then queries (pitches) publishing houses on behalf of an author. When a publisher is interested, the agent negotiates the best deal possible for the author. A publisher signs a book and handles the production (editorial and design), printing, and distribution tasks that self-publishing authors are responsible for. Authors typically work with publicity departments to coordinate marketing efforts, as authors assume some responsibility for marketing and promoting their books in today’s book publishing climate.
Traditional book publishing still holds the cache; people still love to say, “I was published by Random House.” Another, though short-term, pro for traditional book publishing is that authors receive money when they sign their contract and/or turn in their manuscript.
The traditional book publishing model favors the publishing house, not the author. The publishing house wants to retain as many rights (and a much money) as possible. It controls the time line to publication (typically about 18 months), the cover, and the marketing plan.
If an agent is interested but thinks a book needs work before she can submit if to publishers for consideration, she might recommend the author hire a developmental editor. And because the days of 20-city book tours have gone by the wayside, authors are responsible for marketing their books more than ever before. Book publicity experts are available to help authors, whether that’s a launch plan specialist, a full-fledged publicity firm, or a book marketing consultant.
When you self-publish, you are the author AND the publisher. One of the reasons so many entrepreneurs choose this path is because they want to be in control. With that control comes responsibility. 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.
The biggest pro is control. As an entrepreneur, you know how critical your brand is. Your book is an extension of that brand. When you self-publish, you control the product, the time line, the marketing plan, the cover design, and even the final interior design. You also decide when the book will launch and what you will do to promote it on (and beyond) launch day.
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. Many traditionally published 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 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.
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.)
You’re an expert at whatever your business is; you want to hire experts in book editing, design, and launching/marketing to produce the most professional book possible.
choosing how to publish your book
Entrepreneurs often know that they SHOULD publish a book to help grow their business but the process seems so daunting. It isn’t terribly difficult; it’s just unfamiliar. Don’t let that stop you!