Are you an author who is wondering if self-publishing or traditional publishing is the better option? Here are some facts to consider:
- Did you know the stigma about self-publishing has almost disappeared?
- Did you know Amazon paid over 1,000 self-published authors more than $100,000 each in 2020?
- Did you know that self-published authors can buy powerful Amazon ads, but traditionally-published authors cannot?
- Did you know that traditional publishers are flush with cash and doling out six-figure advances at a rapid rate to new authors?
- Did you know there are major-league publishers who create bestsellers and minor-league publishers known as “book killers”?
- Did you know there is an outbreak of nefarious companies who prey upon first-time authors and waste your hard-earned money?
There has never been a better time to be an author. Likewise, there has never been a more confusing time to be an author. For instance, you’ve got these choices:
- Traditional publishing vs. Self-publishing
- Get a literary agent or represent yourself
- Pay thousands to a vanity press or publish with Amazon KDP for free
How do you navigate these options and pick the right publishing path for your book?
I’m well-positioned to coach authors about their publishing decisions. That’s because I’ve successfully landed two traditional publishing contracts and had a book stay on the shelves in Barnes & Nobles for 10 years. In addition, I’ve successfully self-published four books that have sold thousands of copies.
Plus, I have direct relationships with some of the most prestigious literary agents in America. Within the past 90 days, I’ve coached three authors who have six-figure book contracts from the largest publishers in the U.S. Thus, you might want to listen to my perspective.
First, there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer that works for every author. The solution depends upon your personal goals and how many followers you already have in place.
Second, I can’t say which publishing option is right for you. But, I can give you several questions that will help clarify your decision-making process:
1. Do you have at least 25,000 email subscribers or social media followers?
If you already have a large fan base, then it’s much easier to gain the interest of a literary agent or acquisitions editor at a publishing house.
In contrast, if your platform numbers are low or you’re relatively unknown, then self-publishing is usually the best option to consider. If you quickly sell 5,000 copies of a self-published book, some agents and publishers will reconsider working with you.
2. Do you write fiction or nonfiction?
The market for fiction has been dramatically impacted by reduced e-book prices in the range of $.99 – $2.99. These low prices are due to the proliferation of self-published novelists who cut price to compete with the big boys. This tactic has worked and shredded the profit margins for many traditional publishers. Some have discontinued their fiction imprints altogether.
Due to the downward pricing pressure, authors who self-publish with Amazon KDP make higher royalties, such as 35% – 70%. These higher royalties enable them to compete in a low-priced marketplace.
On the other hand, nonfiction books haven’t been as affected by low prices. Plus, many nonfiction authors don’t rely on book sales to make money, because most of their revenue comes from public speaking, training, online courses, etc.
Therefore, it’s easier to get a traditional publishing deal at higher advances for nonfiction than fiction.
3. Can you wait 1 – 2 years for your book to be published?
If you’re new to the world of publishing, you may not know it usually takes 1 – 2 years for a traditional publisher to release a new book. You may not want to wait that long.
Speed to market is one reason why self-publishing has become so popular. If you’re writing a book that ties into current trends or media headlines, your window of opportunity may not fit within the traditional publishing timeline. Therefore, self-publishing a book at a faster pace might be a better option.
4. Do you have an aversion to marketing or using technology?
Does the thought of marketing your book make you want to curl up into the fetal position? Would you prefer to stay holed up in your writer’s cave? Are you out of touch with current technology? Intimidated by the new online tools that are available?
If so, working with a traditional publisher might relieve your concerns and remove a lot of fear. But, there is a trade-off. When you give up control, you give up profits. Traditional publishers typically pay a tiny royalty around $.75 – $1.50 per book sold. However, they will handle the editing, formatting, cover design, distribution, and some of the marketing. But, most publishers prefer to work with authors who already have a built-in audience. So, there’s a catch-22.
5. Can you afford to lose thousands of dollars without experiencing financial risk?
If you have money to burn, there are hybrid publishers, also known as “vanity presses,” who charge up-front fees to do the publishing work for you. Many of these companies aggressively advertise and use unethical tactics to push authors into “publishing packages,” which can cost around $5,000 – $30,000.
This publishing option is essentially a service of convenience. You get to outsource the laborious tasks and retain control of your copyright and intellectual property. However, the landscape is littered with authors who’ve been bamboozled by corrupt companies and lost a lot of money.
Here’s a link to an article I wrote about publishing scammers.
In contrast, you can self-publish for free with Amazon KDP, retain the copyright, receive higher royalties, and gain access to powerful Amazon ads. If you’re willing to manage the publishing tasks yourself, Amazon offers an attractive option.
I’ve used Amazon KDP myself with good success. In addition, I’ve coached numerous authors who make great money and sell thousands of books using KDP.
Which publishing option is right for you?
I can’t tell you whether traditional publishing or self-publishing is best for your book. But, my five questions above can help identify key factors that affect your decision:
- Can you wait 1 – 2 years to publish your book?
- Do you prefer higher royalty rates per book sale?
- Would you feel better if someone else managed everything for you?
- Can you afford to lose money if your book doesn’t sell?
- Are you a DIY type of person who prefers complete control?
I’ve had the great fortune to walk both publishing paths and experience the pros and cons of each option. Part of my success stems from conducting due diligence beforehand and making a decision with my eyes wide open. I hope you’ll do the same.
It’s a dream come true to publish a book. But, don’t let your dream cause you to overlook reality and turn the process into a nightmare.
Pick the path that enables you to enjoy not only writing your book, but sell your book, for many years to come.
Still undecided about which publishing option makes sense for you? Wrestling with a tough question about publishing or marketing your book?
Talk with an industry expert and get my personal input by purchasing a Private Author Coaching Session. Click here for details