Are you wrestling between self-publishing or traditionally-publishing your next book? Here are some facts to consider:
- The stigma of self-publishing has almost disappeared.
- In 2021, Amazon paid over 1,000 self-published authors more than $100,000 each.
- Traditional publishers routinely dole out $100,000 advances to first-time authors.
- There are major-league publishers who create bestsellers and minor-league publishers who kill books.
- Numerous nefarious companies prey upon first-time authors and waste their 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 have these choices:
- Traditional publishing vs. Self-publishing
- Retain a literary agent or represent yourself
- Pay thousands to a vanity press or publish with Amazon KDP for free
How do you 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 that stayed on the shelves in Barnes & Nobles bookstores 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. I frequently coach 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 the following five questions that will help clarify your decision-making process:
1. Do you have already have a large fan base?
If you have at least 25,000 email subscribers or 50,000 social media followers, then it’s much easier to gain the interest of a literary agent or an acquisitions editor at a publishing house. You might even be offered an advance of $75,000 – $150,000 to publish your book. Agents and publishers love working with authors who already have a built-in audience ready to buy books.
In contrast, if your fan base is small or you’re relatively unknown, most agents and legitimate publishers won’t be interested in working with you. Therefore, self-publishing is usually a better option to pursue. 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 authors dropping their e-book prices on Amazon down to $.99 – $2.99. These low prices are due to the proliferation of self-published novelists who cut price in order to compete with the big boys. This tactic has worked and shredded the profit margins for many traditional publishers. Some companies have discontinued their fiction imprints altogether.
Due to the downward pricing pressure, authors who self-publish with Amazon KDP make higher royalties in the range of 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. 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 if you write nonfiction than fiction. If you write fiction, you might want to self-publish in order to make higher royalties, especially if you intend to offer low e-book prices.
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 that 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. For example, if you’re writing a book that ties into current trends or media headlines, your window of opportunity may not fit within a traditional publisher’s lengthy production 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 uncomfortable using current technology?
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.
Alas, most publishers prefer to work with authors who already have a large audience. So, there’s a catch-22. If you don’t have a big audience, you’ll have to accept a small advance in the range of $10,000 – $25,000. That’s very little money for all the work involved to write a book.
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 typically cost between $3,000 – $30,000.
This publishing option is essentially a service of convenience. You get to outsource the laborious tasks of making the book while retaining 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 how to avoid publishing scams.
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 can help identify key factors that help determine your decision:
- Do you have a large audience?
- Do you write fiction or nonfiction
- Can you wait 1 – 2 years to publish your book?
- Are comfortable or averse to using new technology?
- Can you afford to lose money if your book doesn’t sell?
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 encourage you to 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 selling your book, for many years to come.
Still undecided about which publishing option makes sense for you? Wrestling with a tough question about how to market your book?
Talk with me and get my personal input by purchasing a Private Author Coaching Session. Click here for details