There’s no one right way to publish a book, there are actually lots of different ways, and I’m going to be going over the two most common: traditional publishing and self-publishing. So, let’s discuss some of the pros and cons of these two most popular publishing avenues.
First, I get it. You want that prestige, the cachet, of saying “Hey, my book was published by Random House,” or “Hey, did you see my book that was published by Simon and Schuster?” We can all agree that that’s pretty awesome, but there’s a lot of things you’re giving up to get that book deal with Random House.
You’re giving up a lot of money, probably, since the traditional publishing model is not particularly profitable for authors. You can make a lot more money with self-publishing. But you may be thinking that there’s a whole marketing and publicity team at Random House, so you won’t have to do nearly as much marketing work. Well, that may have been true 10 to 15 years ago, and it was definitely true when I first started in publishing 20 years ago, but it’s definitely not the case today. The publicity budget days of the three-martini lunches and ten-city book tours have definitely gone by the wayside.
So you are going to be responsible for a lot of marketing and publicity, whether you’re published with a traditional publishing house or your self-publishing.
That said, you’re also going to get money up front when you publish traditionally, which is referred to as an advance against royalties.
So what about self-publishing? It used to be considered the ugly stepsister of the publishing world. Thankfully, those days are behind us, and it is worth at least considering self-publishing for three very important reasons: control, time, and money.
First, you control everything when you self-publish. You control what the cover looks like, and you control the concept. You don’t have anyone from the publishing house coming back and saying to you “Well, I really like the general concept, but I think we need to tweak it and make a few changes, so that we talk more about it”. But what if you don’t want to change anything? What if you love the color yellow for your cover but the publishing house wants to go with royal blue (and you just hate royal blue)? Well, unfortunately, the publisher has control over this decision, so you might end up with a cover that you don’t really love.
You want to have control over everything. The process, the cover, the concept – all of those things.
Next: time. It takes a publishing house, on average (unless they’re on a crash rush schedule) 18 months from the time your book is accepted for publication until a physical book hits the bookshelves. That’s a long time, and doesn’t take into consideration the time spent after you’ve written the book trying to get a literary agent interested,and then getting a publishing house interested, and then getting the book accepted.
Conversely, there are those who have decided they’re going to write a book, write the book, have the book edited and formatted, and had it up on Amazon within two months. Now, that’s not an ideal schedule either. However, if you’re writing about a timely topic, maybe something social media related, or an issue that changes quickly, or a subject where there’s always something new coming out, then that traditional model is not going to work for you. By the time you your book comes out 18 months later, that information is pretty much ancient, right? So consider your subject matter and how you can control the timeline that works best for you, and you can move as quickly as is necessary.
You set your own price when you self-publish. That said, Amazon has a lot of restrictions. Their profit models are related to the price of your book or ebook, so you’ll have to keep that in mind. You can keep up to 70-80% of your profit when you self-publish, which is far more than you’ll get when you’re publishing traditionally.
With a traditional publisher, you get a cash advance on future royaties, which is great, but you’ll get a direct deposit from Kindle and CreateSpace every single month and you’ll be keeping eighty percent profit for the paperbacks and seventy percent for e-books.
So to me that’s kind of a no-brainer. I mean it’s my business, it’s my book. I want to keep more of the money. I’m going to be doing the marketing and the pushing and the publicity efforts anyway, so I’d rather keep that money myself.
So, like I said, there’s there’s no one right way. What works for me may at work for you. Depending on what the goals of your books are will help drive this decision.