Of the three ways to get your book published—finding an agent to sign you up with a traditional publisher, self-publishing, and going with a smaller independent publisher—which is the best approach for you? Each has its benefits and drawbacks.
Why check out the traditional publisher route?
First, these publishers can get your book into bookstores. This may be important to you if books like yours are selling well in stores, especially if your name is widely known. (If, on the other hand, you are a relative unknown or are writing your book to distribute online as a promotional tool for your business, bookstore sales are not your best option.)
Second, when people ask you who your publisher is, it’s nice to be able to say “Pengin,” “Harper Collins,” “Random House,” “MacMillan,” or “Simon and Schuster.”
Third, a traditional publisher may provide editing, formatting, and a stunning cover at no up-front cost to you.
Fourth, what about an advance check? In the past such checks were common; unfortunately, in today’s publishing world few publishers offer advances, especially to unproven authors.
Drawbacks of Traditonal Publishing
First, nearly all traditional publishers require that your book come to them via a book agent with whom they have a professional relationship, one they trust to bring them exactly the kind and quality of material they are used to publishing. Finding the right agent is iffy, especially for a new author. What you don’t want is an agent who eagerly accepts your initial payment but then gets sidetracked into focusing on someone else’s book for which he or she sees a smoother path.
Second, even if you’re fortunate enough to find an agent who lands you a publishing contract, it can still take a long time for your book to appear in print.
Third, you give up control of your content and cover and get very little in return in most cases. Few publishers these days do much to promote your book. And if your book doesn’t sell in bookstores, it will be returned to the publisher and the costs will come out of your future royalties, if any.
Finally, your royalty is not likely to be very large because the publisher takes their cut straight off the top.
Conclusion: If you are a new author, this is probably not your ideal publishing route.
It’s nice to be able to name a major publisher for your book, but these days it’s no longer as embarrassing as it used to be to admit you’re self-published. While people used to automatically suspect a lack of professionalism, that perception is changing and readers may be more likely to give you a chance. Once they do, as long as your writing is of superior quality and professionally edited and your book is well designed, they may very well tell others about you. Self-publishing is no longer a dirty word.
And there are many advantages, the first one being that you are in the driver’s seat. You get to make all the decisions! Of course, this can be a two-edged sword. But at least you don’t have to worry about being dictated to.
Plus, by using a P.O.D. (print-on-demand) house like Ingram-Spark to supply your books, you avoid the up-front cost of buying tons of books you’d have to store in your garage or send to Amazon.
Finally, there’s the joy of realizing you don’t have to share your profits with a publisher!
Drawbacks of Self-Publishing
There is a lot more to self-publishing than writing a great book. After writing, editing, and proofreading, there looms the task of formatting. Sure, you can format your book in Word and publish it on Amazon—but wouln’t it be more impressive formatted in a program designed just for that purpose? Yes, there are formatting programs available to you, but each one has its own learning curve.
Consider: you could conceivably fix the broken plumbing in your bathroom, but would you want to? Or would you rather give yourself a break and hire a pro to do the job? Truth be told, few self-published authors understand interior formatting and cover design well enough to produce an impressive product.
And while it’s true that you get to make all the decisions, that means you need to know a lot about publishing or you’ll end up with regrets. There is a lot to be said for experience.
The other very obvious drawback is that you have to foot the bill as you go. But the flip side of that is having no middleman to cut into your profits.
Publishing with a quality small or medium-sized independent press is the middle path. Rather than trying to do everything yourself, you can do as much of the work as you feel comfortable with and leave the rest to the pros.
A reputable indie pubisher will create an attractive finished product for you and publish it for a reasonable fee.
You maintain control over the content and cover and end up with a quality book that establishes you as an authority in the eyes of everyone you meet. And unlike self-publishing, you not only do you get to make all the decisions—with a reputable indie publisher, you also get the benefit of guidance from an expert who knows the publishing world.
If anyone asks who your publisher is, it’s likely they won’t realize yours isn’t one of the Big Five. And if they do, they won’t care. They’re just looking for reassurance that the book is a quality product.)
And a solid indie publisher can make it easy for libraries to order your book and for bookstores to stock it, should you wish to go that route.
Plus, most indie publishers will offer you the advantage mentioned above of P.O.D. printing, saving you the outlay of thousands of dollars and the need to store books.
Drawbacks of Indie Publishing
The main drawback of indie publishing is that most small and medium-size indie publishers don’t have the budget to cover publishing costs and will require you to pay as you go. But reputable indie publishers keep their prices reasonable, and they often save you from making costly mistakes. Navigating the publishing world on your own is a wild ride over rough waters.
So … As a New Author, What is Your Best Publishing Option?
For an inexperienced author, indie publishing is probably the best bet. For a small investment, you get the results you’re looking for without giving up control or having to do all the work yourself.
Founder, AWritetoKnow.com, GreenSongPress.com, EcoActive101.com, PetWrites.com
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