Here’s the good news: writers today are fortunate enough to have plenty of options once they decide they want to publish a book.
Now the bad news: not all publishing options are created equally.
With more freedom comes greater responsibility, which translates into more time spent researching and considering the pros and cons of each route to publication you have to choose from.
So where do you start and how do you determine the best publishing option for your book? Today we’re going to discuss a few of the most popular methods of getting your book published and how to decide on the right one.
To Self-Publish or Not? That is the Tough Question
Before the rise of digital publishing within the last decade, self-publishing was more commonly known by a much uglier name. It was referred to as “vanity publishing,” an obvious slam on writers who were unable to find a literary agent to represent them and couldn’t publish any other way.
This has changed significantly over the past several years, giving aspiring authors a way to get around the gatekeepers and sell their work directly to readers.
Even traditionally published authors like J.A. Konrath and Amanda Hocking have chosen to self-publish some books that were previously rejected by agents and publishers. While not everyone enjoys the level of success that these authors have found by self-publishing, it is inspiring nonetheless.
Here are a few good reasons to self-publish:
- You want total creative freedom and don’t like the thought of an editor making significant changes (often more important to fiction writers)
- You will be paid higher royalties for your book sales in most cases
- You don’t need anyone’s approval but your own
- It doesn’t have to cost anything
On the other hand, here are some things to be aware of if you decide to self-publish:
- It’s going to be entirely up to you to market and promote your book.
- A recent study by Digital Book World reports that the median income range for authors who self-publish is only $5,000 and 20% of authors report making no income at all.
- It’s considerably easier to self-publish digitally than it is in print.
Traditional Publishers & Literary Agents
The quest to query an agent and convince them to represent your work used to be the only option for aspiring authors. You had to write the whole book first and then query agents in the hopes of enticing them. The art of crafting an effective query letter is not something you learn to do overnight either.
There will always be a fair amount of luck involved in this method. Not to mention, agents are very wary of any book that sounds like a risk to represent. They are looking for books that will sell, they have no interest in taking a chance on something creative or artsy unless they see real sales potential.
Also, most agents specialize in specific genres and they will have an idea of what sells within that genre. This makes it important to do your market and genre research before you even start writing your book and before you ever write your first query letter.
Here are a few good reasons to pursue a traditional publishing deal:
- Finding an agent means your work is represented and you have a much better chance of getting a publishing deal
- Once a publisher makes a deal with you for your book, you can expect an advance payment
- Publishers will have professionals to take care of cover artwork, handles all the printing and will help you promote and market as well
Here are a few reasons some authors choose to not pursue traditional publishers:
- Royalty percentages are lower than other methods of publishing
- It’s next to impossible if you can’t get an agent to represent you
- Rejections from publishers and agents are not always a good indicator of a book’s viability
The Difference Between DIY and Outsourcing
Digital Book World’s recent report also reveals some interesting and important differences in income for self-published authors who invest in professional services vs. those who take a totally DIY approach.
Of the 1,927 authors included in their survey, less than half had contracted services to help them publish their books, with the most popular type of service being cover art. Their findings also support the theory that authors who employ a team of professionals when publishing a book earn more from their book sales than those that do not.
Based on their findings, cover art and editing represent the services which account for the biggest differences between authors who reported no income from their books and those who reported earnings of $10,000 or more.
Basically, if you are going to publish your own book then you should expect to take on the role of a publisher if you are serious about the success of your book and your brand as an author. The question then becomes, “are you prepared to handle everything a publisher specializes in?”
If not, it may make more sense to go with the “team publishing” approach cited in the survey mentioned above.