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Should I self publish or go with a publisher?

  • December 15, 2010 8:43 am

So. You’ve written a book. Congratulations!

Now here’s what you need to know about the next steps.

With any book there are three stages involved: writing, publishing and marketing. When you self-publish, you have to do all through. When you go with a publisher, you have to write (obviously) and market (less obvious) the book yourself. Publishers may spend up to 3 months marketing your book. They’re looking for that insane run-away success that instantly sells millions, like J.K. Rowling (author of the Harry Potter series, who went from welfare to millionaire).

If that’s your book, fine. For most of us, it’s not. If you want a serious reality check, go into a second hand bookstore and just stand there for a minute. Notice that the bookshelves are lined with single books. Each one of those represents a person, an author, with high hopes and expectations and now relegated to the dusty shelves in a second hand bookstore. Not a very glamorous final destination, I know.

What a publisher does do is look after all aspects of publishing, like editing, copy-editing, cover design and the actual printing of your book. While you might have an opinion as to what the title of the book is, and what the cover might portray, you really get no input. The publishers will say, and rightly so, that that’s their area of expertise.

Traditional publishers will also retain 100% rights over the content of the book. With e-publishing making a grand entrance into the world, with the race for e-reader technology and distribution, I’d think twice about giving up the rights. There’s absolutely no distribution costs involved in electronic books, once the text has been finalized and the cover designed. So there’s also a larger profit margin in these ebooks.

If you’ve given distribution rights to a publisher and they now own the book, you still have to market the book, keep in mind you may earn as little as $1 a book.

As authors, we like to think the value is in the content. But in the industry, writing represents only 5% of the work. Another 5% is publishing; and the remaining 90% is marketing. Either way, in all likelihood, you’re going to do the marketing.

Keep on doing what you’re doing right now: seeking input. Find a series of self-published and traditionally published authors. My opinion is but one. Seek more, and then make an informed decision.

I wish you success, whatever you choose!