Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing
For any serious writer, knowing how to publish a book is essential. Now, more than at any other time in history, writers actually have options. It used to be (right up until fairly recently), that if you wanted to get a book published, you had to grovel and beg literary agents to acknowledge or even notice you, then hope and pray they know what they’re doing to actually get a publishing company to take on your book. The process is difficult. The amount of people submitting book proposals to agents is enormous – the sheer volume is overwhelming.
Now all of a sudden there’s this thing called self-publishing. It used to have a bad reputation – at least that’s what I and several of my writer friends used to think. If someone self-published their book then…well…they weren’t really published. But that has changed. More and more writers are self-publishing their books, and many (many many many) have become Best Selling authors as a result.
What is the Best Way to Publish a Book?
If you’re a die-hard, old-school writer who still wants the traditional publishing experience with an agent, editor and publisher, you can certainly have a go at it. But you’ll have to take it seriously, and be willing to put in the work of actually accomplishing that. If you’re interested in self-publishing your book, it’s completely within your grasp. You decide what’s best for you!
This article will guide you through the process of how to publish a book and I’ll provide several resources where you can get the help you need. But first, you need to have a complete understanding of traditional vs self-publishing so you can decide which direction you want to go.
Traditional book publishing is when a publisher, under contract, prints, publishes, and sells/markets your book through booksellers and other retailers. The publisher essentially buys the right to publish your book and pays you royalties from the sales.
If you want to publish a book traditionally, you first need to find an agent. Locating agents who are interested in books in your genre doesn’t have to be difficult. You can use FirstWriter.com to narrow down your search and get a list, complete with names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of agents who are actively accepting inquiries.
Once you come up with the list of agents you’d like to submit your book to, you need to write a query letter. This letter is what you will send to potential agents. You can get detailed instructions on how to write a query letter HERE.
Self-Publishing companies accept all submissions. Anyone who is willing to pay for the service is published. You can print as few or as many copies of your book as you like. Usually editing, proofreading or marketing are offered at an additional cost. Self-publishing requires the author to invest their own money to produce, market and distribute the book. Companies like Amazon’s CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing, KindleScout, Blurb.com, or Self-Publishing.com make it surprisingly easy to self-publish. It’s up to you to research these companies, compare what they offer vs price, and select the one that’s right for you. Many members of the Lewiston Writers’ Group have self-published. You can see our books here!
Note: A vanity or subsidy publisher will charge writers a fee to edit, design, and print their work, then retain the rights to that work. Sometimes they require writers to buy a copy of an anthology in which their work appears. In general, these types of companies should be avoided. When a writer pays to have a book published, the writer should retain the rights to the book.
What’s the Difference Between Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing?
In traditional publishing, the publisher handles the printing, marketing and distribution of your book at no expense to the author. The publisher gets publishing rights to the book, and the author gets paid royalties on the sale of the book.
In self-publishing, depending on which publisher you choose, the majority of the work falls on your shoulders and you pay for all expenses. The main advantages of self-publishing are that you control when the book is published, you retain all rights to your book, and you receive 100 percent of the profits.
In both cases, you have the option to choose what format your book will be published in—printed book, e-book, audio book. If you choose an e-book, which is essentially a book published in digital form and available on e-readers like a Kindle, it can be downloaded instantly, has the ability to be translated into different languages, and can never go out of print.
How Do I know Which One is Right for Me?
If all you want is to see your work in print, I would suggest BookBaby.com. They will print one copy of your book – any size, any binding, for $19.
If you’re writing a family history, memoir or book of poetry that has a limited audience, and you don’t necessarily want to end up in Oprah’s Book Club or on the shelves at Barnes & Noble, then self-publishing is probably a good choice because you can control how many books are actually printed and you don’t have to market your book for sale to the public if you don’t want to.
Self-publishing may also be your best bet if you want to market your book. Especially if you have a visible platform established to reach your audience, both online and offline (such as a website, Twitter account, and Facebook fan page), if you have credibility with your readers in your genre, and are prepared to dedicate your time to marketing and promoting your work. However, if you don’t know how to find or reach your readers, don’t have an online presence, don’t have the time to spend online or dislike social media, want to be in a brick-and-mortar type of bookstore and have a publisher handle the marketing for you, the traditional publishing route may be the best option.
As I said in the beginning of this article, for the first time in history, it’s all up to you! Please comment below to share your thoughts, and let us know how you make out with your final decision!
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