Self-Publish or Get a
Decide Which is Best for You
by Diane Eble
Most people, when they think of publishing a
book, automatically want to get published by a mainstream
publisher. The kind who will pay you to publish your book, as
well as pay the upfront publishing
There are definitely advantages to
being published by mainstream publishers. However, there
are downsides as well. It really all comes down to what
your goals are in getting published. Then you can figure
out which path is best for
Let's take a look at some of the advantages to
each kind of publishing.
instances, self-publishing is the better route. Consider
- you want to get your book out quickly.
For instance, if you're a business person or speaker who
wants a book to boost your credibility, garner you higher
consulting or speaking fees, and have something to sell in
the back of the room, self-publishing is the best path by
far. You need to get your book out there. You don't have
time to wait sometimes years to find a literary agent, then
- you plan to sell your book yourself.
Again, if your book is mainly a way to enhance what you're
already doing, you want the maximum control over when the
book is printed, and how much profit you make from it.
Mainstream publishers often don't give authors a huge break
on books they buy to sell themselves. Plus, you're at the
mercy of their decision as to when and even if to
- you have the resources to pay the upfront
costs. Especially if you know you can sell books
in the back of the room, or that it's worth it to give them
away as a lead generator for your business, you will likely
recoup those costs from sales.
it as an investment in your marketing. A book is an
asset that can bring the financial rewards mentioned
above: higher-paying clients and speaking fees (your
book brands you as an expert), an easy way to get new
clients, something to give away to promote your
services, a way to introduce people to your expertise
and lead them to your higher-prices products or
services, etc. (See my Special Report, "14 Ways a Book
Will Boost Your Business" for more on
The downsides of self-publishing are the upsides of
Advantages of Mainstream
- Get paid to publish. The obvious
advantage is the fact that you get paid to write your book,
rather than having to pay any upfront costs yourself.
Though your advance against royalty might not be large
(nowadays the average is $10,000, but they are actually
shrinking), still, it's better than having to put out the
However, know that there will still be costs involved,
mostly in terms of marketing your book. While some
publishers will still give you some marketing at launch
time, the success of your book is up to you. If you don't
actively promote it, the publisher will soon put your book
out of print.
Your book gets into the
bookstores. Another huge advantage: You
get into the bookstores. Most print-on-demand
publishers don't get you into the bookstores,
though they promise they will. Read the language
carefully in self-publishing contract. Most
POD publishers won't take bookstore returns, and
because of this, bookstores won't stock their
Possibility of getting on bestseller
lists. Another little-known fact is that
bestseller lists are based on bookstore sales. If
you want to get on the typical bestseller lists,
your book needs to be in the bookstores.
Credibility with the media.
mainstream publisher backs you, you have more
credibility. Especially with the media. Believe me,
they know who the mainstream publishers are, and,
for the most part, give precedence to books
published by those publishers.
of the reason for that is the sheer number of
books being published (something like 180,000
per year). Media folks need some way of
culling out the best from the second-best.
Mainstream-published books generally are
better written, better edited, and better
packaged. The media who review books knows
important thing to know about seeking a mainstream
publisher: It can take a long time before your book
gets published. If you want a mainstream publisher, you
absolutely must have an outstanding book proposal to
attract a literary agent and then a
have the luxury of time, have a burning desire to be published
by a mainstream publisher, are willing to devote yourself to
"being an author" which means building and maintaining a
platform, and don't need to depend on a book as a main income
generator (royalties alone seldom make any author rich), then
go for mainstream publishing.
Changes Blurring the Lines
Publishing is undergoing huge changes,
fueled by changes in
print-on-demand technology being used by all publishers,
and with all the changes happening in the publishing
industry, the lines between mainstream and self-published
books are blurring.
So, though many in the media will not
look at a self-published book, it often has more to do
with the fact that so many self-published books don't
look as professionally packaged as mainstream
books. If your book looks just as good as any you'd
find in a bookstore, you overcome that hurdle.
If you have an
interesting idea, a platform (as in, website and some
kind of demonstrable media exposure), and an interesting
hook--they will overlook how your book was
I know it sounds like I'm
contradicting myself, but the bottom line is: What
you really need is a great idea, an audience, and a
well-packaged book. By well-packaged book I mean:
arresting title, professional-looking cover, interior
design (most authors overlook this crucial factor, and
their books stand out as shoddy because of
So, if you determine that your book will have
these things, you can either look for a mainstream
publisher or self-publish.
Again, it all
comes down to: Why do you want to publish a book? The answer to
that question gives you the lens to focus on the right choice
Recommended Resources on this
- Listen to the Virtual
Book Tour I did with Mark Levine on
self-publishing and how to choose a reputable
self-publishing company. Also the podcast interview we
did prior to the VBT.
- If you are interested in finding a mainstream
publisher, you will need to write an outstanding book
proposal. Check out Jump Start
Your Book: 12 Steps to Writing a Book that
Sells to lay the foundation necessary for a
great platform and irresistible book proposal. One of
the bonuses is an audio class on "How to Write
Irresistible Queries and Book Proposals."
- Terry Whalin did an amazing 2-hour interview with 8 top
publishing professionals--editors and publishers who talked
about what they look for in a book proposal and author. You
simply can't get access to this kind of info anywhere else.
out my review or simply sign up to hear