In part 1 and part 2 of this blog post series, I explained how I landed my first traditional book deal, signed with an agent, sold more books, and then ultimately decided to leave traditional publishing behind! Following is some guidance on how to decide if self-publishing may be a better fit for you.
Does Traditional Publishing Really Make Sense for You?
While many authors have a goal of getting traditionally published, I would encourage you to think long and hard about whether or not this really makes sense for you. It’s a myth that publishers will handle the book marketing—this is incredibly rare. And if you’re doing the work to build your platform and handle all of your book marketing yourself anyway, you can potentially earn a lot more on your own. You can also work with a book distributor to get store placement if that’s important to you, and you can negotiate deals to sell your books in bulk at a much higher profit than you ever could with traditional publishing.
I know many fellow authors who have chosen the self-publishing route for all the same reasons and more. One author, who writes firefighting manuals, told me he has turned down multiple six-figure book advance offers because he couldn’t make the math work. No matter how generous those book advances seemed, the publishers simply could not compete with his per-book royalty figures.
If traditional publishing has been a goal for you, I encourage you to weigh the pros and cons. Speak with other authors who’ve gone down that path and find out what their experiences have been like. I suspect you’ll hear many similar stories and perhaps you will realize that the benefits of self-publishing can be substantial compared to the other side.
Things to Keep in Mind About Traditional Publishing:
- Potentially lower per-book royalties, averaging around $1 per copy.
- Book advances have decreased as traditional publishers have tried to figure out how to remain profitable in the competitive climate with self-publishers gaining momentum.
- Some publishers may require you to commit to purchasing a large quantity of your own books at a “wholesale” rate that is actually profitable for the publisher and unfair to the author.
- The author loses creative control. You may end up with a book cover you don’t like or editing that doesn’t align with your vision. Large portions of your work can be modified, changed, or even deleted.
- It can take months or years to find an agent and/or traditional publisher and then negotiate a deal.
- It will likely take a year for your book to actually make it through production and get released.
- Marketing support will probably be minimal.
- If your book makes it to bookstore shelves and doesn’t sell within a couple of months, those books will get returned and the publisher will write you off faster than you can blink. You’ll also never earn another dime.
- You will still do most of the work, yet receive few of the rewards.
Self-publishing vs. traditional publishing was a much better decision for me, but your decision will ultimately depend on your own unique situation. I wish you the best of luck and future publishing success!