Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ever dream of becoming an author? Advantages and disadvantages of traditional and self-publishing

Have you ever dreamed of coming out with your own book?

I’m queried weekly by a plethora of individuals wanting to become an author. A worthy goal if you have the right message indeed!

Step one: write your book.

Step two: to self-publish or be published (by a traditional publisher) or a little of both?

Let’s tackle the first part of step two – self publishing.

To move past the dream of writing a book and now getting it self-published is a desire that most "would be" authors only dream about.

Here’s some of the advantages and disadvantages of both options.

First, if you’ve actually researched and written a manuscript you’ve make it 99.9% further than most “want-to-be” authors. However, the next step is to get your information out to the public.

Advantages of self-publishing:

You’ll make the maximum profit on your book. Yes and no. Sure, you might be able to negotiate rates lower than what your publisher will charge you to purchase your own book, but likely not. A large publisher has years and thousands of printing jobs negotiated. I’m able to purchase my books from my publisher at a much lower cost than printing my own book as I did with my first title.

Complete control over your content, cover design, page layout and more. Yes, this is true. But you’ll also have to pay for that control. Consider the costs of hiring an editor, finishing editor, proof reader, registering the ISBN and Library of Congress info yourself and so much more. Yes, you’ll have total control over your book, but at what cost?

Disadvantages of self-publishing:

There’s certainly something to celebrate when finishing your manuscript and finding the investment to publish it yourself. However, getting the attention of a traditional publisher who will find merit and worthiness in your work and be willing to back that work with their investment of time and dollars is another matter. And finding a traditional publisher these days is tougher and tougher. Yes, you do relinquish a certain degree of control. The publisher does have a final say on many things, but again, it’s their investment of time and dollars.

D-I-S-T-R-I-B-U-T-I-O-N: When I researched publishing my first book (and had to go the self-pub route), I read all available material, attended every seminar and was sure I had a rock solid business plan to market my book. However, one small word, which is key to an author’s success, was never mentioned in my due diligence – and that’s distribution. will take you on as a self-published author, but the cost and frustration isn’t worth the effort for small runs. There isn’t a reputable distributor that will work with individual authors over a large publisher that’s worth the time (think about thousands of authors calling for payments and more or the distributor dealing with one publisher on behalf of thousands of authors).

I remember visiting a bookstore in Granville Island in Vancouver on a stop for my first book tour for my first traditionally published book. It was a tiny, but hip and quaint book store in Granville Island with no more than three feet of shelf space dedicated to their business section, and there ... was one copy of my newest book, The Woman’s Guide to Money, thanks to the strength of the distribution of my publisher. How could I as a prairie resident ever find the marketing dollars to personally visit and convince every large and small book store across Canada to stalk their shelves with my book?

How do you get published with a traditional publisher?

Get famous or write the most extraordinary book on earth. Even then it’s tough. Consider that a medium sized publisher might come out with twenty to fifty books a season and they likely receive thousands of unsolicited manuscripts a month. So, for the non-famous author with a message to spread, self-publishing might be the only option.

Another option is to self-publish your own work and create a successful marketing campaign that then gets the attention of a traditional publisher. After all, if you aren't confident enough in your own book to back it with your dollars, why would a publisher?

There’s a plethora of support services for authors wanting to self-publish and many of them offer lower cost, small run options. However, as mentioned in my last point, the lack of distribution available to a self-published author generally means a garage or office full of books gathering dust (other than the ones you gave to your friends and family.)

I did stumble across one company that compelled me to write this post. They offer everything their competitors offer plus much more (a la carte editing, proof reading services) but there’s one major difference with this company that I haven’t found with any other out there – distribution. They include a one year distribution service that’s invaluable for the first time author.

If you have a book “in” you that needs to get on bookstore, library and Amazon’s shelves, check them out for yourself:

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