Everyone dreams of writing the next bestseller. In the recent past, those of us who expended blood, sweat and tears while writing our books had only two publishing options: traditional publishing and self-publishing. Both were so difficult, it was prohibitive for most of us to even consider. While both options are still available today, there are easier ways to get our books published.
If you were fortunate enough to get your book published by a traditional publishing house, it would do all the work necessary to turn your manuscript into a published book. It would have your book edited and proofread, design a cover and have it all printed and bound. It would also market and distribute your book – all at the publishing house’s expense.
That was, and still is, the good news about traditional publishing. Here’s the bad news.
Traditional publishers take a financial risk when they take on a book, especially if the author is new and untried. There is no sure way for them to know if a book will sell enough copies to recoup their costs and make a profit. That’s why they’re so selective about which books they gamble on. Many books that went on to become bestsellers were initially rejected by many traditional publishers until they finally found a home. Many good books never got published.
Because traditional publishers lay out so much money to get your book published, although they will give you an advance on a percentage of estimated book sales, they feel entitled to take most of the book’s revenue, and rightfully so. Bookstores also want some of the income from your book, and authors are usually left with the smallest piece of the pie. (Bear in mind that although royalties are often low with traditional publishing, it usually results in more books being sold than other methods of publishing).
Another downside to traditional publishing is there is often a long wait from the time your book is accepted until it hits the market.
The only other option is to self-publish. The advantages and disadvantages to self-publishing are the direct opposite of traditional publishing.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of self-publishing is there is zero chance of rejection. You also have complete control of your book, as nobody but you has the authority to make editorial changes. You could hire an editor, but you make the final decisions. You set your own price, and you keep 100% of the sale. Yes, bookstores will want a discount, but at least you won’t have to share what you get with a publishing company.
The disadvantage of self-publishing is you have to do all the work, and at your own expense. You have to find someone to design the cover, or do it yourself. You have to find a company that will bind and print your book. In the past, the only way to keep the cost per book reasonable, so that anybody would buy it, would be to print many copies. This whole endeavor would cost thousands of dollars.
Often, only when the self-published author had boxes and boxes of books delivered to his doorstep did he discover how hard it was to market and distribute a self-published book, leaving the author stuck with all those boxes of books he couldn’t sell.
This, however, doesn’t mean nobody was ever successful at self-publishing; some people with a good book and lots of determination have even been successful more than once.
Today, it’s a whole new ball game. While traditional publishing and self-publishing are still available, with the advent of modern technology, we now have the option to print our manuscript as an ebook or POD (Print On Demand).
Online bookstores like Amazon allow you to download your manuscript and put it up for sale as an ebook on their site, for free. You choose your price. They will take a percentage of the sales, but there is no up-front cost to you.
If you want to sell your book as a hard copy, there is the relatively new technology of POD. POD allows a small number of copies to be printed at a cost-effective price, eliminating the need to print many copies that may not sell. Books are printed as people order them, and as this can be done at a relatively low cost, the price of the book is kept within reason.
To have your manuscript published as a POD book, you would contact a POD company; a simple google search will show you the many choices available. The company will turn your manuscript into a book, and put it up for sale on the online bookstores. Most POD companies charge a fee, some times several hundred dollars. This is an expense, but still much less of an expense than doing things the old way. Many companies do not offer editing services, which mean they are not responsible for errors. If you want to go this route, take time to review different POD companies’ websites, as they vary widely in their prices and services.
Sounds exciting, huh? Well, hold your horses before you decide to run after these options. Weigh your decision carefully. Yes, it’s exciting, but let’s do a reality check. Are you a well-known author? If not, few people will know to look for your book. And unless you’re writing on an obscure topic, your book may have tons of online competition. Your book may end up on the tenth page in its subject category on Amazon. Nobody looks there. And from those who manage to find your book, only a small percentage will buy a copy.
That doesn’t make the situation. Like the old way of self-publishing, some authors have sold a substantial number of POD or ebooks by working hard to market them. Even so, it is very hard to do.
Whatever the disadvantages may be, these new options finally allow everyone’s voice to be heard.
My own take on the subject? You worked hard on your book, and your best chance of success is to get it published by a traditional publishing house, even if you have to keep trying different publishers until you get accepted, and even if you have to wait until they process your manuscript. I think this is the best option to start with unless you have good reason to rush. Traditional publishers are able to market and distribute your book to the widest audience. Their books appear in catalogs that libraries and bookstores order from. They pay all the expenses. Yes, you will likely get little royalty for each book sale, but in all probability you will sell more books this way.