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Choosing the Right Path: Traditional vs. Self-Publishing

One of the first decisions you have to make when planning your journey is whether you want to be traditionally published or go the Indie author route with self-publishing. Before you make that very important decision you need to have all of the facts.

Writing your book is only a part of authorship even for traditionally published authors. Publicity and marketing are still required for either path if you want to get your book noticed. Which path you take can depend on a lot of different factors. It's up to you to decide which fits your needs the best or if you want to try a combination of the two. Either route has its rough terrain.

In traditional publishing it can take many months or even years submitting your manuscript to a publisher until you find one willing to take a chance on you. It all goes back to that end goal you have in mind and how quickly you want to see your book gracing the pages of Amazon. It also depends on what you plan to write. Publishers typically are only interested in what is hot in the market at the moment. If you're writing dog memoirs it's probably going to be a lot harder to get a traditional publishing deal.

On the other hand, self-publishing requires a large time commitment, willingness to take on a lot of different roles, and self discipline. There are a lot of Indie authors out there who still aren't full-time writers (like me!) who try to cram author time after the day job hours and after the family is tucked into bed. It can lead to sleep deprivation especially if you are diligent about adhering to milestone goals you set for yourself. However, there are several Indie authors that give us newbies hope. Authors such as Amanda Hocking, who self-published nine books before getting picked up by traditional publishers. Here's her shocking stats: In 2011, Amanda Hocking broke the self-pub records by making two-million dollars and selling 9,000 copies per day. Wow, now that's inspiration!

Below is my compilation of pros and cons from the online research I've done for either path. Take a look and mark the pros and cons that are most important to you.

Either path can be successful, but the right path can make all the difference. Some authors are even doing a combination of both; self-publishing those books they want to get out asap and traditional publishing for those books they don't mind waiting potentially two years to see in print. Set yourself up for success before you even set one foot on the trail by being realistic about what you can and can't do. Just remember that there are tons of resources out there to help you through all of this. I'll be talking about those in another post a little later. Now it's time to get into the details to help you make a decision.

If the thought of having total control of everything to do with your book and building an author business gives you hives, self-publishing may not be right for you. Keep in mind that expenses are involved with either; whether you pay up front, as you go, or on the back-end. In self-publishing the expense is all up front or as you go. In traditional publishing it is at the back-end unless you are very successful right out of the gate. Publishers will offer cash advances up front, but you will have to pay back the difference between what your book earns (royalties) and what they gave you. A typical advance is $5,000-$10,000.

Below are the general steps of Traditional Publishing. TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING STEPS

1) Write your book!

2) Send query letters to agents with a sample of your manuscript.

3) Once you find an agent, they will suggest revisions to the manuscript.

4) Once your agent feels the manuscript is ready, they will pitch it to editors at publishing companys.

5) The publisher may offer you a contract depending on the market trends, the quality of the book, and their willingness to take a financial risk.

6) Your agent will work as the middleman to help you negotiate the contract, how much of an advance you will receive, and how much your agent will receive.

7) Your publisher will then send the book through their editing process.

8) Once the editing is complete, the book will go through formatting design. The artistic team will make decisions based on the current market trends.

9) You will get a "galley" of the book which is a limited run copy also called an advance reader copy (ARC). Only if you are an A-list author do you usually receive a marketing plan. Therefore, it is up to the author to come up with their plan and send the ARC to reviewers, media, and book retailers to get the word out.

10) The final files will be sent to a printer to make print copies.

11) All sales will go directly to the publisher until they have earned back their cash advance.

12) Continue to market and promote.

On the other hand, if you're in a rush to get your book out to the market or you suffer anxiety over rejection, traditional publishing probably isn't for you. As a self-professed control freak, I find self-publishing really rewarding when I can look back and say 'look what I built.' However, the process isn't quite so linear as the list above. I would say it looked more like the picture below. Regardless, I'll attempt to put it into similar steps.


1) Start writing your book!

2) Buy ISBNs (international standard book number). This is optional as most ebook retailers will let you use their ISBNs. However, it goes back to you having control and being able to take it with you wherever you go.

3) Build your platform (i.e. the places you plan to interact with people about your book such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, a website and an e-mail marketing service). Of all of these, the e-mail marketing has the highest potential of returning you some great rewards.

5) Join author groups that will offer great advice and support.

6) Finish your book!

(Optional - You might choose to work with beta readers to get feedback before starting the editing process.)

7) Use your resources to find the best editing services. Contact editors for availability and pricing.

8) Use your resources to find the best book cover designers. Contact the cover designer for availability and pricing.

9) Submit your book to the chosen editor.

10) Submit a cover design brief to the chosen designer.

11) Set up your author accounts at places like Amazon KDP, Goodreads, Kobo, Nook, etc.

12) Write your author bio and your back cover copy (blurb). Get feedback from your resources.

13) Work with your cover designer and editor on revisions.

14) Tell people about your upcoming release. Ask them to join your platforms and to be on your launch team.

15) Draft some ad copy and run it by your resources.

18) Format the final copy of the book.

19) Give your launch team tasks and keep up engagement.

20) Export the book to the appropriate file types and upload them to each retailer.

21) Tell everyone and send out ads.

23) Continue to market and promote.

This list looks daunting, but taken in chunks it isn't that difficult. Some of these you will end up doing at the same time. No matter what you choose having the right tools, resources, and connections will make the journey a lot easier. More to come on all of that in future posts. Which path will you choose?

Here's a short and fun little quiz that may help you decide which path is right for you:


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