I did something crazy at the end of last year. I wrote a novel. It was exciting, and terrifying at the same time. Funny how those emotions always seem to go hand in hand. I actually avoided writing the novel for about 6 months. (Read more about why I resisted here.)
Deciding to write the book was a big decision. Deciding what to do with the book was the next big decision. Do I self-publish? Do I attempt to find a literary agent and go after a publishing deal?
Honestly there are pros and cons to both. The publishing world has changed a lot thanks to Amazon and Create Space. Anyone can write and publish a book. Anyone can say they are an author. That does not mean they are an author with books people are actually buying and reading. In fact I have seen some REALLY bad books out there. We frequently have authors as guests on our radio show (link to Walk Your Talk on Iheart), and while several have sent me great books. There are some really bad ones in the mix. Typos, spelling mistakes, bad cover art. It can be really bad!
It seems like in today’s world, a book has become the new business card. Everyone has one. But I promise you, a bad book is not going to do you any favors.
Since I’ve done both the self-publishing rout, and now I’m taking the traditional publishing rout, let me walk you through the pros, cons, and process of both.
- You can get your book out to the market quicker.
- Multiple sales outlets: You can sell through online merchants like Amazon. You can sell on your website. You can sell at events, speaking gigs, book launches, and book signings. You can sell through independent book stores.
- You have control over the content, the marketing, the sales, and the distribution. You make all decisions.
- High profit margin. You will make more per book being self-published.
- You have a lot of competition. Traditional publishers publish very few books so the number of new books on the market at a bookstore will be far less than the number of new books listed on Amazon. Be prepared to get lost in a sea of books, most of which are not that great anyway.
- You front all costs. You will pay for editing, formatting, cover design, copy write, ISBN number, printing and all marketing for the book. And those are all required! Trust me, bad books don’t do you any good!
- Your chances of really selling a ton of books are not great. Most books on Amazon sell no more than 2 copies. And very few ever sell more than 200 copies. Although as a caveat, let me also say that most authors are clueless on how to sell and market their books. If you have a game plan in place it will offset this one.
The Path to success:
If you really want to be successful as a self-published author, get committed to a consistent marketing plan. In full transparency, my monthly Amazon Sales for Walk Your Talk would probably pay for me to go out to lunch each month, and that’s about it. But, when I go speak at a conference I can sell 50 books in one shot. When I market my book, it sells. When I don’t it doesn’t. Pretty simple. The good news is, there are a lot of great ways to market. Marketing has never been more accessible than it is today. And before my business brain starts to turn on and go into coaching mode, let’s just say, it you want to learn more about marketing, just go to our coaching site.
- If you really want to make money as an author selling books, this is traditional publishing is probably your path. While traditional publishing has changed a lot in the last few years, and it is harder to break in to the scene than ever, this path will provide book advances, royalties, and a higher level of credibility which can boost your fees as a speaker
- The publishing house assists in the production of the book. Editing, formatting and cover design will be managed through the publishers.
- You will have support in marketing the book. Unless you are James Patterson, you will likely need to put effort into marketing and selling your book. But you won’t be in it alone. The publishing company has a marketing department that you can work together with to build the success of your book sales.
- The Competition is fierce. Most manuscripts sent to publishers go unread. Most proposals sent to agents go unanswered. If you want to go the traiditional publishing route, patience needs to be your middle name.
- Book sales drive the traditional publishing industry. The last month I’ve been studying some of the highest earning authors, and while they are not all bad, several of their books were mediocre at best. Sometimes the best written books are not even on the shelves. Your book may compete in a genre with an already established author, so the deal goes to him. Your book might be the most beautiful, life changing book, but the majority of book buyers are just looking for a mindless story to escape into. Or your book might matter to a very small pool of people and therefore isn’t a fit for the publishing house. Remember they are a business, not a book club.
- This one is not really a con. You will be asked to make adjustments to your manuscript to increase readability and sell-ability. If your goal is to get your book to the masses, this is great. If your book is your personal work of art and you don’t want anyone touching it, it could be a con for you.
The Path to Success: Most people would say your first step towards traditional publishing is to get a literary Agent. My recommendation is to start building a following. Literary agents want to sell manuscripts to publishing houses. You are easier to sell if you already have a built in following. Build an email list. Grow a YouTube following. Blow it up on Twitter. Wherever you want to play will work. But my suggestion is to make yourself as marketable as possible.
Next Step is to get the agent. Maybe at some point I’ll write a book report on Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents. But for now, go get that book! And then submit, wait, submit some more, and pray that they love your book as much as you do.
Happy Publishing, and wish me luck as I start my journey of submitting my first fiction novel to agents across the country! Exciting times!