I recently received this question in response to one of the emails in my free 30-day writing challenge. And since I get the question SO much, I figured it was worth a blog post:
Which is better? Self-publishing or traditional publishers? Can you share your pros and cons with me, please?
Here is what I replied. This is only a TINY bit of my thoughts on the subject…
This is both a simple and an extremely complicated question to answer.
First off, while most people think there are only two options – self-publish or traditionally publish, there is actually a THIRD model as well… they hybrid publisher, like Kat Biggie Press and She Writes Press. A hybrid press is a great option for a first-time author or one with no platform because it’s a true partnership with the author and the publisher. The author is published in a traditional way, with the exception of the fact that they pay a fee for the production of the book because the cost to publish is so high and the risk on a first-time author is also high. But in return, authors who sign with true hybrid publishers receive royalty rates of 50% or higher, as opposed to 7.5 – 10% with traditional publishers.
There is a TON of information to learn about publishing
I’ve been doing this for four years and I still feel like I know NOTHING. If you want to write, publish, and SELL a lot of copies, you have to really learn a ton of info.
So, it comes down to your goals and how much of the burden/time/learning curve you are willing to take on yourself. If your goal is simply to say you’re a published author, or if you have all the time in the world to research when/how/where/why/etc, do it on your own. It obviously can be done successfully, because many, many people, including myself, have done it on their own.
BUT… if you don’t want to learn all of the ins and outs, if you want someone to hold your hand, ensure you’re doing things the right way, make sure your book is set up properly, has the correct meta data, gets distributed to all of the right places, etc. I encourage you to either seek a publishing coach, a self-publishing support service (like Write.PublishSell), hire experts to help you with different elements or seek a publisher.
There are plenty of people who offer services to help authors through the process so that you can still self-publish without having to learn #allthethings, including Write.Publish.Sell. And, as I mentioned initially, there are also hybrid publishers and small houses that are much more accessible and easy to work with as opposed to trying to go the traditional route. Hybrids are a great combo of indie and traditional publishing, but far less of a headache.
In a nutshell, I almost NEVER recommend the purely traditional publishing route for a first-time author, (with some exceptions) because it is really hard work, a really long process, and super stressful. And you make almost no money and lose almost all control of your manuscript.
So, consider your goals for your book, consider your budget, consider the time available and whether or not you really want to learn everything you need to learn to do a good job publishing your book, and then choose from there.
My honest advice about traditional or self-publishing…
I’ll be honest. It’s ALMOST impossible for a first-time, non-famous author to get picked up by traditional these days. You need to have a massive platform, a really outstanding book, (which, first books are rarely outstanding… although there are exceptions!) and social proof that you can actually sell your book (ie the audience growth).
That being said, nonfiction is certainly different than fiction and if you find an agent who sees the value of your books, they may take you on. IF you decide to go the traditional route, you’ll start by finding an agent that represents your niche, crafting a kickass query letter, and moving forward that direction. The agent will help you find the right publisher, but it may take years and lots of rejections. OR, you might get picked up immediately if your content is fresh and appealing. You’d want to look for agents and publishers that specialize in your niche.