Your book is written, your manuscript typed-up and the next phase is production and publication. It’s time to take your pages from typed-up to typeset, then out into the world into readers’ hands. But how do you get your book printed and distributed? Do you self-publish or try to secure a deal with a traditional publisher?
You’ll need to make this decision before the final words are penned because, if seeking a publishing deal, publishers will have required you to submit a book proposal with sample material much earlier in the book writing process. Indeed, your decision may well be influenced by whether your pitch is accepted or rejected. Or you may opt from the outset to go the DIY route to remove the pressure of the pitch, retain control of the design, content and the lion’s share of the royalties too.
So, which option is right for you? Well, the good news is, the choice to go it alone is more readily available now than it has ever been.
A decade ago, self-publishing was expensive, complicated and inferior to professional publishing. You’d pay a publisher a fee to print a large print run of your books and would often end up with a lot of stock to shift, boxes of books gathering dust. Back then, the DIY option was associated with ‘vanity’ rather than ‘validity’ whereas traditional publishing gave the stamp of approval and the necessary credibility sought by budding authors.
Anyone can self-publish a book now. And therein lies the reason why books published by professional publishers tend to have greater credibility, because it’s not so easy to secure a publishing deal, making it less accessible and thus more highly respected. Certainly, in the world of literary fiction or narrative non-fiction, having your book picked up by a mainstream publisher lends the book greater credibility in the marketplace and, as such, often a greater chance of success.
Yet, this is not the case for every book. If you have a large media platform or personal network or your book is a business book or practical guide in a topic you’re an expert in, most such books tend to be self-published these days and still well-received by their audience. A book provides a chance to position yourself as an expert in your field, however you publish it, so it’s great news that the self-publishing option is so much more accessible today.
Thanks to the rise in print on demand and greater access to an army of reasonably priced freelancers who can turn your MS Word document into a fully laid-out book with cover designed and ISBN number assigned, you don’t even need to hold any inventory. The almighty Amazon even has its own direct publishing arm, with printing costs subtracted from your royalties, so you don’t have to pay any costs upfront and a high quality book can make it onto Amazon within a week of hitting the ‘publish’ button.
What’s more, you can generate more revenue per book when you self-publish (for example, you might expect a few quid per book compared to the more meagre 35-60p per book that you might earn in royalties from publishing houses based on net profit).
However, the downside with self-publishing is that you are wholly responsible for promoting and marketing your book and you won’t have the same access to global buyers, bookshops, libraries and so on that a traditional publisher has. They will often turn your book into an audio book as part of their publishing process and, depending on the publisher, their publicity people could help shout about your book from the rooftops, helpful in a busy marketplace.
Traditional publishers will strive to sell the rights to your book worldwide and bring out foreign language editions. And, if you do find a publisher with a great publicity team, they’ll secure you radio interviews, author talks and coverage in magazines. That said, good publicity is never guaranteed and it’s down to you to secure as many book reviews as you can, to get permission to use quotes and to generate endorsements for the book cover. And even with the backing of your publisher’s marketing department they will move on to the next book so you’ll need to keep momentum going yourself.
So how do both publishing options work?
With traditional publishing you’ll need to persuade a publisher to publish your book by sending them a book proposal with an outline of your idea, a synopsis of the content with a breakdown of chapters, plus an explanation about how your book will stand out from the books already out there. You’ll also need to build your case in terms of distribution by offering a clear definition of your platform as an author. Professional publishers want to de-risk the project and invest only in books that they believe will sell well, so you need to persuade them that yours will do just that, without relying on them. In general, this means you either need a big ready-made audience or an outstanding book concept.
If they like your idea and sample material, publishers will offer you a publishing contract with a small advance upfront, (although advances are less guaranteed these days and can be meagre). You’ll need to earn out the advance before you start collecting any annual royalties. It can take many years to earn out your advance and some publishers don’t even offer royalties, just a fee for writing the book.
Self-publishing gives you a far greater reward for your efforts and full control over how you use the material, with no need to sign any ‘non-compete’ clauses. It’s also much quicker too, because you don’t have to wait for a deal or for the long-lead production schedules. The trade-off being that you are responsible for everything. As such, once the manuscript has been written, it must be edited and proofread, then typeset into a book format, so you’ll need to hire a freelancer to do that and design a cover for which you’ll need to write the back cover blurb and add an ISBN number to. You can then upload the laid-out book on to Amazon’s direct publishing platform or use another self-publisher, such as Lulu.com. Alternatively, you may simply wish to have a handful of books printed to hand out to family members, in which case a local printer would suffice.
Whichever publishing route you opt for, United Ghostwriters can help with everything from writing compelling Book Proposals to submit to our own publishing contacts and ghostwriting the book itself, to helping you source good quality proofreaders, typesetters and printers.
Each of us have many years’ experience in both types of publishing so can advise you every step of the way. You can find out more about each of us and our specialist areas here. And read more about how to pick a ghostwriter here.