So– after months or even years of hard work, hours hunched over the computer and endless sleepless nights, you’ve done it– you’ve finished your book.
Congratulations! Writing a book is an enormous undertaking. It requires vision, discipline, and a long-lasting commitment to your creative point of view. But though you might have completed the most difficult step, your journey is not over yet. You’re about to enter a stage that can be equally stressful, frustrating, and difficult– publishing.
The Publishing Process
Today, there are more routes to getting your book to an audience than ever before. Let’s discuss the three major paths from moving your manuscript into the hands of your readers.
Option A: Publishing with a Large Company
When most writers think about publishing, they envision publishing their book with a large company. This is the traditional path and is the most difficult to break into. You will likely need to find an agent to help you navigate the process. If your manuscript is accepted, the publisher will guide you through the process of editing, layout, cover design and marketing.
Option B: Self-Publishing
With the rise of e-books and increased accessibility to online markets, self-publishing has become the method of choice for many authors. There are a variety of methods to self-publishing, but most paths follow a similar format: write, edit, layout, and design, upload to online platforms or pay to print, and find a way to market your work.
Because you have complete control over the publishing process, the steps will look a little different for everyone; for example, many self-publishing authors will hire freelance editors, designers, and marketing teams, while others will attempt the entire operation on their own.
Option C: Self-Publishing with a Local Company
A hybrid of self-publishing and traditional, self-publishing with a local publisher is an excellent choice for writers who want access to the resources of big publishing while retaining creative control of the publishing process.
Self-publishing with a local company involves none of the stress of the submission process– most of the time, there’s no need for an agent or for the painful rejections that come with selling your work.
Instead, local companies can offer you in-house resources like editing, proofreading, cover design, and marketing and can often get your work into readers’ hands much faster than larger national companies.
Pros and Cons
We’ve discussed the three major routes to publishing your manuscript, but now what? Which path is right for you? Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of each approach.
Publishing with a large company
Going the traditional route is tempting; it’s the most well-known way to publish and takes much of the pressure of the publishing process off the author. However, publishing with a large company may not always be the best choice.
1. Resources and Ease
One of the biggest advantages of publishing with a large company is access to resources. The author’s expertise is writing; their strengths may not lie in other essential areas of publishing such as editing, proofreading, cover design, and marketing.
Leaving these processes to professionals will both take the pressure off you as an author and maximize the quality of your book.
Large companies will also have connections with bookstores and online retailers, increasing your book’s visibility and potential audience, as well as increasing your profits and increasing your visibility as an author.
1. Creative control
Unfortunately, publishing with large companies has its drawbacks. Most of the time, you will have to cede the rights to your work and relinquish a large amount of creative control over both the publishing and editing process.
Publishing with a large company can also largely reduce your earnings from your book. Because you’re outsourcing much of the publishing process, authors may earn anywhere from 5%-15% of every book sold, depending on the format.
Because publishing with a large company is the most well-known route, breaking in might be exceptionally difficult. Manuscript acceptance rates for large publishing companies can be astonishingly low, with many authors spending years in the submission and rejection process.
Like relinquishing creative control, publishing with a large company forces you to relinquish control of your publishing timeline. Because of the size of the team involved in your book, as well as the variety of other projects the company has taken on, publishing through a large company will be a months- or even years-long process.
Because the self-publishing path was developed largely in response to the problems with publishing with a large company, it addresses many of big publishing’s problems. However, because it is largely self-guided, the self-publishing route is not without its disadvantages either.
1. Creative control
For better or worse, you, the author, oversee every aspect of self-publishing. This means that you can direct the entire process to fit your standards and your vision; the process is yours to design and implement.
Because you’ve essentially cut out the middleman, royalties in self-publishing can far exceed those obtained through a large publishing company. Royalties can reach as high as 70% of every book sold, largely increasing your profit margin (especially if you are publishing online, which minimizes overhead costs).
Depending on how quickly you can edit, format, and design your book, self-publishing can be an incredibly quick process. Especially if you’re publishing online, getting your book into the hands of readers (once you’ve finished the pre-production stage) can sometimes be as quick as pressing a “publish” button.
Self-publishing is accessible to everyone. By avoiding large publishing companies, you can also avoid the emotional toll of rejection, the long submission process, and using an agent.
Unfortunately, forgoing the restrictions of a large publishing company also means giving up the vast array of resources that they offer. Are you confident that you have professional-level expertise in the wide range of fields involved in successfully publishing a book?
Because you are no longer working with a team, there will be fewer opportunities for feedback and rigorous improvement. And if any of these steps go wrong, you can end up with a manuscript of compromised quality or a dead-end marketing strategy, leaving your book invisible to your target audience.
Though you may gain higher royalties with self-publishing, you will also have to bear all costs that come up during the publishing process yourself, without any guarantee of earnings if your book doesn’t sell.
This means that if you do make the wise decision of outsourcing professional help with editing, proofing, cover design, and marketing, you will have to carry those costs upfront.
It’s also important to consider your goals for selling your book. What are your measures of success? Do you need to see your book in physical bookstores? If so, self-publishing may not be the route for you.
Without the connections and existing relationships that exist between publishing companies and bookstores, it will be incredibly difficult to get your book on the shelves and into the hands of readers. Self-published books currently hold less than 10% of the book market and tend to earn fewer sales than books published by major publishing companies.
Self-publishing with a local company
Feeling frustrated? Both publishing with a big company and self-publishing offer some advantages but come with major drawbacks. Let’s chat about the third option– a hybrid model that blends the best parts of each path while minimizing their shortcomings: self-publishing locally.
1. Keeping creative control
Self-publishing with a local company has the major advantage of allowing you to retain creative control of your work. Self-publishing companies take no rights to your manuscript and title and are generally more amenable to author agency in marketing, cover design, and more. This allows you to bring your work to readers without sacrificing your vision or your standards.
2. Resources and Ease
Because you’re still publishing with a team of experienced professionals, self-publishing with a local company allows you to retain services such as editing, proofreading, cover design, marketing and more without ceding creative control to the process.
Unlike self-publishing, you will have a built-in support system, and unlike publishing with a large company, you are not obliged to go along with their every thought about your book.
Self-publishing with a local company has all the support from large publishing companies without any of the barrier to entry. You won’t need to break into the industry in any way– that means no agent, no rejection letters, and no weeks or even months of waiting to see if your book has been accepted.
1. Moderated timeline
Because self-publishing with a local company blends the advantages of big companies and self-publishing on your own, some aspects of the process will fall in the middle of the two. Timeline is one of these aspects.
Unlike self-publishing on your own, self-publishing with a company might not be as quick as pushing a button, but it’s unlikely to take years, either. When self-publishing locally, you’re likely to have some influence over the publishing timeline within reason.
However, you will also be limited by the expert resources who are working long-term to improve your book and create a top-tier distribution plan.
2. Moderated visibility
Similarly, the visibility and sales provided by self-publishing with a local company will likely fall somewhere in between sales provided by large companies and sales provided by self-publishers. Because local companies have expertise and connections in the industry, their visibility and sales will be far and above that which can be achieved by self-publishing.
They will be much more likely to get your book into local bookstores and to largely increase your online presence but will have less of a national or international presence to draw from.
What Works for You
Ultimately, the publishing plan that will work best for you depends on your goals. If you are going for an all-or-nothing best-seller and nothing less, a large publishing company might be the right choice for you. If you just want to get your book out in front of a few sets of eyes, and to make a little money on the side, self-publishing might work better.
For anything in between, though, self-publishing with a local publishing company is likely the best, most-balanced solution. This route maximizes your creative control, gives you access to a talented support system, and is accessible to anyone looking to publish.
If you want your book done your way and a guaranteed quality product, self-publishing with a local publisher is the right path for you.