Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
A common question would-be authorpreneurs ask is if they should self-publish their book or pursue a deal with a traditional publisher. While both types of publishing have pros and cons, most entrepreneurs are best served with self-publishing. However, many people skimp on some basic, important expenses when self-publishing. It’s important to know ahead of time what’s optional and what’s not when writing and publishing your own business book.
Related: 3 Questions You Must Answer Before Writing Your Business Book
Self-publishing means you get your message out there faster
If you can get a literary agent and a traditional publishing contract, you might wait months or even years to get your book to market. And that’s not counting the time it takes to find a willing agent and publisher — an arduous process with no guarantees of success.
However, you might find yourself procrastinating without a publishing deadline set in stone. This is where a qualified book coach can help keep you on track. Or, you can try to self-motivate by telling everyone who will listen when you plan to finish and publish your book.
Related: 3 Red Flags to Look Out for When Hiring a Book or Writing Coach
Once you have these four steps completed, you can self-publish your book in a day
- An edited or proofread book: Do not skip this step. A book full of typos will make you look like an amateur. Amazon reviews abound about authors who did not invest in editing or proofreading services.
- A high-quality book cover: Again, this is not something to avoid. While Amazon/Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) has template covers, people can, will and do judge a book by its cover. With a lackluster book cover that looks like everyone else’s, people may not pick up your book at all.
- Book formatting: You need the document with your book in it formatted for digital and print. This usually requires the services of a professional. The good news is your editor or cover designer can include it in their services. Or, (this is rare advice from me) you can use the cheapest person you can find on a site like Fiverr.
- A well-written author bio and book description: This is important for the back of your printed book cover. And even if you go digital-only, you need these for your Amazon page, your website, any press releases, etc.
Now, let’s go back to why self-publishing is better than pursuing that elusive book contract.
Self-publishing allows you full, permanent control of your content
Quite a few people have come to upset me because they went with a publisher and the book went out of print. Publishers do this when they don’t see a way to make money from the book anymore. The author assumed they could easily reprint the book themselves.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Once you sign a contract with a publisher, they own the book. They can cut out parts of your manuscript, have another writer add things to your manuscript — the list goes on and on.
And even if that book goes out of print, they still own it.
Meaning, you can’t even make an eBook out of it without some hefty legal wrangling and fees.
Traditional publishers do not invest heavily in author marketing campaigns like they used to
Back in the old days (the 1990s and earlier), publishers invested a fair amount into publicizing their authors’ books. Once social media hit, more of the burden shifted to the author. In my role as a book publicist, I’ve had many authors come to me angry that they didn’t get a marketing campaign from a publisher. They thought they were saving money by not investing in editing, covers, marketing, etc. themselves. But only in rare cases did folks who weren’t already known authors get much beyond a press release and maybe a couple of book signings. It’s an oxymoron—publishers only invest resources in known authors. So, if you want podcast interviews, magazine and newspaper interviews, TV appearances and more, you’ll still need to pay a qualified publicist to get your message out there.
Self-publishing means better royalties/profits
When you publish on Amazon, you usually get 60-70 percent of the profits after the cost of printing your book. With a traditional publisher, you might get a dollar, or less.
Let’s illustrate this.
If Amazon takes out $2.65 for each print-on-demand book someone orders from you and your list price is $14.95, there’s $12.30 left after the printing costs are covered.
At 60 percent, you get $7.38 a book!
Also, you can order author copies at cost. One of my clients often does this and has sold 200+ books at events.
Let’s illustrate this again.
- You ordered 200 copies of your book at $2.65 each. That’s $530.
- You sell your 200 copies for an even $15 a piece, which is $3,000.
- Then, $3,000 minus $530 is $2,470.
All for you.
This is especially helpful for people who do speaking, networking, etc. None of this is possible with traditional publishing.
summing it up
The rocky path to a traditional publishing contract is a great ego-booster. But, more often than not it’s fraught with drama for most would-be authorpreneurs.
Some basic investments are important. But with marketing know-how and a solid network, you will make far more money self-publishing and more easily sell your other products or services.
Related: 5 Critical Reasons to Stop Procrastinating and Write Your Book Now