Should I publish Traditionally? Publish Independently? Or Go with a Hybrid Publisher?
The Answer is: It depends. It depends on two things.
1. What is your purpose for publishing, rather than simply writing or blogging.
2. Where are you in your career?
I've gone all three routes now, and I can tell you the ups and downs of each method.
Decide on your purpose.
It sounds simple, but we take this for granted. My purpose for my first book, Rethinking Women's Health, was to help women find answers they could not find anywhere else. That was a mistake. The purpose of my first book, and the purpose of the first work of anyone who wants to change the world by writing, should be to build an audience. You can't help people and you can't change the world, and you can't make any money if you do not have an audience to read your book.
Now, if your purpose is the pure satisfaction of having your thoughts out in the world, or if you simply enjoy the creative process, those are legitimate purposes! Do not apologize, and publish away!
Your purpose will determine which method is best for you.
Consider where you are in your career.
When you are getting started trying to publish, there is a catch 22. Every agent or traditional publisher will want to know what your platform is, how big it is, and how many books you will sell by putting your name on them. If you are a leader in your field, this will be easy. If you have a large blog following, you are all set. If you have already published in various places, you might be in good shape.
For the rest of us, we probably won't sell a ton of books just because our friends and families love us!
Building a platform, or as I prefer to call it, a Tribe, is the key to a book succeeding or failing no matter which method you choose. Once you have a tribe, you will have to return to your purpose and decide if you would rather a.) make money, b.) do less work and make less money, or c.) reach the largest audience.
Be honest about your expertise, resources, and time.
Indie publishing is a great route for entrepreneurs who aren't afraid to learn as they go. In reality, you do very little of the process yourself. Instead, you become like a one-author publishing house. You hire out editors, layout professionals, and marketing.
Benefits: You maintain control. If you want to change the cover, you can. Change the price? Anytime. And, who will market your book harder than you? This is a great way to build an audience as a new author and learn the process. You make 100% of sales (minus printing costs).
Drawbacks: There is a large investment in time and a moderate financial investment. Expect to spend between $800 and $1,200 for decent editing and at least $300 for decent layouts. Cover costs vary. You will also have to pay for ads if you do not have an audience already. The work requires a steep learning curve, but there are loads of resources out there to guide you.
Here is the book I did Independently, Growing the Good Life.
Traditional publishing is great if you require the guidance of experts, already have a name or an audience, or simply need the credibility of a "vetted" author. You can begin approaching agents, or submit your query directly to small publishing houses. Some agents our small publishing houses will ask for a full proposal right away. Others will let you know if they would like to see a full proposal based on your query.
Benefits: No cost other than time for authors. You receive the benefit of experts leading you through the process. There is the possibility of reaching a larger audience, and people view you as a credible author.
Drawbacks: You have very little control over the final product, price, or marketing. It can be hard to find a publisher unless you already have an audience. You make less money on book sales (usually 10%-20%). You are expected to do most of your own marketing.
Hybrid Publishing is a newer option for authors that is springing up even in traditional publishing houses. Basically, you put in half the cost of production, and the publishing house puts in half. You split the profits. *There are some GREAT Hybrid companies out there. There are lots of scams. Be careful and read reviews.
Benefits: This is a good option for people who are overwhelmed by the independent publishing process, but who want to maintain control of the final outcome. Products are high quality, and some hybrids have connections with distributors.
Drawbacks: This option is the most expensive ($2-4K). There is no guarantee of distribution. You are responsible for most of your own marketing.
Next Steps and Resources
1. Start to build your Tribe.
- Set up Mailchimp, or another email system.
- Guest blog, write for a magazine, enter a contest, give away a free book and form relationships with readers
2. Decide on your publishing preference at this time and start reading.
3. Find editors, cover designers, and layout formatters.
4. Learn how to market your book no matter which route you take.
5. Enjoy the process! I used to think self-publishers were "vanity" publishers. Not the case. They are smart entrepreneurs who are taking the publishing world by storm and making money at it! It may be more "vain" these days to think you need an official stamp on your work. This is a great time for all three types of publishing, you just need to find the one that is right for you at this time. After publishing books using each method, I do not have a favorite.
If my goal is to grow an audience or make money, I would learn to publish independently. If my goal is to save time and get a quality product out that I maintain control of, I would choose hybrid. If I wanted to do less of the work and try and broaden my audience, I might submit to an agent or small publisher. In fact, I have a project in mind for each type of publisher in the next years.