What's the Best Publishing Method for You?Apr 12, 2021
Are you struggling to decide how to publish your masterpiece? There are so many options that it can be overwhelming. I’ve been there, and in this article, I’ll share my perspective from personal experiences and extensive research.
After trying a variety of publishing paths, I’ve successfully published six books. Hopefully, my advice will result in you having an easier time of it as you choose how to publish your own books.
There are three main ways to publish books: traditional, hybrid, and self-publishing. As you’ll see in this article, no single method is best for all authors. Your preferred approach will depend on your skills, interests, and temperament.
Each method has its benefits and drawbacks. Learn about each so you can make a more informed decision regarding which route is best for you.
1. Traditional Publishing
Historically, the primary way to publish a book was through a traditional publishing company. While this option is still available, many authors are now selecting hybrid or self-publishing approaches for the reasons described below.
Here’s how traditional publishing typically works. As an author, you write a manuscript and find a literary agent to represent you. Your agent pitches your book to a variety of publishing companies to see if any of them will agree to publish it. If your agent is successful, a publishing company will take over with the steps needed to get your book to market including editing, creating a book cover, and more. Once your book is published, the publishing company will also handle distribution and marketing. In exchange, the publishing company receives a percentage of your book’s sales.
Some authors choose to bypass the literary agents and pitch their books directly to publishing companies. A few publishing companies have processes in place to evaluate solicitations directly from authors, so finding an agent isn’t always necessary.
- Provides editing, book covers, marketing, and other services
- Little or no cost to you as the author
- Very few books get selected, so the likelihood of rejection is high
- Authors might lose control of editing and marketing decisions
Who Should Consider Traditional Publishing:
If you’re in a hurry to get your book published, traditional publishing might not be for you. Many authors and literary agents spend years pitching books to publishing companies without success. Also, you might want to avoid traditional publishing if you don’t want to expose yourself to a long string of rejections. Traditional publishers reject more than 95% of book submissions they receive, so your odds of a traditional publisher accepting your book are low.
Who Should Avoid Traditional Publishing:
This option is typically effective for writers with already established credentials or extremely compelling writing styles. It is ideal for authors who enjoy writing and are willing to hand over the editing and marketing to someone else.
Tips for Succeeding with Traditional Publishing:
If you want to go this route, getting a credible literary agent can help. You can find agents on sites including PublishersMarketplace.com, QueryTracker.com, and AgentQuery.com. Do your research to ensure your agent is effective and ethical before signing with them. You can do this by checking referrals, reviews, and even Better Business Bureau ratings to learn more about potential agents. Also, do a quick Google search to ensure agents you’re considering aren’t on any watchdog lists.
2. Hybrid Publishing
Hybrid publishing companies provide many of the same services as traditional publishers while giving authors more control over the process.
With this method, authors pay fees to have publishers provide services. This can involve packaged deals to cover everything from editing to distribution to marketing. Some hybrid publishers offer a la carte options so authors only pay for specific services they want.
While there are many credible hybrid publishers, there are also companies that prey on writers who are unfamiliar with the publishing industry. Many authors have paid substantial fees to hybrid publishers that delivered very little value.
Hybrid publishers are sometimes referred to as “vanity publishers” because of the perception that they charge writers who are vain enough to pay high fees to get their books published. Since there is a wide range of quality and price levels for hybrid publishing, you should be diligent with your research before signing up with one.
- Provides editing, book covers, marketing, and more
- Typically guarantees that your book will get published
- It’s often difficult to distinguish between credible and unscrupulous hybrid publishers
- Authors might incur added fees or risk losing rights to their own work if unethical hybrid publishers include confusing or misleading language in their service contracts
Who Should Consider Hybrid Publishing:
If you’re financially fit and you’re willing to pay to have your book published, hybrid publishing might be a good option. You should also be willing to do extensive research into the fair price of publishing services, your rights as an author, and the way your publishing services contract should be structured.
Who Should Avoid Hybrid Publishing:
If you have limited financial resources or you have limited legal knowledge, hybrid publishing might not be right for you. The risk of fraudulent behavior and deceptive tactics is high, so stay away from this approach if you’re not certain you can find a credible, effective hybrid publisher.
Tips for Succeeding with Hybrid Publishing:
Do your research. You can find reviews for hybrid publishers on sites hosted by the Alliance of Independent Authors, the Better Business Bureau, and others. Make sure you read service agreements carefully or hire an attorney familiar with publishing laws to review contracts for you. Never agree to relinquish the rights to your work, and never agree to pay for services without fully understanding what you’ll get.
Book retailers and wholesalers now make it possible for authors to publish their own books. You can do this with nothing more than an electronic file containing your manuscript and a bank account to receive your royalty payments. Some publishing platforms even provide free book covers and other services in exchange for the rights to sell your book.
This approach requires authors to go beyond writing into the areas of editing, proofreading, formatting, and more. To create a high-quality book, an author must have diverse talent, a willingness to learn a variety of skills beyond writing, or access to people who can help with publishing-related tasks.
Many self-published authors hire experts to do specific tasks for them. Freelancing platforms such as Fiverr, Freelancer.com, and Upwork have now made it easy for authors to connect with people who can perform tasks typically managed by publishing companies. For a reasonable fee, many authors can hire editors, proofreaders, formatters, and marketers for their books. The sites mentioned above also give authors access to designers who can create book covers, promotional videos, and advertising campaigns.
The quality of freelancing services varies widely, so do your research before choosing someone to provide services for you. Many freelancing platforms supply ratings and reviews from authors who have used their services, so read those reviews carefully.
It’s also important that you create an account with each publishing platform yourself. That way, you control the way your book is printed, distributed, and priced.
Top platforms for self-publishing include IngramSpark, Amazon’s KDP, Apple Books, and Draft2Digital. There are many others to choose from, and authors aren’t limited to just one. It’s often a good idea to publish on multiple platforms to maximize your book’s potential customer base.
- Authors maintain control of their books’ content and promotional messages
- It can be done for little money
- Requires significant research to learn the steps and processes
- Includes some risk of content piracy if authors use unscrupulous freelancers for services
Who Should Consider Self-Publishing:
If you have a passion for learning and are willing to develop a variety of new skills, self-publishing might be for you. If you do it yourself, it might give you a reason to learn editing, formatting, graphic design, and marketing. You can always find freelancers to help, but that requires research and adds to the expense of publishing.
Who Should Avoid Self-Publishing:
Does the idea of managing complicated processes overwhelm you? If so, self-publishing might not be for you. It requires a significant amount of project management to navigate your book through the editing, publication, and marketing processes.
Tips for Succeeding with Self-Publishing:
Tap into a variety of resources to support you during your self-publishing journey. There are social media communities, professional associations, and other author groups dedicated to helping writers get their books to market. They can provide guidance to help you find credible publishing services and techniques to overcome obstacles you encounter during the process. You can also find online classes to teach you the steps needed to publish your book.
The Bottom Line
Choosing an option to publish your book depends on factors that are specific to you and the resources you have at your disposal. I found self-publishing to be the most rewarding option for me since I enjoy learning new skills. I also found a community of supportive authors on Facebook, which has made the process not only manageable, but quite enjoyable.
If the idea of self-publishing overwhelms you, consider finding a literary agent to help you get your book published through the traditional publishing route. If you or your agent can’t find a traditional publisher willing to take on your book, you might want to consider the hybrid route. While hybrid publishing might be more expensive, a credible hybrid publisher can minimize the stress many authors experience when thinking about the complexity of self-publishing. They can also help authors avoid the likelihood of rejection that’s common when pursuing the traditional publishing route.
Regardless of which option you choose, publishing your book can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. While very few writers enjoy the financial rewards of publishing a bestseller, many find the accomplishment of becoming a published author to be all the reward we need to keep writing.
For more tips to help you publish your own book, click here to download my free Self-Publishing Checklist and subscribe to my newsletter now.
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