A Publisher's Conversations with Authors: Self-Publish? Traditional-publish? Hybrid Publish?


It is Tuesday. Time to tall turkey. Monday's madness is over, and Wednesday will take us over the hump, so Tuesday it is--for some serious discussion with authors. Tuesday talks mean to address authors in waiting and self-published authors who would like to go a more traditional route or who would at least like to take their steps with a publisher by their side.

Today's topic is about whether to seek traditional publication, self-publish, or go the hybrid route. Each of these approaches to publications has advantages and disadvantages.

- Self-publish (you do everything yourself): 

    Pro: You can proceed immediately. You have full control over all content and design. You get all the net income.

    Con: You have full control over all content and design--meaning, the book is only as good as your own professional skills (or, you can pay for professional services that a traditional publisher would provide for free). You don't know what you don't know. It will take much research to know what a publisher already knows. You will otherwise miss opportunities for book promotion as well as perhaps fall into scam traps. There is also a "status" issue in that self-publication is sometimes looked down upon (this is becoming less so), which closes some doors.

- Traditionally publish (you go through a publisher "like it has always been done"):

    Pro: You will have a partner who knows how to edit, design, and market a book. Your book will have "status" associated with a publisher, and it will have a professional look-and-feel. You will be able to get your book into places that are only open to publishers (and there are quite a few), such as the Library of Congress, bookstores (most do not purchase books from self-published authors), and libraries (many will not shelve books that do not have LOC numbers). Your book will be carried on all the bookseller sites, not just Amazon (if you self-publish through kindle, then getting your book on the sites of competitors is difficult). Your book will be "distributed," making it easier to sell to traditional purchasers and to reach more potential readers. You will also get an honest appraisal of your book, your platform, and any reviews you get. That honest appraisal will come from a position of knowledge and experience.

    Con: You may knock at many doors over a period of many months, perhaps even longer. Time runs on, and your book languishes, looking for a publisher to believe in it like you do. Even with the help of a literary agent, you may not get an offer of publication quickly or at all. And, it could take 1-3 years, depending upon publisher, before your book is in print. Your income will be from royalties; good royalties are 10% on list, but many publishers pay only a percentage of net income. You will not have full control over all aspects of your book; most publishers retain the right to approve final design, and some retain the right to approve final content. Of course, some things can be negotiated, depending upon the publisher. Publishers do want their authors to like their book covers and feel good about the publishing experience.

- Hybrid publish (you work together with a publisher, sharing expenses, tasks, and income):

    Pro: Hybrid publication can get your book accepted for publication where it might be otherwise rejected because of lack of a platform, renown, or experience. The cost is typically not much more than self-publication and, when an author lacks knowledge and contacts, can be a way of avoiding costly mistakes. Depending upon the publisher, the book does not lose "status" as a self-published work; it has the "status" of the publisher. This is stronger with a publisher that also or mostly publishes books traditionally but takes on some risks through hybrid publication. You generally will have more say (though not complete say) over content and design; at least, your negotiating position is stronger, but it really pays off to listen to a publisher's advice and preferences because the publisher really does know more than you do. All the partnering that a traditional publisher supplies, including saving you from scams and opening more doors for your books, is generally available from a good hybrid publisher.

    Con: It will cost you. Depending upon the publisher, it can be a lot or relatively a little. Anywhere from $2K to $10K, and some fees in the margins, can be required. You will also need to be actively involved in promotion and in building a platform. (Traditional publishers will also expect your active participation, and if you do not actively promote your book, your sales will be a lot fewer.)

The book below, Publishing for Smarties: Finding a Publisher, walks you through the choice above. It is available from online sellers, kindle, retailers, and the MSI Press webstore. (The coupon code FF25 will get you 25% off any book at the MSI Press webstore.)

Lesson for today's Tuesday talk: Authors can choose among options for publication--and there are guidelines for choosing wisely.

Some of the guidelines for choosing wisely are listed above. Some are available online and in the various books, including the one below. Your choice will depend upon whether or not you are an expert and have a platform (traditional publication, if you want it, is available), how long you can wait (that may depend upon the timeliness of the content of your book), whether you can afford to self-publish or hybrid-publish, and what you want your reputation as an author to be.

Read more posts about publishing HERE.

The Tuesday talks reflect real discussions between the management of MSI Press LLC and our own authors or those would-be authors who come through our doors but don't make the cut--yet. If you have a topic you would like addressed, leave the question in the comment section. Chances are, in our 17 years of publishing first-time and experiences authors, we have had a conversation with one of our authors that we can share with you.


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