If you’re a writer considering how to publish your book, you may feel intimidated or confused by terms like traditional publishing and self-publishing. Today, I’m going to give you an insider look at these unique options. My goal is lend you insight from my experience, to educate and empower you to make the right choice for your book project!
Today, we’ll look at:
1. Basic differences between traditional publishing, self-publishing, and hybrid publishers
2. How writers can reach literary agents and connect with traditional publishers
3. What type of books are selling well right now (2018)
4. What you’ll need to help your book succeed
Excited? Let’s jump in!
1. There are basic differences between traditional publishing, self-publishing, and hybrid publishers.
This term refers to 4 general types of publishers: 1.) the “Big 5” New York houses (Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Hachette), 2.) mid-size publishers, 3.) independent presses, 4.) and, lastly, nonprofit publishers.
Going with a traditional publisher means you’ll likely get paid to publish your book. If your work is selected for publication, you’ll get the backing of a reputable press and the associated validation. You’ll also be given access to powerful distribution channels, to get your books into bookshops and libraries and into the hands of the right readers.
But, it’s not all roses. If you publish with a traditional house, you may find that the cash advance you receive (per your contract) is smaller than you expect. Or, your book may not “earn out”, meaning you may have to return some of the advance. And, finally, you may discover that successful authors, often times, are being the scenes investing additional personal funds in editing and marketing to boost sales.
In most cases, self-publishing means authors keep the profits from book sales. They don’t deal with busy editors, corporate teams, or literary agents. In short, they have a simplified path to putting out their work. And that’s all good. However, keep in ind that self-publishing means paying to get published. Self-published authors fund and supply their own labor, including book development, proofreading, editing, art/cover design, marketing, and distribution. Those who have successfully self-published know that the main challenge is marketing, distributing, and making a book discoverable to readers.
If you’re looking at self-publishing, know that success requires great content, personal enjoyment and investment in the DIY approach, and the support of a resourced team of helpers. Oh, and one last thing: successful self-published authors often have a large, preexisting platform filled with engaged followers who want to buy their book and products.
Hybrid publishers combine aspects of traditional publishing and self-publishing. They have varied business models and methods of working with writers. In many cases they are editorially curated, crowdfunding driven, and/or share costs with authors. You might think of hybrid-publishers as author-services or assisted self-publishing.
If you go the hybrid route, you’ll get help from the publisher with book production, editing, marketing, and distribution. You’ll enjoy the insight of industry insiders and garnering higher royalty rates. But, keep in mind, you’ll also absorb some financial risk. And you’ll put in work—far beyond the writing. And that personal investment will continue every step of the way.
2. How writers can reach agents and connect with traditional publishers:
When your book is complete and you know what type, genre, and category of book it is, you’ll reach a publisher via a literary agent. The agent is the bridge between the author and the traditional publisher. Today, the vast majority of traditionally published books are sold to big publishers by agents who are networked with specific editors and publishers. These agents will also negotiate deals for their authors. They ensure you are paid fairly. They advise and manage your work. And, for the service, the typical agent will get paid 15% commission on everything you sell.
Seek an agent if:
– you’re pitching to a Big-5 publisher
– You have a big platform of engaged followers/fans
– You have multiple offers and need help deciding which publisher to sign with
– You need help negotiating a contact
– You have a big-ticket book idea
To connect with an agent, you’ll need visibility and credibility. Publish an article or make a newsworthy presentation. Otherwise, consider ways you might position yourself as an expert through panels, radio, tv, or online. You could also blog, host a podcast, or create a content channel to make yourself increasingly visible in the field.
Finally, if you have contacts who are published, ask them about their process and what advice they’d share. Maybe they can connect you to an editor or agent. Otherwise, check the acknowledgements toward the back of a book in your genre for editors and agents working on projects similar to yorus. And, when exploring connections, be sure to follow submission guidelines.
In some cases you can pitch directly to an editor or publisher. Let’s say you have a small platform, you’re a first time author, and/or you have a contact inside a publishing house. You may know in advance that your work is an excellent fit for a mid-sized or small publisher. If their mission aligns with your work and they accept direct submissions, go for it!
3. Lastly, I want to take a moment to share a few hot sellers from 2018:
As you probably know, fiction sales continue to decline. However, readers are still looking to thrillers and true-crime books for solid entertainment. Meanwhile, non-fiction book sales show continued strength, particularly in categories like Health and Wellness and Self-Help. What do these books have in common? Strong writing, excellent concepts, and established author platforms.
– Jen Sincero, You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life (motivational, sassy, aimed at women)
– David Sedaris, Calypso (book of essays – humor)
– Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential (a classic revived)
– Michael Pollan, How to Change Your Mind (a popular journalist tackles a new subject – consciousness and psilocybin
– David Grann, Killers of the Flower Moon (staff writer, the New Yorker)
– J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy (lawyer by training, venture capitalist, CNN contributor)
– Impeachment: An American History (a Pulitzer-winning biographer, two historians, and the Chief White House Correspondent)
What you’ll need to help your book succeed:
To sell your book you too will need to have excellent writing, a solid concept, and a developed platform. But you can do it! Get started today with the writing, continue with your editing, and figure out what it looks like to establish a connection with followers online. Remember that nothing will replace a strong idea. A best-selling book requires an idea that can be developed, explored, and expanded upon. Its distinctly different than an article, a blog post, or a single soundbyt–so recognize the difference.
As you work to clarify and improve your book project, your manuscript will tighten, your potential pitch to agents and editors will be strengthened, and you (the author) will grow increasingly confident of your content. Do not rush the process, but brainstorm, tease out ideas, test, rework theories. Rely on friends, trusted readers, or writing groups to act as sounding boards. Find new ideas, sharpen your focus, and energize your work by taking sound feedback seriously.
Along the way, I’m here to help. Share your insights and questions in the comments. Keep your chin up and keep after the work!
Do you have a plan in place to hit your 2019 sales goals? Get the 2018 Build Your Author Business Plan Course
Also published on Medium.