So perhaps you've done the hard part already and written a book. Or maybe you're just doing some research because you're thinking about writing a book. Either way, you should know that the publishing landscape today looks vastly different than it did a mere 15 years ago. Heck, it looks vastly different than it did 2 years ago.
Authors today have a lot more options — unfortunately, that also means a lot more decisions.
I was recently discussing talk about this with a client; we're working on edits for her book and she's wondering where to go once she's got the book the way she wants it.
I told her she has 4 real options:
- Go the traditional publishing route — This means either finding an agent who deals in your genre who can find you a publisher (or is at least willing to try) or finding a publishing house that will let you submit to them directly.
- Self-publish via a self-publishing company, putting down money upfront to receive your book in print and then hand-selling these print copies, either via a website, through Amazon or at in-person events.
- Create and sell digital version of your book through your website. This means setting up a shopping cart on your site, creating sell-able files and signing up for a service like e-junkie to deliver them.
- Create and sell digital versions of your book through online retailers, like Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com or Smashwords.
How to Decide How To Publish Your Book
There are advantages and disadvantages to each of the options above — and examples of people who have chosen each of them and gone on to be massively successful. That said, not every choice is right for every writer. So how can you decide which is best for you?
It used to be that authors choose this route because the conception was that it was a one-stop-shop. You land a publisher and they take care of everything. That's largely no longer true. Publishers today expect authors to pitch in and help out when it comes to marketing and selling their book; they'll likely want you to blog, or do readings, or something. For some authors the prestige of landing a publisher and having their book produced is a goal in and of itself. If that's your end goal, no judgement here.
But to me the real advantage that traditional publishing houses still offer is the willingness to take the financial risk — you've put in the time to write the book and you'll probably have to put in a lot of long hard hours to market and sell it. But they're willing to pay to produce real print copies and they'll leverage their connections with book buyers to get it in brick and mortar book stores (which, while not impossible for a self-published author, is extremely rare). They also tend to be willing to "help" you learn your way around social media, showing your the ropes and explaining what you need to do to help build your platform.
Self Publishing through a Self Publishing Company
If going the traditional route doesn't appeal to you, but you still want to see your book in print, this is a real option. Any number of self publishing companies will take your word document, format it, and send you printed and bound copies — for a price. Of course this comes with no guarantee of sales (although some will try to help you in various ways). The risk is yours, but so are any potential rewards.
This may be a great option if you are a speaker or frequently do in-person events where you can hand sell your book to attendees. People love the idea of a signed copy and if they are "wow-ed" by your talk, they may be willing to shell out some hard-earned cash to read more of your advice in the comfort of their homes.
Creating a Digital Edition for Website Sales
If you don't have the money or don't want to dive in feet first by spending a ton of money on print copies of your book (or if you just don't care about seeing your words in print) you can create a digital version. There are any number of file types that you may want to consider, but regardless you can create them yourself (there are lots of how-to videos via youtube and other websites) and then upload it to a site like e-junkie so that a customer can click "buy" on your website and have your book sent to them automatically, right away.
If you already have a happenin' blog or website, this may be a great option for leveraging some of that traffic in a way that lets you make some money. There are a number of leading bloggers who have done this with great success. You keep almost all of the profits and the costs are minimal; it's just a matter of setting up your website and signing up for an e-junkie account.
Create and Sell A Digital Edition via Online Retailers
This is another pretty cheap option that authors have available to them today. I'd say it's the option most of my clients ultimately choose. Most of them still market their books via their website, but they then link to the Amazon.com or B&N links so that readers can purchase through those sites. While this means giving up some percentage of the profits, it can greatly help with visibility — especially if you can get your book listed on one of Amazon's coveted lists (David Gaughran had an excellent post on how to do this recently; check it out by clicking here).
Of course you still have to do a ton of marketing and hard work to gain your audience and help your book be found among the tons of other books on Amazon; but at least your not competing with every website on the internet, as you would be if trying to ONLY sell the book via your own site. It also lets you tap into those buying books for their e-readers, by formating your book in the proper file types. Read any terms carefully however — that way you know what other opportunities you may be passing up.
Alright, now I turn it over to you — Which options have you used? Which ones are you considering? Share it in the comments!