I’m super excited to be sharing this particular article with you today, and I hope I’m able to answer some of the questions you have about rather you should go the traditional route or the self-publishing route with your book.
When you have completely finished writing your first manuscript (that means 1st, 2nd, 3rd, & 4th drafts), and have edited it to your own satisfaction, what is your next step?
You can either go the traditional route and start writing query letters to literary agents who may help you get a contract with a traditional publishing company.
Or you could go the self-publishing route and use platforms like CreateSpace and/or Amazon’s KDP select program for e-books — or pay a publisher to print your book, which is still considered self-publishing.
Now, with that said, there are several questions you can ask yourself, that will help determine whether you should submit your work to a traditional publisher, or publish it yourself through self-publishing.
1) How Long Does Your Book Have to Be?
Although there is no “official” length for books, established publishers definitely have ideas about how long books should be. These publishing standards vary from genre to genre.
For example, Science Fiction and Fantasy novels tend to be between 80,000 and 120,000 words. Mysteries often are shorter and tend to be between 60,000 and 70,000 words.
Many books that are self-published, particularly electronically, are a lot shorter than that. Hugh Howey, the author of the bestselling e-book Wool, published the book originally in 5 separate parts (or novellas), then published it as one omnibus edition.
The first part (or novella) was 12,000 words (60 pages). That is hardly the length for a book a publisher would accept, yet Howey managed to make his self-published novella series a bestselling one by building interest from the first part through to the fifth.
A publisher never would have accepted the first part alone, but after Howey turned the series of novella’s into a best-selling hit, Penguin is publishing The Wool Omnibus edition in Print.
If your books tend to be shorter and part of a series, it can be a lot easier to self-publish them online and build a fan base by offering the first book in the series free. That’s, essentially, how Howey became one of the best-selling self-published authors to date.
If you tend to write longer works, such as literary novels, it could be harder to self-publish them online. Why? Well, because it’s much harder to build a fan base around literary novels in the self-publishing world right now — but it’s not impossible.
You see, most readers are used to spending 1.99 to .99 cents on self-published eBooks, so they may not be so willing to pay enough per book to justify all of your hard work.
Now, that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. You see, I’ve written before that in today’s world, writers are artists, their business owners, their marketers, their social media influencers — social media influencers being the highlighted subject of the list.
There is quite a bit that I can write on the subject of authors as social media influencers, but that goes outside the scope of this particular article. In short, if you can create a following of engaged readers across socials you may be able to break through that spending barrier of 1.99 or .99 cents.
2) How Much Control Do You Want Over Your Book?
Some writers and authors appreciate editorial feedback. They encourage others to give them an outside perspective and provide insight into which characters and scenes they should cut out or focus more attention on. Other writers and authors appreciate the ability to execute their own artistic vision. There really is no wrong choice here.
If you are in the first category you can either try to go the traditional route and embrace the feedback (good or bad) you may receive from the internal editors of the publishing company you end up signing with. Or, if you decide to go the self-published route, you can even hire a freelance editor to give you the same kind of outside feedback.
Now, with that said, freelance editors tend to vary wildly in price, but if you can’t find one you can afford you can always try to employ a friend to give you the same kind of feedback and outside perspective or insight.
In short, if you go the traditional route, you will more than likely end up having to sacrifice several areas of control with your work, whereas, if you went the self-publishing route, you would get to maintain 100% control over how successful or unsuccessful your book ends up being.
3) How Much Submitting are You Willing to Do?
And if that isn’t eye-opening enough, one of the most famous authors of the Twentieth Century, C.S. Lewis’s work was turned down over 800 times before one piece was accepted for publication.
This does not even take into consideration the modern traditional publishing world that relies heavily on literary agents. You have to put together a good query letter and book proposal, make sure your first twenty pages are as polished as possible, and submit to at least fifteen different agents in order to get one of them to even think about considering give you a publishing contract.
That is really no small feat. That is why I’ve always said that the work of writing the book is just the beginning. Nevertheless, the payoff landing an agent and having a major publisher release your work may be all worth it — it really just depends on you and what you’re willing to sacrifice and what you’re not willing to sacrifice.
4) How Much Promotion (or Marketing) are You Willing to Do?
Now, that brings us to another very important piece to becoming a successful writer and author. You see, when you have a traditional publishing company releasing your book, it’s true they will do some of the marketing and promotion of your book, but they will still expect (better yet, require) you to do about half (if not more) of the marketing work yourself.
In other words, you will have to work in harmony with your agent (and publisher) as they schedule book signing tours with you, and you’ll have to create an author’s Facebook page, build an email list (if you haven’t already done so), and the list goes on and on.
Nevertheless, when going the traditional publishing route, the publisher does handle some of the promotion and marketing aspects. Plus, they are also in charge of distributing your book and making sure that the public has easy access to it.
Now, if you decide to go the self-publishing route, you, in essence, become your own publicist, so to speak. And if you are self-publishing in print, you also have to be in charge of distribution as well.
With that said, the primary focus will be on making sure people know about your book. Now, many people self-publish these days, particularly electronically, because it’s cheaper, but regardless of what your budget looks like, you have to make sure your book stands out — from the cover design to a Twitter account, to convincing friends and strangers to considering giving your book positive reviews.
Just like writing the book, and trying to land a literary agent, this can be a lot of hard work. Nevertheless, if you have an interest in social media marketing (and you should if you want to become a successful author) and are willing to put some work in, you can get your writing into the hands of others faster than you think.
Remember that if you support other self-published authors, they are likely to support you as well.
5) How Soon Do You Want Your Book to Be Out on The Market?
Lastly, if you are the patient type, the traditional publishing route could be the path for you. You see, it takes an average of two years to see your book in stores when being published by an established publisher.
However, if you go the self-publishing route, even if you are printing physical copies of your book through a third party, it can take a few weeks at most, and sometimes even just a few hours. With that said, if you can’t wait two years, and you would rather see your book out in the marketplace as soon as possible, then self-publishing might be the right path for you.
Now Over to You
I hope after reviewing all the questions, and their explanations, you have a better idea about which publishing route is the best fit for you and your writing career, as well as for your particular book.
I highly encourage you to share your thoughts with me in the comments section below. I would love to hear what tips and insights you might have in regards to this topic.
❤ If you liked this article, you might also love:
4 Key Steps to Take in Order to Begin Publishing Your Book Successfully
Remember J.K Rolling’s original “Harry Potter” pitch was rejected at least 12 times before she set out to self-publish…
William Ballard is one of the most sought-after business and leadership coaches in the world. As founder and CEO of William Ballard Enterprise, his core business development and leadership programs are designed to be a catalyst for entrepreneurs and leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their business, their lives, and the world. To learn more about how to get back to your first love as a writer again, subscribe to William’s free business insider newsletter.