First-Time Book Publishing: Know Your Options

Today’s publishing landscape is totally foreign to what it was even ten years ago. And, first-time book publishing can be an intimidating process. So many first-time authors know that their passion (no matter how zealous) and their skill (no matter how honed) may not be enough for their book to get noticed, much less become a stellar best seller.

Everyone’s path to publication is unique. What may work for one author may not work for another. Knowing the ins and outs of your publishing choices will greatly help you determine if your path lies in traditional publishing or self-publishing.

Here’s how to know which path is right for you

Traditional Book Publishing Pros

  • The publisher pays you an advance against future royalties.
  • The publisher does all the production work for you.
  • Your book is carried in bookstores.
  • It’s much easier to get booked in media markets.
  • Published books tend to have more prestige.

Traditional Publishing Cons:

  • You need an agent first. The agent helps shop your manuscript to publishers. It can take up to a year to find an agent.
  • If you’re a nonfiction author, you need to write a book proposal to convince the publisher your book is worth their investment.
  • You need an established platform or a great marketing plan. Even fiction authors are required to have a small marketing plan.
  • The advance may be very small.
  • It may take up to two years to get published.

Kathy Bertone, “Visit Wizard” and author of the book, The Art of the Visit, is a great example of a successful, traditionally-published author. Kathy had a unique idea, a very clear presentation of her points, and a great marketing plan, which attracted a top-notch agent. Kathy recently showcased her famous knack for entertaining as she held a special book signing in her native Naples, Florida.

I initially worked with Kathy to develop The Art of the Visit‘s book proposal. Once she got a book deal, we worked together on  the structure, refining the anecdotes and sharpening the details of her book. A huge part of Kathy’s success as an author was her willingness from the very beginning to get out there and market herself, rather than relying on a publisher to do it for her.

Self Publishing Pros

While many first-time authors have boldly and successfully found their niche in self publishing, the intricacies of how to self publish, why you should consider it over traditional publishing, and when to start preparing are still mysteries to many.

  • You have total control over your book’s message, design, cover and promotion. Publishers often take over many facets of the process.
  • Your book will be published significantly quicker than it would via traditional publishing.
  • You have the potential to earn more money. You’re not giving a cut of your profits to an agent or a publisher.
  • You can revise at will.
  • There are no barriers to publication.
  • Self publishing is a great way to test the waters and build a platform; once you achieve success and publicity as a self-published author, you have a better chance of being picked up by a traditional publisher.

Self Publishing Cons:

  • You bear the costs of publication. That means you have to raise your own money for editing, interior design, book cover design, and printing.
  • You may not have the option to distribute to bookstores.
  • It can be very confusing to know which self publishing companies to use — and which ones to avoid.
  • You are responsible for all of the marketing; while there are many traditionally published authors today that must come up with their own marketing strategy, self published authors have no help from publishers.

Remember that no matter what your path you take for publishing your first book, the #1 thing that will automatically help your book stand out is a top-notch quality. Make sure your book is expertly edited, well-designed, and efficiently marketed.

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