To self-publish or not to self-publish

Right now I am struggling with the question of whether to self-publish my book. I think it is a very hard decision for a debut non-fiction writer in 2016. Should I go with a traditional publishing house, or should I self-publish?

In the last few days I've had a brief e-mail correspondence with the friendly author Derek Sivers. I also explored the world of self-publishing by reading the very well-written book APE – Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur by Guy Kawasaki. It explains all the ins and outs of self publishing in detail.

I also did some research on how to work with publishers in the best way, for example by reading the very informative and comprehensive Write the Perfect Book Proposal: 10 That Sold and Why, which explains everything you need to know about finding agents and publishers.

I also signed up for subscription on the excellent site Publisher's Marketplace, where you can get a real time info feed on all the book deals taking place, to get a better feel for what kind of books are popular right now, and who is writing and publishing them, as well as what kind of money is involved. Great insights for someone new to the business.

I am still leaning towards going with a publisher, since I don't have a reader platform, something I think is very important if you are going to successfully self-publish. Perhaps later, when I have hopefully gathered some loyal readers, I can switch over to self-publishing.

Some nice things with going to a publisher:

  • You can get help with doing all the stuff that isn't actual writing, like cover design, editing and proofreading, marketing, etc. and not have to pay these things out of your own pocket.
  • You will get your book printed and it may even show up in bookstores. Not only good for credibility but also for your sense of self-worth as an author.
  • You can get an advance on around half of the anticipated sales, meaning some money in your pocket even before you have written the book.
  • You have to write a proposal, which is basically like a business plan for your book. In there you will have to explain what's so great about the book, what it will contain, what the unique hook is, and why it will be a big hit. In the same way it can be good to write a business plan for an investor when you are a startup founder, I think it can be very good to start with writing a proposal when you are a writer. It will force you to actually think through a very important checklist of things that you must consider in your book project. The day I feel I have a kickass book proposal, I can confidently go on writing the rest of the book, because I know I have been thinking it through thoroughly and that I will minimise wasting time later re-writing parts of the book because I didn't plan the outline properly.

Some nice things with self-publishing:

  • You can get your book out there in a matter of days instead of months
  • You will have total creative control, and never have to fight with other people over your content, book title, marketing strategy or whatever.
  • You get to keep around 70% of the book sales, instead of like 10% if you go with a publisher+agent.

Micael Widell

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