MS2BK: How I Chose My Path to Publication

Self-publishing isn’t right for every person or every book. It is, however, right for me. Here’s how I made my decision.

Like many people, I started by assessing my strengths in relation to the requirements of traditional publishing.

I previously posted a brief quiz to help authors assess their strengths and weaknesses and consider how those factor into a decision about the right publishing path. Those same ten questions are what helped me decide my own route to publication.

My Quiz Responses

1. Do you have at least $5,000 that you can dedicate to your book project?

Yes

2. Do you want complete creative control regarding the text, layout, and cover design of your book?

That’s not essential but it would be nice.

3. Do you have unquestionable credentials in your field, such as a degree or many years of experience?

Yes; 15 years as an editor with experience on all sides of the business.

4. Do you have a very narrow, targeted niche or cause?

No.

5. Are you willing to give up some creative control in order to make a living as a writer?

No, that is not my goal.

6. Do you want a book under your name but would rather have someone else take care of the details of publication?

No, I want to be involved.

7. Do you have the contacts, or are you willing to make contacts, with professionals who can help you publish a book on your own?

Yes, definitely.

8. Do you have a book idea with national appeal?

Yes.

9. Do you have a national marketing platform already in place?

No.

10. Do you want your book to be published in less than a year?

No.

Although I answered yes to some of the key questions regarding traditional publishing, without that critical marketing platform, I knew finding a publisher was going to be a difficult journey for me.

I also  knew there was a lot of competition in my field. Without a nationally recognized name for myself, explaining how my book is different from the dozens of other books on publishing a book was going to be a challenge for me or any agent I might find. (There is a definite need for the book I am writing, but I won’t go into that now.)

But I had other strengths that made self-publishing more attractive.

Two important factors in self-publishing success are (1) a strong connection to your audience, and (2) connections with people who can help you throughout the publishing process. As a member of several associations for writers, editors, and publishers, and as a 15-year veteran of the industry, I meet both criteria. I also have knowledge of marketing best practices and a general understanding of the business of publishing, both of which will go a long way to ensuring a smooth journey.

My goals for the book also played a role in the decision-making process. I’m not looking to get rich from this endeavor. I want to put out a quality product that supports my editing company and educates my authors. I am willing to put forth the capital in order to do that. I also know that even with a traditional publishing house, I would be doing most if not all of the marketing for the book. I can do that just as well when operating as a self-publisher.

What about the other routes to publication?

The other publishing routes that I outlined in that quiz — collaboration with a nonprofit or business, work-for-hire, and facilitated self-publishing — do not fit my needs or desires. My niche isn’t tight enough for a collaboration; I’m not looking to make a living as a writer, which would make work-for-hire attractive; and I don’t need a publishing services company to arrange the publication of my book. I’ve been guiding other people’s books through the production process for most of my career.

Ultimately, I decided I don’t need the support of a traditional publishing house to make my book. I am happy to take the risks and reap the rewards of self-publishing.

Since I have the resources — in the form of money, people, and skill — I have chosen the route that gives me the most control, the most freedom, and the ability to make a product that meets my highest standards of quality.

So far it has been an exciting ride. The manuscript is prepped for design and is almost ready for copyediting. Stay tuned to hear how those challenges turn out.

Like this blog? Look for Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, coming Fall 2014.

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Quiz: 10 Questions to Help You Choose Your Route to Publication

As an aspiring author you have several options for how to get published. The two most popular are through a traditional publishing house and self-publishing.

Three other routes also offer viable ways to have your work published. You could partner with an organization or business, you could write on a work-for-hire basis, or you could use a publishing service, where you pay a company to shepherd your manuscript through the book production process.

Each of these paths comes with its own demands and requirements of the author. By assessing your own strengths and weaknesses, you can find the route to publication that fits you best. Take this 10-question quiz to get started.

  1. Do you have at least $5,000 that you can dedicate to your book project?
  2. Do you want complete creative control regarding the text, layout, and cover design of your book?
  3. Do you have unquestionable credentials in your field, such as a degree or many years of experience?
  4. Do you have a very narrow, targeted niche or cause?
  5. Are you willing to give up some creative control in order to make a living as a writer?
  6. Do you want a book under your name but would rather have someone else take care of the details of publication?
  7. Do you have the contacts, or are you willing to make contacts, with professionals who can help you publish a book on your own?
  8. Do you have a book idea with national appeal?
  9. Do you have a national marketing platform already in place?
  10. Do you want your book to be published in less than a year?

Now review the questions to which you answered yes. These are the assets you bring with you to the publishing endeavor. Use them to help you narrow your options.

  • If you answered yes to questions 1, 2, 7, 9, and 10, self-publishing may be right for you. Self-publishing offers the most creative control, but it also has up-front costs, such as editing, design, and marketing.
  • If you answered yes to questions 3, 4, 5, 8, and 9, traditional publishing may be right for you. It can be difficult to break into traditional publishing without a targeted marketing hook and a strong platform, but you do avoid much of the up-front expense.
  • If you answered yes to questions 3 and 4, collaboration with a nonprofit or business may be right for you. Collaborations work well when you can find an organization that targets your ideal readers. Exposure is sometimes limited, but you gain credibility.
  • If you answered yes to questions 5, 6, and 8, work-for-hire may be right for you. Although you lose some creative control in this situation, you gain experience and can create a steady income. For many writers, this is their bread and butter.
  • If you answered yes to questions 1, 6, and 10, a publishing service may be right for you. With the right company, this route generally offers a no-fuss, no-muss solution, wherein you retain complete creative control but also foot the bill. Ensuring quality is the hitch here.*

There are many viable paths to publication. The key to your success is  choosing the route that maximizes your strengths and minimizes your weaknesses. With the results of this quiz in mind, explore your options until you find the one that’s best for you.

*I would be remiss if I did not mention that many of the publishing services now available have awful reputations for preying on uneducated authors. DO YOUR RESEARCH! Know what you are getting before signing with a company and avoid any that try to pressure you into a decision.

Like this blog? Look for Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, coming Fall 2014