Self-Publish Or Get a Mainstream Publisher - Which is the Best Way to Publish

Publishing a book is a big decision, and most people automatically look for ways to get published by a mainstream publisher. While there are definitely advantages to being published by mainstream publishers, there are downsides as well. It really comes down to what your goals are in getting published. Then you can figure out which path is best for you.

Let's take a look at some of the advantages to each kind of publishing.

Advantages of Self-Publishing

In some instances, self-publishing is the better route. Consider self-publishing if:

you want to get your book out quickly. For instance, if you're a business person or speaker who wants a book to boost your credibility, garner you higher consulting or speaking fees, and have something to sell in the back of the room, self-publishing is the best path by far. You need to get your book out there. You don't have time to wait sometimes years to find a literary agent, then a publisher.

you plan to sell your book yourself. Again, if your book is mainly a way to enhance what you're already doing, you want the maximum control over when the book is printed, and how much profit you make from it. Mainstream publishers often don't give authors a huge break on books they buy to sell themselves. Plus, you're at the mercy of their decision as to when and even if to reprint.

you have the resources to pay the upfront costs. Especially if you know you can sell books in the back of the room, or that it's worth it to give them away as a lead generator for your business, you will likely recoup those costs from sales. Look at it as an investment in your marketing. A book is an asset that can bring the financial rewards mentioned above: higher-paying clients and speaking fees (your book brands you as an expert), an easy way to get new clients, something to give away to promote your services, a way to introduce people to your expertise and lead them to your higher-prices products or services, etc.

The downsides of self-publishing are the upsides of mainstream publishing.

Part of the reason for that is the sheer number of books being published (something like 180,000 per year). Media folks need some way of culling out the best from the second-best. Mainstream-published books generally are better written, better edited, and better packaged. The media who review books knows this.

Another important thing to know:

It can take a long time before your book gets published. If you want a mainstream publisher, you absolutely must have an outstanding book proposal to attract a literary agent and then a publisher.

If you have the luxury of time, have a burning desire to be published by a mainstream publisher, are willing to devote yourself to "being an author" which means building and maintaining a platform, and don't need to depend on a book as a main income generator (royalties alone seldom make any author rich), then go for mainstream publishing.

What it really comes down to is: Why do you want to publish a book? The answer to that question gives you the lens to focus on the right choice for you.

Advantages of Mainstream Publishing

Get paid to publish. The obvious advantage is the fact that you get paid to write your book, rather than having to pay any upfront costs yourself. Though your advance against royalty might not be large (nowadays the average is $10,000, but they are actually shrinking), still, it's better than having to put out the money yourself. However, know that there will still be costs involved, mostly in terms of marketing your book. While some publishers will still give you some marketing at launch time, the success of your book is up to you. If you don't actively promote it, the publisher will soon put your book out of print.

Your book gets into the bookstores. Another huge advantage: You get into the bookstores. Most print-on-demand publishers don't get you into the bookstores, though they promise they will. Read the language carefully in self-publishing contract. Most POD publishers won't take bookstore returns, and because of this, bookstores won't stock their books.

Possibility of getting on bestseller lists. Another little-known fact is that bestseller lists are based on bookstore sales. If you want to get on the typical bestseller lists, your book needs to be in the bookstores.

Credibility with the media. When a mainstream publisher backs you, you have more credibility. Especially with the media. Believe me, they know who the mainstream publishers are, and, for the most part, give precedence to books published by those publishers. Part of the reason for that is the sheer number of books being published (something like 180,000 per year). Media folks need some way of culling out the best from the second-best. Mainstream-published books generally are better written, better edited, and better packaged. The media who review books knows this.

One important thing to know about seeking a mainstream publisher: It can take a long time before your book gets published. If you want a mainstream publisher, you absolutely must have an outstanding book proposal to attract a literary agent and then a publisher.

If you have the luxury of time, have a burning desire to be published by a mainstream publisher, are willing to devote yourself to "being an author" which means building and maintaining a platform, and don't need to depend on a book as a main income generator (royalties alone seldom make any author rich), then go for mainstream publishing.