A question I am frequently asked is: What’s the best publishing option—self-publishing or going through a traditional publisher?
When it comes to publishing your book, you have 3 options:
1 – Sell it to a mainstream publishing house.
2 – Self-publish it as a paper book.
3 – Self-publishing it as an e-book.
Here’s my take on it.
If your primary goal is to make money selling your book, selling it as an e-book is potentially the most profitable, followed by self-publishing it as a physical book.
With an e-book you sell on your own website as a downloadable PDF, your profit margin is nearly 100%.
With a self-published physical book, you will likely make a 50% profit margin—maybe a little more, maybe a little less.
With a trade paperback book published by a mainstream publisher, you will get a royalty of around 8%.
If you are a professional speaker, your best option is to self-publish a physical book.
2 reasons: First, the book costs you less to give away to meeting planners and speaker’s bureaus than a mainstream book.
Mainstream publishers typically sell you copies of your book at 50% of the cover price, which for a hard cover can come to ten bucks a copy or more. Ouch!
A self-published book might cost you just a few dollars per copy.
Second, the greater margin on a self-published book makes it more profitable for back-of-the-room sales.
If your primary goal is to promote yourself as a guru in your field, having a traditionally published book is more prestigious than a self-published physical book; a self-published e-book has little or no prestige.
Why? People reason that if a publisher paid you for the privilege of publishing your book, you must be an expert in your field.
Another factor that determines the best publishing option for your book is the subject matter.
For a general subject such as leadership, success, or sales, many buyers look in bookstores, and so traditional publishers like these topics.
On the other hand, narrow and niche topics e.g. websites for dentists etc. are better sold through direct marketing online or offline. Since publishers don’t do that, you are better off publishing the book yourself.
One other point: self-publishing and traditional publishing are not mutually exclusive. I have written 80 traditionally published books. But I also publish dozens of e-books.
Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.
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