If there's a list of the "Ten most frequently asked questions about writing and publishing a book," this question will be near the top:
"I want to write a book. Should I try to get a publisher, big (like Harpers) or niche (like New Harbinger)? Should I publish my own ebook? And if so, should I create an e-book to download? Or pay for hard copies?"
The answer (as usual): It depends. What do you hope to accomplish with your book?
Experienced authors will advise you, "Decide where to publish before you write the book." Sales depend on choosing a title, topic, writing style and content strategy tailored to your publishing platform.
(1) Traditional publishers:
Expect a long, arduous process to go from proposal to print. These days, most authors need an agent just to get past the mail room. Getting an agent will be just as tough as finding a publisher. Not all agents will be motivated to work to sell your book. I've heard many authors complain, "My agent just sat on the manuscript for 6 months."
Once you sell to a publisher, your agent gets 15-20% of royalties plus expenses. You have little control over cover art and jacket copy. You create your own publicity and "buzz," even if you just got a big advance. And unless you create a best-seller, you will not make a lot of money from the book.
There is no better way to create credibility and even prestige. If your book is any good at all, you get media publicity and speaking opportunities. You probably will not make a lot of money from the book itself.
But you can enhance a coaching, consulting, speaking or therapy practice. I owe thousands of dollars to my own book, which is now available as a self-published download. I didn't earn this revenue from the publisher but clients saw my book and called for consultations.
(2) Downloadable E-book
Making money from e-books is more about marketing than about writing. You follow a formula. You need to identify a market, find a topic, write the book, and convert to pdf, the best cross-platform software for ebooks. You absolutely, positively need a hard-hitting sales letter, which means you learn copywriting or hire a pro. And you need to help buyers fix glitches when they try to download your book or pay with their credit cards. Software can do the work but it doesn't come cheap.
No delays! You are limited only by your writing time. Once you learn the system, you feel like you are counterfeiting money. Your ebook can enhance your other offerings as bonuses. Sure, you follow a formula. But if you follow the formula with care, you can earn a healthy income.
And, with a quality ebook and a well-designed business model, some of your readers will turn into clients.
(3) Hard copy self-publishing
Cons: This option can offer you the worst of both worlds. You pay and often warehouse the books in your garage. Yes, you can sign up for print on demand, but you pay considerably more for each book. Do not choose the cheapest package. Expect to pay hefty fees for cover art and design. Nearly everyone needs to hire an editor. Reviewers tend to regard self-publishers with suspicion, if not disdain.
Pros: This option can offer you the best of both worlds. If you regularly hold workshops or speak to large audiences, you can sell your book to your audience. This process is called "back of the room" or "from the platform," even though you may not actually stand in the back of the room.
Coaching and consulting clients may not care who published your book: often they are impressed to see any book at all.
Which option is right for you? Review your goals and your business model. And most important: before you write even one line, plan how you will promote and distribute your book.
Regardless of your publishing path, you become a marketer rather than a writer as soon as you say, "I want to write a book." By planning ahead for this role reversal, you can save considerably on your marketing investment and enjoy far greater success.
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