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Your Book Publishing Options

June 2nd, 2009 by Bob Bly

I am often asked by aspiring authors, “What’s better — self publishing or traditional publishing — for getting my book published?”

Here are your choices today … and the pros and cons of each:

>> Traditional publishing (selling your book to a major NYC publishing house or smaller press) — has the most prestige … the least work for the author … no cost … my choice if you are writing books to promote yourself as an expert in your field.

>> Self-publishing — less prestige than mainstream publishing … cost can be moderate to considerable … higher profit margin per book sold … lots of work to produce and market the book … my choice if you are a speaker who needs a physical book for your speaker’s kit and a product to sell back of the room (BOR).

>> E-books — least prestigous of the 3 options … almost no cost … highest profit margin … can make a lot of money selling it online … my choice if your goal is maximum revenues and profits.

Here’s the secret: most successful authors and information marketers use a combination of all three options.

Which are you choosing for your first or next book … and why?


This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009 at 6:29 am and is filed under Writing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

1,033 responses about “Your Book Publishing Options”

  1. Shirley @ Solo Business Marketing said:

    My next entry into the world of published books is self publishing.

    I’m the author of three popular business books, and I’ve written and distributed many E-books.

    I also sell books through

    So, Bob, you are on the mark when saying that most authors take advantage of all avenues.

    Becoming an author through traditional means (publisher) is what elevated my thinking about going it alone. After reviewing contracts and seeing who makes more on the royalty statement, you realize that it’s time to self publish.

  2. Greg said:

    I spent 23 years in the textbook publishing business. While I would not consider myself an expert in business book publishing, I have some knowledge in the area.

    Traditional publishers primarily offer marketing and distribution services. If you have a book which they do not feel warrants much effort, you won’t get much. You will have to do much of the promotion yourself anyway.

    My instincts tell me that if you have a book that does not draw some sort of advance, you may well do better publishing it on your own. Obviously, the Internet now offers marketing opportunities that did not exist 10 or 20 years ago.

    I just read an article this week online about the decline in tradition publisher sales.

  3. dianacacy said:

    I write both fiction and non-fiction. I’m utilizing all three, pretty much for the same reasons as you stated. Each publishing method has it’s own use.

    For fiction, it depends on the type of market the story would attract and if it’s a serial. Luckily, many traditional publishers are offering their books in e-book format also, so they are still an option if you’re worried about Book One not being on the backlist anymore when you get Book Three out. With e-book format, Book One can stay in inventory.

    For non-fiction, it depends on the purpose that I’m writing it for.

    The Christian series I’m updating now may actually be a combination of all three. In negotiations with a publisher who said I could still sell it other ways if they take it into their house.

  4. Info Product "Jeff" said:

    Great advice Bob, just a reminder for anyone going the self-publishing or ebook route – the single biggest success factor will be the degree that your topic (as expressed by your title) taps into high demand/desire offering a solution to alleviate pain or gain pleasure.

    Without an agent or publishing house to bounce your book idea off of, the tendancy is to overlook this important step.


  5. Ash said:

    Thanks for the post. As much as I enjoyed reading the actual post, the comments have been equally beneficial. I wish I had more to offer, but please post more about writing books and book publishing.

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  7. John Soares said:

    I’ve done routes 1 and 3. I had three hiking guides published by a mainstream publisher in the 1990s.

    I just recently published a how-to ebook on my particular writing specialty, and the creation and marketing of it has been far more enjoyable than for the hiking guides. Plus I keep nearly all of the purchase price instead of getting a buck-plus royalty on the mainstream books.

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  10. Scott Sanders said:

    I created a book to get published decided to turn it into an ebook then changed my mind again and turned it into a membership site because there was so much material. Right now my membership site has the equivalent of about 500 word doc pages.

  11. Pete Savage said:

    Next choice? Traditional publishing. Reason? There doesn’t need to be a downside to the pros that Bob outlines above if you are willing to 1) promote the heck out the book yourself, as you would a self-published piece and 2) create more material, like ebooks, to bundle and sell alongside the published book.

  12. Bob Bly said:

    Pete: one problem I did not mention: with a traditional publisher, the author only gets a 50% discount on purchase of his own book, giving you a 2-to-1 ratio of sale price vs. merchandise cost. To market on the Internet, you need a minimum of 8-to-1. So it’s difficult to direct-marketing a traditionally published book on your own.

  13. S.P. Gass said:

    I’ve still got a ways to go, but am working on my first novel. I figure I will check out a library book of agents, then try submitting proposals to agents in my genre. If that doesn’t pan out, then I’m planning to go the e-book route. Does that sound like a good approach? Thanks.

  14. Bob Bly said:

    Gass: 5 years ago, I would have said don’t bother. But a major magazine (Time, I think) recently did an article about novelists who got huge advances for first novels after publishing them on the web.

  15. S.P. Gass said:

    Thanks Bob, I realize it could be a colossal waste of time, but it’s something I want to try.

  16. Phil Dunn said:

    My first book was published by McGraw-Hill (The 7 Essential Steps to Succesful eBay Marketing). After that experience, I’d recommend self-publishing for these types of books, because:

    1) traditional publishers (at least, McG-H, I’ve heard positive things about Wiley) will not get behind your book until it hits a certain critical mass in sales. You need to promote and sell coming out of the gate and get it to that point.

    2) If you’re smart, you can outperform the publicity/PR people at big publishing houses (think social media, niche promotion, seminars and the like).

    3) You have more creative control for titles, design, strategy and so forth. This is critical – the look and title of your book will count for a lot when you get started.

    There are more reasons… but I’ll cut short in interest of brevity.

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