Despite all of the changes in the publishing industry, books are still a great way to build your brand, gain legitimacy and reach new audiences. For entrepreneurs and business owners, adding a book to your resume can be extremely valuable in gaining media attention, monetizing speaking engagements and expanding the personal brand you want to create.
I have written three books and used three different methods to publish each of them. My demographic is parents and my brand is built on helping teenagers communicate with their parents on my website RadicalParenting.com. My first book was a parenting book written from the kid’s perspective that I self-published. The second was a guide for parents about teens online, also self-published, and distributed as an e-book. With my last book I decided to go do with a traditional publisher and chose Penguin USA, Plume Books to publish Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I’m Grounded?
There are a few different publishing methods I have used. Each have different benefits and negatives depending on your publishing needs. Here are four potential ways to publish your first book, and the pros and cons of each method.
- Self-Publish Through A Print on Demand Service
Services like iUniverse or Lulu.com help authors self-publish books, get distribution onto online retailers and, depending on how much you pay, can do editing and cover design as well. Packages range from $25 to $3500. This is what I did for my first book.Pros: Print-on-demand — or POD — services can help with some of the harder parts of the process like getting the book on Amazon or filing a copyright. POD also means that you do not have to store and mail books out of your garage; you pay them to take orders and ship for you. With this method you also have complete control over the book.
Cons: POD services take a percent (though not as big as traditional publishers) and you are responsible for all of your own marketing, unless, of course, you buy one of their marketing packages. Another downside to POD publishing is that it is not considered legitimate in the eyes of the media.
- Self-Publish on Your Own
You can absolutely become your own publisher by hiring a printer and warehouse to print your books. You can choose to have them distribute the books or ship and store them yourself. In this model you do everything yourself — from filing for copyright, to marketing, to editing. I did this for my second e-book.Pros: Very little upfront cost to a service, and any initial outlay of cash goes straight into the book production. You make more money per book and you have complete control.
Cons: Getting a book printed is a lot of work because you have to find printers, work on your own cover and figure out how the warehouse will take orders. Depending on your set-up (and if it is an e-book or a paperback) you might have to take orders and ship books yourself. This method is also not considered a legitimate mode of publishing in the eyes of the media.
- Traditional Publisher: You Pay
There are small traditional publishers that publish your book if you pay them a fee. Some of smaller houses will also publish your book without paying you an advance. There are also a few authors who have developed their own publishing company (see method No. 2 above), who then want to take other authors under them. I almost went this route for my second book, but found that the cons greatly outweighed the pros.Pros: The publisher handles distribution and some of the marketing. A little more legitimate in the eyes of the media — unless they find out that you paid to have your book published or the publishing house is so small that no one has heard of it.
Cons: With this method, you either have to pay a fee or you don’t get an advance. You also get a smaller percentage per book, and you don’t always have control over the book, the way it is written, title, cover, etc. Often additional fees get added on down the line for marketing and distribution.
- Traditional Publisher: They Pay
Traditional publishing houses will pay an advance to authors to write the book and then help with everything from title to cover to editing to distribution. This is how I published my last book, and found it is a very different process than self-publishing.Pros: Advance money upfront and no out of pocket money. A traditional publishing house gives you legitimacy with the media and use their existing connections to get you more media attention. They help with editing, cover, copyright, marketing and every other step along the way. Most importantly they have distribution in book stores. It is very hard to get your book on actual shelves when you self-publish.
Cons: You have less control over your book and you make less money per book.