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Should I Self-publish Or Pitch My Book To A Publisher?

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You’ve spent many nights working on your book. You’ve rewritten it, edited it, and you used a professional proofreader to proof it. Your book is done – finally — and you’re ready to send your precious manuscript off to a publisher, thinking that writing it was the hardest part.

In reality, getting your blood, sweat, and tears published may be the hardest part of the whole process. You’ll need to decide if your book requires a publisher, or if you’d rather self-publish your book. Both venues have pros and cons, some of which I discuss below.

To work with a book publisher, you’ll need to send out query letters and/or a book proposal. This is a letter or a few pages briefly describing your text, why your book is unique, the characteristics of your target market, and how you can help market your book. Most publishers don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts, so you’ll need to convince them to read yours, or find a literary agent to represent you. If a book publisher requests that you forward your entire manuscript, you have one foot in the door. Be prepared to send more than one query and don’t expect a response next week.

Publishers look for three things: platform, hook, and execution. This means a writer should have a built-in audience (ideally, a national platform such as a radio or TV show or a column in a major publication), an interesting hook, and strong writing skills.

The problem, if you’re an unagented author, is that most publishers won’t take your call or read your proposal. Then even if they do, you’ll have a tough time creating a bidding war or running an auction to get the best offer, and you also won’t have leverage negotiating the important deal points, such as ancillary rights and royalties.

There are writer’s guides that serve as excellent resources to find publishers and literary agents who specialize in your particular genre. These guides list the percentage of new authors published as well as the percentage of sales they pay. You may find pay rates ranging from 5-10% of sales. Some pay on wholesale sales and others on the retail amount. Do the math. Perhaps your book will retail for $14.95 and the publisher will pay 6% on retail. This means you will earn 90 cents per book sold. Of course don’t forget that the publisher is doing all the printing, distributing, and marketing of your text.

Another route you may want to consider is self-publishing. Self-publishing requires you to print, distribute and market your book using your money, but you will also retain all profits. There are book printing companies as well as companies that specialize in assisting self-publishers through every step along the way.

Many authors debate which method is better, using a publishing company or self-publishing your own book. You know your situation and you know what will work best for you. You’ll want to consider how much time or money you have to invest in the project. That should give you an idea of which route to take. Using a publisher takes less time on your part, but you’ll forfeit some of the royalties by using this method. If you self-publish, you’ll have to pay “upfront costs” and do the initial legwork to begin generating sales for your book. Either way, publishing is your call. With persistence and hard work, you can get your book in the marketplace.

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