Stacey D. Atkinson

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So you wanna write and publish a book? Well, you're in luck because self-publishing services have come a long way, and you have plenty of options to choose from. But before you fully commit to the idea of self-publishing, you need to first ask yourself three questions. 

If you have been working tirelessly over evenings and weekends to achieve a lifelong goal of writing a book, then congratulations to you for finishing a complete manuscript draft. While there are still a few more steps to go, such as editing and design, you should take the time to acknowledge what you've achieved so far, as well as take a moment to think about the approach you'll take to publish your book.

Some people prefer to find a publisher for their manuscript (which is not so easy to do). They want a team of experienced book-industry people who can handle the business side of publishing and get the book into the marketplace. Other authors prefer to maintain more control over the process and choose a path toward self-publishing. Either way there are pros and cons. Here are some questions to help you decide which path is right for you.

 

3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Self-Publish a Book

1. Why are you writing a book?

Your motivation for writing a book can determine whether or not you self-publish. If your answers are among the following then you may want to consider self-publishing:

  • I want to sell my book at my speaking events. 
  • I want to write a memoir for my family to read.
  • I want to test the waters; I'm not sure if people are going to like my book.
  • I write in a niche genre. 

In other words, it sounds like you anticipate minimal book distribution (in stores), and you want some control over ordering and inventory so that you have copies of the book when you need them.  

However, if your answers are among the following, then you may want to consider traditional publishing: 

  • I want to see my book on bookstore shelves.
  • I want to achieve high sales and possibly write full time.
  • I want to achieve recognition as a writer.

It's hard to achieve bookstore distribution (where the stores actually order and stock your book) and high sales unless you have a team to support you and a healthy marketing budget. So if this sounds like something you want, then seeking out a publisher might be the path for you.

2. Do you have an entrepreneurial drive?

Are you the type of person who enjoys learning new things, taking control, and finishing projects that you start? Do you have a healthy split personality so that one day you can be a writer and the next day a salesperson? Do you enjoy building something from nothing? If this sounds like you, then you may be a great candidate for self-publishing because it takes a lot of commitment to tackle tasks you've never done before (like hire a book designer or launch a Twitter campaign), and you need to maintain a positive attitude in order to not get overwhelmed. 

On the flip side, are you a deep thinker who takes his or her time to make decisions and likes to thoroughly research a topic before reacting? Do you love to write and wish that was all you had to do? Do you prefer teamwork to discuss ideas and finish projects? Do you hate logistics, number crunching, and planning? If this sounds like you, then you might prefer to find a publisher with people who can work on all the various aspects of publishing a book, including marketing and sales.

3. What kind of book are you writing? 

Are you writing a book in a niche genre and you're not sure there's a market for it? Are you writing a memoir that you think your family and friends would enjoy? Are you writing a manual or course book? Are you writing a collection of poems? If there is a potential lack of mass appeal for your book, then it's likely that a publisher would not want to invest in a book project with limited reach.

Conversely, if you are writing a book with a new spin on a popular topic, or if you have been writing for a while and built up a following on social media, then a publisher may be very interested in your book project because it has the possibility of piquing the interest of many readers.  

At the end of the day, you'll have to listen to your gut feeling to help you chose the right publishing path for you. Trying to convince publishers of your book's merit can lead to deflating rejection letters, while self-publishing your book can be a strain on your bank account and project management skills.

However, just know that there are options for you, so don't give up! Keep doing your research, and soon enough you'll be able to decide on the the right way to publish a book...for you.  

 

This article is based on content in Lesson 1 of How to Publish a Book (available starting May 8), written by freelance writer and editor Stacey D. Atkinson. 

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