As we pass the first decade of the 21st century, I find is surprising how many writers are still devoted to traditional publishing as a way to get their words in print.
Certainly, if you are an established author, traditional publishing makes sense, since you can focus solely on the writing and let the long-standing publishing machine do all the rest of the work.
But for everyone else, getting a book deal is somewhat akin to winning the lottery. Regardless, even if the likelihood of having your work accepted, printed and distributed by a traditional publisher were not so low, there’s still the matter of giving up a certain amount of editorial and design control that is unappealing.
Having been personally involved in the production of several self-published books (including one that became a #1 New York Times best seller), and in reference to the rise in popularity of the print-on-demand publishing model, I find it difficult to fathom why a writer would punish him or herself by contemplating a traditional publishing avenue.
Print-on-Demand Publishing is Not Vanity Publishing
First of all, let me ensure a proper understanding of print-on-demand publishing, which is very different from vanity publishing.
Vanity publishing is when you pay a company to print your book. You pay them a chunk of money and they delivery you a bunch of books, which sit in your garage until you toss them out some years later.
Print-on-demand publishing does not require upfront payments nor does it require the purchase of any quantity of books. In fact, you could upload your book online and buy only one copy.
Print-on-demand books are more expensive, per book, than getting a volume of books printed, but they are reasonably priced and, again, you don’t need to put up any capital to have a finished book.
Typically, a print-on-demand publisher will also handle sales of the books to others, including handling credit card transactions, shipping, returns, customer service, etc. (Of course you still have to get people to want to buy the book!)
NOTE: not “all” print-on-demand publishers handle their sales the same way, and some do not have phone support, nor do they accept returns. Other print-on-demand companies have very liberal return policies (but you may pay a premium for that, as well).
Check the resources at the bottom of this page and determine what is most workable for you. (I happen to like Lulu.com and Cafepress.com, because I have used them both for a number of books, however, like all such services, they each have advantages and disadvantages).
Three Important Caveats
1) Although technically speaking, you can prepare your book and have it ready for purchase for absolutely no cost on your end when using print-on-demand publishing, you would be wise to pay for professional copyediting, proofreading, and indexing to present your work at a professional standard.
2) As well, you should also have a professional cover designed for your book. The design of the book, and title, are a vital marketing factor for any book.
3) In fact, marketing the book is the primary responsibility you need to assume if you want to sell more books than to just yourself. No matter how good your book is, you will not find the world flocking to buy it just because you have published it.
A Word About Blogs and Self-Publishing
A blog requires a good amount of writing to keep it current and to keep it fresh. If your blog is focused on a particular subject area, it also stands as a ready made resource for you book.
In fact, a savvy marketing concept is to promote your book on your blog, and promote your blog in your book, so that the book and the blog are synergistically promoting each other.
Click this following link for a list of self-publishing companies from Writers Digest magazine. Although there are a number of different types of self-publishing companies represented, I would suggest the print-on-demand services that have no setup fees. Additionally, you might want to consider the relative merits of the add-on services those companies provide for preparing your book for publication and for marketing your book. (As noted above, your book needs to be presented in a professional light, and it won’t be sold without marketing efforts).
By the way, if you really and truly want your book printed and distributed via a traditional publisher, self-publishing your book (and marketing the heck out of it), may provide a better opportunity for your book to transition over to a larger-scale publishing model. Literary agent, Andrea Hurst says:
We’re looking for one set of qualifications: a highly marketable hook and a product that has sold at least 5,000 books in (preferably) just a year or less on the market.
In brief, for writers who want to take control of the publishing process, print-on-demand is the way to go.