Self-Publishing: Should I or Shouldn’t I?


I field quite a few questions from prospective authors who want to know whether I think it would be a good idea for them to self-publish or go the traditional publishing route and find a good publisher. If it really were that simple as if choosing between crunchy or creamy peanut butter. Sometimes you may not have a choice. But you do have a choice of what you can pursue.

However, answering this question isn’t always easy as there are a number of factors to consider when making such a decision. So, I like to ask a simple question of these authors to give them the best solution. Their answer determines what I generally recommend:

What is the purpose of writing your book – to make some extra spending money, earn a living, or take your message to a larger audience?

I know, I know – answering these questions either makes you look unmotivated, greedy or vain. But if you’ve got something worth saying or a story worth telling, there has to be some driving force for why you would spend so much time into writing.

If it’s simply to make some extra spending money, you’re leaning toward the self-pub route, primarily working in the eBook world. You can make a living at it, but that takes a lot of hard work – and this post is simply about determining which direction you should be working toward. (But if you choose this path, read this post on how you shouldn’t skimp on hiring a graphic designer who can churn out a eye-catching cover.)

If it’s to make a living, this could go either way. If you write the next self-help bestseller or the next Harry Potter series, you should seek out an agent to help you find a traditional publisher. (Unfortunately, most authors are delusional and think that they can write circles around some of today’s more popular authors – so, you likely don’t fall into this category.) However, if your writing is strong enough and you’re willing to make the necessary sacrifices, you can eventually make a living by working with a traditional publisher.

If you’re a social media savant, love to promote yourself through PR and marketing efforts and don’t like being told what to do, then consider the self-publishing direction. If you’re writing non-fiction and have an existing platform to sell books, you will have a chance to succeed here – but at the same time, if your platform is large enough, you will also attract the attention of publishers. So, at this point, the choice is yours.

If you simply want to reach a large audience and don’t care so much about the money, find yourself a good literary agent and go the traditional publishing path. Your chances of getting your book noticed and broadcast are much higher with a full-scale marketing team from a publisher than by you alone. Of course, you’ll have to join in and work hard in the promotion of the book, but a joint effort increases your chances of finding a larger audience – and before you know it, you just might be making a living at it, too.

(NOTE: In the coming weeks, I’ll be interviewing people who have been successful in both genres to give you more insights into why they chose what they did.)

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