An important part of the publishing process is to take a good look at what kind of person you are, and then figure out your goals. This is an essential first step so you start down the right path to either traditionally publish, or self-publish. Here’s a list of ten questions you should ask yourself right after you are sure your manuscript or proposal is truly ready, but before you start making a move to get your book published.
Remember, be HONEST, and there are NO wrong answers!
- Are you self motivated?
Truthfully, whether you decide to self-publish or traditionally publish, you need a fair amount of moxy. I am not for a second saying that one is easier than the other. But if you decide to traditionally publish, after you find an agent, much of what you need to do is TOLD to you. So it’s a case of needing to get the work done, just not being the one to set the deadlines. The self publishing scenario is all you, all the time.
- Are you introverted or extroverted?
I promise successful publishing works for both introverted people and extroverted people, but if you are considering self-publishing, it would help a WHOLE lot if you were the type of person who is at least minimally comfortable with reaching out to folks, even just online.
- Do you want to be a professional writer?
When I ask writers this question, I usually hear one of two answers. The first one is, “I’d like (book title here) to be read by my friends, family, and people who live locally.” The second one is some variation of “I’d really like to see this take off on a national level. I am very serious and committed to writing full time.” If you fall into the former category, self-publishing is definitely for you. This is exactly what self-publishing is perfect for. You can sign up with one of the many services available and get your work out there for the people close to you to read and enjoy. If you are falling more into the latter category, you’ll want to either consider self-publishing by hiring the various professionals necessary (editors, jacket designer, formatter, marketer, etc.) or traditional publishing.
- Are you independently wealthy? Ha. Kidding. Real question: Do you have about $10,000 that you are willing to spend on becoming a writer?
If you are considering self-publishing, and want to seriously compete in the market, you will need to consider your resources. It’s true you can sign up for a very inexpensive (under $500) e-pub plan, but your book will look like everyone else’s and will have VERY little chance of breaking out. If you want to compete on the larger stage, you’re going to have to make a decent investment. Your other option, if you don’t want to spend money up front, is to go the traditional publishing route. Someone has to put up the initial capital investment.
- Are you a control freak? Well, maybe not freak, but do you get seriously upset when things don’t go exactly as you want them?
If yes, then self-publishing is definitely the way to go for you. When you sign a contract with a publishing house, you are giving up a fair amount of control. Depending on the house, they may give you “consultation rights” as a first time author, but theirs is always the last word. I’m talking about everything from jacket design to flap copy, catalog copy, press release copy, the final manuscript, any ads they produce, etc.
- Does prestige matter to you?
I know nobody wants to admit to this, but I do find that it’s a factor. Be honest, is it important to you (for your own edification or to be able to tell other people) that you are being published by a reputable house? If yes, then you should be following a traditional publishing route. Many people I talk to aren’t unrealistic, but they would like to try for traditional publishing first and use self-publishing as a fall back.
- Are you in the mood to start a business?
No? Then traditionally publish. When I say “in the mood,” I mean willing to work darn near full time at learning the business, hiring the right people to help you, and take the time to promote yourself properly.
- Is there a time frame you need to consider?
Self-publishing is quicker, as I’m sure you have heard. With traditional publishing, you are looking at two years from contract signing for non-fiction projects and at least a year for fiction.
- Have you always had a vision of how you would be published?
Listen to this. Always go with your gut. If you have always wanted to see your book distributed in bookstores on a national level, you will need a publisher behind you. If you have a vision of a review in The New York Times, you will need a publisher behind you. If you want some cash up front, you will need a publisher behind you. If this kind of publishing vision has always been in your head, you will want to stick to your guns and work as hard as you can to secure an agent and go the traditional route.
- Are you working on fiction or non-fiction?
So far, we have seen much more success with fiction in the self-publishing arena. So if you’re writing non-fiction and aren’t associated with a large audience yet, I would suggest you try for a traditional scenario. Well, after you start associating yourself with a large audience :), because any agent or publisher is going to want to see that first.