One of today’s presentations from the Women in Publishing Summit featured a panel of women who run their own publishing businesses, be it a traditional press, hybrid press, or a self-publishing service.
These ladies all emphasized how important it is to figure out which type of publishing route is best for you as a writer, and how that decision has a lot to do with your intended audience.
If you’re looking to write something with mass market appeal and sell a million copies, then traditional publishing is probably already on your radar, and for good reason. The Big 5, or even smaller, independent presses have the resources to develop and market your book to mass audiences. The drawback is that you lose some creative authority in the process, and it often takes over a year from the time a book deal is made to the time it stands upon a bookstore shelf.
Self-publishing can look like a lot of different things, but it generally involves a massive DIY project on your part. Many companies exist to help with the steps though – editing, cover design, marketing, etc. It all comes down to how much you’re willing to do yourself. The benefit is that, upfront costs aside, this route has the highest royalty payout.
Hybrid publishing is exactly what it sounds like: a mix of aspects from traditional and self-publishing. You may be expected to provide upfront funding for things like editing or cover design, but you have access to the publisher’s platform, providing you with support and extra perks, which may or may not include a distribution agreement.
If your book is niche, like a Polish cookbook or a guide to knitting clothes for cats, it will likely only appeal to a small demographic, and you’re better off seeking a small press or a hybrid publisher. These businesses will guide you through every step of the process, but you will maintain more creative control, which is important when the subject is so specific. You are likely an expert on your topic, and you should be as involved as possible in the development process.
Another factor is how willing and able you are to build your own platform. These days, all publishers want you to do some of your own marketing, whether that’s blogging, tweeting, attending conferences, or hand-selling your own book at events. If you’re unprepared for this, a hybrid publisher may recommend you self-publish and build your platform before you attempt hybrid publishing. Since they’re making an investment in you (albeit not as large an investment as a traditional publisher), they need to know you’re savvy enough to sell your own books.
When going the hybrid or self-publishing route, beware of scams or shady practices. Always do your research before submitting to a publisher to make sure they seem legit. Some red flags include an urgent request for you to sign a contract right away, or a one-size-fits-all model. A publisher should always be willing to create a plan tailored to your specific needs.
The presentation ended with each panelist providing her top few tips for writers looking to explore their publishing options, and I’ve outlined them below.
Gail Woodward of Dudley Court Press:
1. Be clear about why you are writing your book (i.e. define your purpose).
2. Be clear about who you are writing for.
3. Be clear about whether amateur or professional publishing is right for you.
4. Start marketing now and keep marketing as long as you want to sell your book.
Elizabeth Turnbull of Light Messages Publishing:
1. It’s never too early to start building your platform.
2. Craft a good pitch for your book.
3. Do your research to determine whether the presses you’re submitting to are a good fit for you and your work.
Teri Rider of Top Reads:
Have a great cover that fits your market and genre. You want it to look like it could sit on a shelf with other books in your genre. To this end: hire a book designer, not just a regular graphic designer. A book designer knows exactly how every cover and flap should be laid out.
Kate Stead of Old Mate Media:
Decide if you want to make a money investment or a time investment. Hybrid publishing will require more of a money commitment, while self-publishing will require a large investment of your own time.
Annalisa Parent of Date with a Muse:
You’re not alone in this. There are a ton of people who help writers through every step of the process. Reach out for the help you need.