An author may gravitate to one method of publishing over others. There are three main options for getting one’s book published: Self-publishing, traditional publishing, and hybrid publishing. There are many reasons as to why someone goes with one option over others. I’ll go over the three types in more detail below.
This is often the most sought after method of getting published because the publisher will help the author with marketing and distribution. Most people need an agent in order to get their book represented by a publisher, but some smaller presses do accept unsolicited manuscripts. To be represented by an agent, authors research agents who represent books in their genre then send them a query letter in hopes of hearing back. If the agent decides to represent them they will solicit the manuscript to publishers. Most publishers will pay the author an advance then the royalties will paid out thereafter if sales are above and beyond the advance.
While most publishers will market and distribute an author’s book, many still expect the author to do their own marketing and promotion as well. The level of expectation would depend on the publisher and how big their marketing budget is. You would need to sign over your rights of the book to the publisher. If the payout is good, most people don’t worry much about this.
Many authors are happy to be traditionally published, though you hear of some horror stories where an author had to pay the publisher back since they didn’t sell enough books to match their advance. In other cases, an agent can’t find a publisher to represent the book despite their best efforts. These cases are certainly rare, but worth knowing about.
Once Kindle Direct Publishing launched, authors all over the world self-published their works for free on the platform. Other popular indie publishing platforms are Book Bub, Smash Words, and Apple Books. The main reason many people self-publish their work is to keep the rights to their book and publish it in the way they see fit. You can choose the cover design you like best, no editors will tell you what to do with your work, and you’re essentially a small business owner. Many people love having this sense of control over their work. If the amazing opportunity came where their book was to be made into a show or movie, they’d have the rights so they’d be able to sign the deal with the company (as opposed to the publisher in traditional publishing cases).
The main drawback of indie publishing is not having the distribution reach of an established publisher. Marketing takes a lot of time and money. Some people do make it big as indie authors, but it often takes a bit of luck and being at the right place at the right time. In general, many indie authors aren’t in it for the money, but for the love of writing.
Some people do a mix of self-publishing and traditional publishing. Certain books may be more marketable than others so the author will opt to have them represented by an agent/publisher rather than self-publish. Other works might be less likely to be picked up by an agent/publisher, so the author decides to keep it indie. This is a flexible scenario and many authors enjoy it. Self-publishing your work won’t hurt your chances of being represented by an agent or publisher later on. If one did decide to publish some of their books traditionally, there is a greater likelihood of those books reaching a wider audience and for the author to make a higher income.
As you can see, an author’s path doesn’t need to be linear. One can choose both traditional publishing and self-publishing depending on their goals. Other people prefer to stick with one way because it works best for their books. Regardless of which publishing method you choose, be proud that you’ve written that book! ❤