As a business book coach, a book publisher, and an internationally bestselling author, I get many questions. And this question is one of the most popular.
Most people know the main difference. With traditional publishing, you send your manuscript to a publisher, and if they like it, they will publish it for you. With self-publishing, as the name suggests, you publish it yourself. You do everything.
So I believe when people ask me this question, that’s not what they’re really asking. What they’re asking is, which one is best? Which one do I go with?
With traditional publishers, they are a business in themselves. And their business is the book business. They make money from selling books.
So if they say yes to your manuscript, it’s because they believe they can sell enough copies of your book to not only pay back the cost for them to publish your book, they can also make a profit.
The average publishing contract is usually between three to five years. The publisher will pay for the editing, graphic design, interior design, etc. They will foot the bill for you.
That’s one good thing about traditional publishing – you don’t have to fork out for an editor, graphic designer, and other experts.
With self-publishing, as the name suggests, you have to spend money. You have to find a great editor. You have to find a great designer, a great publisher, etc. You have to do it all yourself.
So which route is best for you?
This is a difficult one to answer unless you ask yourself this question. What do you want the book to do for you? This is crucial.
If you publish a book, what is it doing for you? Is the book allowing you to speak on stages? Is it allowing you to get onto big podcasts with a huge listenership? Does it mean you will generate more qualified leads for your business? Is the book allowing you to sit back, retire, and make money from the book sales?
What does this ‘published author’ future look like to you? Answer this question first before you start thinking about traditional publishing or self-publishing. Once you answer that question, it will become clear whether you go down the traditional publishing route or the self-publishing route.
What I do with my students is I help them self-publish
So I have a program where I coach them on how to write a how-to or business book. I then have a team who edit, design, and publish the manuscript to Kindle and paperback formats.
I self-publish because my key clients are entrepreneurs. They’re coaches, consultants, experts, speakers, etc. They usually have their own business. For that group of people, I struggle with the idea of traditional publishing.
I don’t want to bad-mouth traditional publishing because I think there are some wonderful traditional publishers out there. I think the problem stems from people not knowing what they want from their books.
It’s the same with website creation. Many people will hire a web designer and say, “I need a website because everyone has a website.” But they don’t ask themselves, “What do I want my website to do for me?”
Is your website collecting leads? Is your website taking names and numbers so you can call them? Will your website take payments? Do you want to get people onto your social media profiles? What is it you want your website to do?
What do you want your book to do for you?
You have to think in a similar way for your book. The main thing entrepreneurs want their book to do is to generate leads and sales for them. And when you want that to happen, I struggle with traditional publishing because you’re inviting another business into the fold. And their goal is to make as much money from the book as possible.
The problem with this is, if you’re an entrepreneur, your vision may change. For example, perhaps for your website, you decide, “Oh, I now don’t want to take leads from my website. I want to take everybody from my website to my social media profiles. Because that’s where I want to engage them. I don’t want to build a list anymore.” You have the right to do that because it’s your website.
When you go down the traditional publishing route, somebody else now owns your book. Quite rightly so as they paid for the right to own your book. They would not have spent several thousand pounds or dollars to get your book published otherwise. So, of course, they’re going to own your book, and you will get paid royalties (roughly 6-10%).
This is where the problem stems from. Their view is, “We want to make as much money from the book.” Whereas, as an entrepreneur, you won’t see your book as the money-making tool. You would see the book as a great marketing and sales tool, which gains you high-paying dream clients.
You want your book to build that kind of aura where people are attracted to your business, instead of you having to go out there and chase people, close people, and do those awful sales calls that we all hate. The dream is that people gravitate towards you because you have this amazing visibility. That’s what comes from being a published author.
That’s where the money is. NOT from the actual book sales.
How much ownership do you need?
Self-publishing means your book is yours. You can do whatever you want to do with it. If you want to give it away for free, you can do that. Or you can charge $100 or more, or anything in between.
You can suddenly decide to give a discount. You can create a new version of the book for a specific event or a seminar that you’re speaking at. You can create different versions of your book for joint venture partners that you have.
You can’t do that with a traditional publisher. Or at least if you want to do that, you need to get it signed off.
If you are looking to write a book for prosperity, e.g., you want to write an autobiography because you’ve been through a lot in your life and want to help other people. Or perhaps you want to write a book for your friends and family. Maybe you just want to be a published author.
For these kinds of people, traditional publishing could be a good idea. First of all, you will not have to pay several thousand pounds or dollars in publishing fees, editing fees, design fees, etc. Second, it gives you confidence when somebody says, “Yes, this is good.” It’s nice when a third party tells you that your book is fantastic, and they have enough belief in it to publish it for you.
The reason why I don’t do it, and the reason why I didn’t do it for my bestselling book, The Freedom Master Plan, is that I wanted control. I’m an entrepreneur. I’m a book coach, and I’m a book publisher. That’s where I make money. I’m not interested in making a ton of money from my own book.
Just over six weeks ago, I released The Freedom Master Plan. It hit bestseller status in the UK, USA, Canada, and Australia.
I’ve priced my book extremely low. For Kindle, at the moment, it’s 99 cents or 99 pence. For paperback, I’m charging what Amazon charges me for printing and mailing a copy of their book out to somebody. In other words, I don’t make any profit.
Why? Because I’m using my book as a sales and marketing tool. My book talks about my previous clients, what they did with their books, and how they leveraged their books. For anyone who wants to be a business author, it’s a great read because it allows you to see the potential of your future book.
I’m not planning on retiring from the sales of my book. This means I haven’t even checked how much money I’ve made from book sales since it was released 6 weeks ago. I don’t care because that’s not my goal.
My goal is to increase my visibility and position myself as an expert book coach and a book publisher. For people to gravitate towards me and say, “Hey, I’d like you to help me write my book.”
And that’s what’s happened. I’ve had several people hire me because they read The Freedom Master Plan. That’s where the money is.
Now, would I’ve been able to do that if I went down a traditional publishing route? Would I be able to say to a traditional publisher, “I want to give away my Kindle and paperback. I don’t want to make any money. I’ll make money from people wanting by book coaching and publishing services” No way! There’s absolutely no way a traditional publisher would agree for me to do that.
They would think, “How are we going to make our money back? We’ve paid for your editing, design, etc. We have paid several thousand pounds or dollars. We need to make our money back! So no, you can’t sell your paperback at cost. You can’t give away your Kindle for 99 pence or 99 cents. You can’t do that.”
This is why I (and my students) self-publish.
I hope that’s explained the difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing. Please ask yourself what you want your book to do for you before choosing between the two.
If you want to write fiction, poetry, children’s books, or nonfiction such as an autobiography, etc. I would certainly look at traditional publishing.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t self-publish in those genres. But with a traditional publisher, so long as they like your manuscript, you have the benefit of not paying thousands of pounds or dollars to get your book created. And you’ll gain confidence that you have a marketable book. After all, there’s no way a publisher would agree to spend money publishing your book if they didn’t feel they could make more money from book sales.
However, if like me, you want your book to be a persuasive marketing and sales tool, then self-publishing is absolutely the way to go. Just like you wouldn’t have a website that’s owned by somebody else, and you have to go, cap in hand, asking them to make a change on your website, you don’t want someone else to own your book.
It’s your book, and you should have the ability to change it, amend it, change the cover, change the price, or do whatever you want. Therefore, self-publishing is the only route.
If you’re interested in writing a business book that will generate leads and sales for your business, get a copy of The Freedom Master Plan that will explain everything you need to know about writing and marketing business books.
You can also download a sample chapter here