Thursday, April 9, 2009

4 Reasons NOT to Self Publish

I just finished having a meeting with the publishing house Shadow Mountain, an imprint of Deseret Book. Like most publishing houses, they are slow, but when it comes to traditional publishing that is the name of the game. The meeting was awesome, they are sold on my concept and they love the product I have put together. They had a lot of critiques for me as well, and it made me think a lot about a big question people have asked me lately:

Are you going through a traditional publishing house, or self-publishing?

Now I know that self-publishing has made some great strides in recent years, and that many authors have made a lot of money through self-publishing, but that is the exception certainly not the rule. Here is my list of reasons why going the traditional publishing route (especially for the first book) makes so much sense.

1. Validation- publishers validate the quality of your manuscript. They get thousands of submission, and if they pick yours- it must be good- or at least significantly better than a lot of the junk they receive. By publishing it, they also send a message that THEY believe it is good. Its as if the book has already passed the "peer review" step.

2. Experience- publishers have a full team of editors, copy experts, and business people. These people can sift through your manuscript taking out all the typos, and making sure it is ready for the big time. They don't charge you for this either, so that means no out of pocket for you.

3. Publicity- well let's assume your book is GOOD. If the book really resonates with people, then you need to get the word our. A NYC publicist will charge $20,000 to publicize your book. A good publishing house however has their own in-house publicists. Again, no out of pocket, and it is in their best interest to get as much publicity for the book as possible. (I have read many articles claiming Publishers won't promote your book unless you are a big name, but that doesn't make sense- publishers run a business, and for the business to be profitable your book needs to do well.)

4. Money- unless you are Malcom Gladwell or Stephen King, you won't make a ton of money on book sales. A book is more of a stepping stone to bigger and better things. It gives you success that you can leverage into more books, speaking engagements, and whatever else you can dream up. Well known authors can make from $5,000 to $50,000 a pop for a 1-hour keynote adresses. The Today Show, Oprah, Dr. Phil, and CNN won't take you seriously if your book is self-published, and that is the type of fame that can turn into something big.

Now going through a traditional publishing house may not make sense for everyone, but it has some huge advantages. For authors and agents that have tried both, I would love to hear your opinions.


  1. Hi Adrian -

    Good points, all. I've self-published two books primarily because of the control aspects (I control the entire message and the time to market). It's not a bad way to go on some projects that will be marketed to your current client base.

    But for the big projects, the ones that will take you to the next level in your career, I have to agree with you. Getting into a publishing house is the way to go.

    Thanks for the post.

  2. Bill,

    You got it man. I'm not totally opposed to self-publishing, it just seems like there are a lot of people out there that give up on it too quickly.

    I really appreciate you comment.