Self-Publishing vs. Going with a Publisher

Lessons Learned from 57 Secrets for Branding Yourself Online

carma signing books Are you trying to decide whether self-publishing or going with a traditional publisher is the right choice for your next (or first) book? Do you plan to make appearances at book stores to sign copies of your book? Read on to discover the pros and cons of both publishing options and how they can affect your ability to hold book signing events.

Doing live book signing events can be helpful in getting the word out about your book, especially if you do them locally and use them to increase your visibility in your community. Whether you self-publish or get published by a publisher has ramifications for potential book signing events. Here are some behind-the-scenes things you need to know that can affect your ability to do live book store events.

You need to weigh the pros and cons of self publishing vs. going with a publishing house and how they impact your goals for each book you produce. One is not necessarily better than the other. Each option helps you achieve different goals. Here’s what I’ve learned through publishing four books to date — one through a publisher and three self-published.

Bring your own books

Many bookstores will ask you to bring your own books. They will ring up up the purchase and then pay you for the books at a (usually) 40% discount off the list price. This is totally fine if you are able to purchase the books at less that 60% of the list price.

When you self-publish, you can usually purchase copies of your book for around $3-$5 a piece depending on the size of the book and the quantity you buy. If the list price of the book is $10 or more, you’re fine.

However, if you went with a publisher, you may not be able to do that. When you purchase books from the publisher, you’ll probably have to pay for printing, shipping and the publisher’s cut. For example, if I buy 50 or more copies of 57 Secrets for Branding Yourself Online, each book costs me about $9.18. If a book store gives me 60% of the list price ($14.95), which is $8.97, I lose 21 cents for every book I sell. Add to that the fact that I’m donating $2 of every book sale to the Unstoppable Foundation and I stand to lose $2.21 every time I sell a book at a book signing. Not something I’m prepared to do.

You do the bulk of the marketing

The book store may help promote the event by posting something on their blog or in their newsletter. They may even post a flier on their bulletin board and a listing on their calendar. These are all passive marketing techniques and will probably result in about one to three people showing up.

Therefore, if you want people to know about your event and stop by to get a books signed, you’re going to need to do a lot of marketing. You’ll need to get the event listed in local calendars. You’ll need to send press releases to the local media. You’ll need to promote your appearance through social media.

Keep in mind, although book stores make these events available to local authors to support them, they are really doing it to get more foot traffic and sales. It really is all about them.

Where your book is listed affects where you can do book signings

Some book stores won’t let you do an event at their venue unless they can order your book through one of the big book distribution companies such as Ingram. That means you need to be mindful of how and where you get your ISBN number (the number that identifies your unique book). If you go through a publisher, this is already taken care of.

When self-publishing, it behooves you to pay a little extra and get your ISBN from Bowker and become your own publisher. If your book is listed as published by Lulu or CreateSpace, you may not be able to get into stores such as Barnes & Noble. You can still use those services as your printer, but you’ll need to supply your own ISBN number. It is often worth the expense. The most an ISBN number will cost you is $99 … which you should be able to make back in a few months.

The Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing vs. a Publishing House

So far, this is how I see the pros and cons lining up for self-publishing vs. going with a publisher:

Self-Publishing Pros

  • Lower per book cost
  • Greater control over income
  • Greater control over marketing
Publishing House Pros

  • Third-party endorsement
  • Some marketing help
  • They take care of the publishing details
Self-Publishing Cons

  • You are in this alone
  • You cover all expenses
  • You need to take care of all details
Publishing House Cons

  • Higher per-book cost
  • Longer turn-around times
  • Potentially lower profit margin

From my perspective, I would rather self-publish most of the time. I like having more control over how I market my book. And, since I’ve self-published three books to date, I’ve learned a lot about what to do and not do.

That said, I chose to go with a publisher for at least one book because I wanted third-party endorsement. I wanted my readers to know that someone other than myself felt my work was worthy of publishing. And that can count for a lot.

Would I go with a publisher in the future? Probably … if they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse!

comment Now its your turn
Do you have experience with self publishing or going with a publisher? What about experience with one of those hybrid houses that is a cross between the two? What lessons have you learned? Please share your stories and wisdom in a comment below.

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About the author

Carma Spence is an international best selling author and award-winning speaker who helps women, introverts and shy people unleash their content creation superpowers and communicate their message with confidence so that they can create meaningful and fulfilling legacies.

You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.