Written By: Axton Betz-Hamilton, PhD, AFC®
Aspiring book authors have multiple paths to getting their book published—traditional, self, and hybrid publishing. Often, the question is “Which path do I choose?” This article will discuss traditional, self, and hybrid publishing. Positives and pitfalls of each are provided.
If you want to publish with a traditional publisher, strongly consider working with a literary agent. A literary agent represents you and your book proposal with editors at traditional publishers. For a percentage of your earnings, your agent will work to secure a book deal and assist you in interpreting the terms of the offers, counteroffers, and final contract with the publisher.
“In traditional publishing you may get a monetary advance”, said Jen Hemphill, AFC®. If you receive an advance, this is a payment or series of payments made to you by the publisher prior to publication. You likely won’t receive any royalties from your book sales until after the total amount of earned royalties exceeds your advance amount. This is commonly referred to as “earning out” your advance.
A traditional publisher has staff available to develop the book cover, and you work closely with your editor. After your editor accepts your book as finished, you will be assigned a copy editor who will work with you in formatting the final copy of the book. Your book will also be vetted by an attorney selected by the publisher to help minimize potential lawsuits from readers.
“Traditional publishers have experience in the best ways to launch a book”, said Jen Hemphill, AFC®. In my experience with publishing The Less People Know About Us: A Mystery of Betrayal, Family Secrets and Stolen Identity, this involved national television, radio, print, and podcast interviews. Approximately six months prior to publication, my book was made available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other major bookseller’s sites. Several pages were made available by the publisher for preview on these sites. Traditional publishers typically have publicists on staff to promote your book, but they will expect you to assist in the promotion efforts as well.
Pre-orders are critical as pre-orders are counted in your first week’s sales. This is the most likely time your book would have enough sales to make one of the major bestseller lists, such as The New York Times Bestsellers List.
Self-publishing a book can be done without the assistance of a literary agent. You can self publish on your own or contact a self-publisher directly to initiate the process. Jen Hemphill, AFC® worked with a self-publisher to publish Her Money Matters: The Missing Truths from Traditional Money Advice. The costs of editing and formatting the book and designing its cover are costs the author must incur. Moreover, you will have to decide how to best launch and market your book and will bear the costs associated with these necessary activities. It is more challenging to receive shelf space in major bookstores for self-published books.
Another option to consider is hybrid publishing. Hybrid publishers are a blend of traditional and self-publishers. Authors finance a portion of the publication costs in exchange for retaining more creative control of the book while producing a professional-quality book. “I went the hybrid route for my new book Flipping a Switch: Your Guide to Happiness and Financial Security in Later Life,” said Barbara O’Neill, AFC®. “I paid a per-word fee for copy-editing and a flat fee for services that traditional publishers provide (e.g., cover design and marketing) and I do not have an agent. The onus is on me to actively market my book via social media, presentations, book signings, etc. to recover my up-front expenses and make a profit to earn future royalty payments.”
Regardless of the publishing path you choose, strongly consider obtaining media liability coverage prior to publication of your book, even if an attorney vets your book and says there is no opportunity for someone to successfully win a suit against you. Media liability coverage helps protect your interests in the event someone attempts to sue you for defamation, public disclosure of private facts, or misappropriation of name or likeness based on material in your book. Media liability insurance can be obtained via a group plan as a member of The Author’s Guild.