I self-publish and love doing so, but self-publishing is not for everyone. It is a lot of hard work, but than again, so is being traditionally published. My advice? I say to try for both!
If you self-publish via POD than you have printed up this book’s “first edition” and when you finally find an agent and the agent finally finds you a traditional publisher, you will only be able to offer “second edition” (also known as “reprint”) rights. Generally, unless the book as sold over 10,000 copies a publisher will not buy second rights.
The average book sells just 500 copies. (at the average 4% royalty of wholesale price that averages out to: $1,000 – $1,500 total pay for you the author for the entire life of the book)
Rarely does a first book make over $2,000 for its author.
The average life of a book is 3 months. (meaning the publisher pulls it off the shelves and stops selling it just 3 months after it went to print)
In order to keep you book in print past those 3 months it must become a “bestseller”.
In order to become a bestseller, you must sell an astronomical 10,000 copies in that 3 months time.
Most publishers DO NOT promote your book. The books that become bestsellers had an author that put a lot of their time and money into marketing the book themselves. Most books, regardless of publisher, sell only as many books as THE AUTHOR promotes. This is true wither you publish via Scholastic Books (with it’s 100 new titles each month, including Harry Potter) or Twighlight Manor Press and its 10 books every other year.
Basically, all a book publisher does is list your book in their catalog and hope that bookstores choose to stock it on their shelves.
Books (such as Harry Potter – traditional published- and Eragon -self-published-) get famous, not from the publisher’s promotion, but from THE AUTHOR’S having gone out there and told everyone under the sun how great their book was and paying large amounts of their own money for advertising in such newspapers as The New York Times. In the case of such authors as J.K.Rowlings, Christopher Paolini, Steven King, etc., we are talking hundreds of thousands of dollars of the author’s private pocket money, (money they already had BEFORE book’s release.) Eragon, a self published book, became an over night best seller because of a single one day full page ad in The New York Times, that cost Paolini’s parents over $14,000! Within a few weeks, he had big name book publishers begging to sell the reprint editions.
So you see. What you the author are willing (or can afford) to pay for a marketing campaign is going to determine how many book you sell, not who you choose for a publisher. Keep in mind that when you see ads for book, either in newspapers or on TV, those ads were paid for by the author him-herself, NOT the publisher.
Most writers, once hit in the face with the harsh reality of these facts, never attempt to write a second book, which is why there are so many one-book authors out there.
On the other hand a self-published POD book never goes out of print and you earn 100% of the profits off the retail price.
If you are willing to promote and market your book hard enough, you’ll make more money in the long run by self-publishing, because you can keep selling your book for the next 10 or 20 years.
If you want to do both POD self publish AND traditional publish, than you MUST do it the other way around. Traditional publish first and POD later.
Your best bet is to hold off on the POD right now, and focus on finding that agent. Let the traditional publisher buy the first edition rights, get paid your advance and your royalties, let them sell the first edition, than next year after the book has gone out of print, you bring it back out as a POD reprint and continue to sell it for the rest of your life. (Many authors do this and after writing four or five books, they have a pretty steady monthly income coming in.)
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