LifeLines is all about “helping you share your story,” whether you are a business trying to attract customers, a ministry trying to encourage donations, or an interesting person who wants to write her memoirs. Most of the queries I get from potential clients are related to the process involved in writing/editing/publishing books, since that is still the most widely understood method of sharing a story.
Since I get some of the same questions over and over, this series will share the most popular ones, as well as the answers. Today we’ll look at—
“Self-publishing or traditional publishing…do I have to choose?”
“Also, if I self-publish my book, and then find an agent or even a possible publisher, would they consider the book already published and refuse to take me on?”
The short answer is, Not necessarily. Self-publishing and traditional publishing do not have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, I have used both options on the same book! (See my post about Bea Hoek’s story, Cancer Freedom: A Living Memoir.)
But here’s the longer, general answer that I typically send to people who are interested in being published:
The thing you have to remember is, a publisher’s primary interest is making money. So he will be interested in any projects that have the potential to make money. If your book sells well as a self-published book, that could demonstrate that it has money-making potential, so a publisher might be interested. On the other hand, if a publisher thinks that everyone interested in your book has already bought it through Lulu, he might not be interested.
When you (or your agent) approach a publisher, you’ll have to make a case for why your book is a good investment. After all, the publisher will be paying for all the printing and much of the marketing, and he wants to not only get that money back but also make a profit. So you’ll be asked to prepare a proposal that explains who the book is for, and how you know they want it, and what you’ll do to help sell it. Your self-publishing experience might help you prepare that proposal.
You could also post your book on a site like Scribd.com (for free) as a way to experiment with gathering feedback from readers. For example, you could post just Chapter 1, and have it end with a call to action like, “Interested in the next installment? Contact the author at….” with a link to your email address. That’s a way to do some market research that will help you as a writer—whether you decide to pursue a publisher or not.
It’s also possible to be published by a traditional publisher first, and then re-acquire the rights and self-publish it. That’s what LifeLines did with Cancer Freedom, which was originally published by Baker Book House under a different title. You can read the whole story here.
I know all of this information can be overwhelming, but don’t let it sap the joy out of the work you’ve already done! Share the story with the people you first wrote it for, and don’t worry about the rest for now. You can play around with it more later, after you’ve had a chance to enjoy it.
And if you decide you’d like some help with preparing your manuscript for publishing or self-publishing, let me know!
Tune in again next week as we explore the age-old question, “Eek! Why does it cost so much?”
Other questions from clients:
- “Can you help me get my book published?“
- “Cost and value“
- “Editing? Ghostwriting? What’s the difference?“