I received a request from an IG follower and an aspiring author: Funmi Akerele who needed advice on publishing her book. She resides in the United States and asked for tips to decide whether to publish her book with a publisher or self-publish it.
Here is the feedback I provided to her.
1. Understanding the different types of publishers and how they operate:
There are some publishers you have to pay to edit your work, print, and place on marketing platforms. An example is AuthorHouse. I remember for my first book, I paid about $1000 and afterwards they were requesting that I pay more for their advertising services which I declined.
There are some publishers (mostly top publishers and trade publishers) that would provide a royalty advance to you depending on the expectations and potentials that your book has in the market. Most of this publishers require that your manuscript comes through an agent. An example is Hachette Book Group. I recently saw an article about top agents abroad that you may find useful. Click Here.
Some publishers only print manuscripts. They don’t offer marketing services; they just print the number of copies you pay for and hand it over to you. This is very common in Nigeria. If you pay for 1000 copies to be printed, they print the 1000 copies and hand them over to you for marketing, sales, and delivery. An example is Authorpedia in Nigeria.
There may be more types of publishers than the ones I have explained above and some, who operate differently. There may not be a fine line between these types of publishers.
If you decide to pitch your book to a publisher make sure you are fully aware of everything that they offer regarding their service for the contribution that you are making.
Here is the summary of an article published by justpublishingadvice.com titled Should I Use A Publisher? 10 Questions to Ask. My top 5 questions are:
Other things that you can do through personal research is to find out how many successful authors this publisher has had and try contacting the authors to gain their perspective of the organization.
2. Evaluating the quality of your manuscript: If you are targeting a top publisher that you hope to pitch your book to, one question you should ask yourself is if the quality of your book is as good as the others that have been published by that organization. This may help you to evaluate the potential of your work. If it is, go ahead and pitch your manuscript to them. If no, there is no shame in taking time to improve.
3. When pitching your book to a publisher: Ensure that you provide all the required documents and also note the amount of time it takes for the publisher to respond to you. When pitching your book to a publisher, it is not enough to admire the book through your perspective but in the place of your target audience and how they will welcome your work. Also as much as you want to talk about why your book is similar to what the publisher has released, you also want to talk about why it stands out. You also want to highlight the potential of your work and how much it will sell.
4. If you decide to self-publish your book, you will need to make a couple of decisions.
5. Plan and have a financial budget: Publishing is not all about earning money, sometimes you have to spend too. Know how much you are willing to pay for marketing, promotion, and adverts if you decide to self-publish your book. You can check my previous blog post to see suggestions that I have on how to promote your work in the first months after releasing them.
6. Set weekly or monthly plans and deadlines of actions you will take concerning your book and ensure that they are as realistic as possible. For example, I send my manuscripts to publishers 3 to 4 months before self-releasing them. So that when it is close to my release date, I will be informed about the publisher’s interest in my work or not and decide if I want to move on with other plans. I usually have about 3 solid plans before I publish my book.
Plan 1 is to pitch my book to a top publisher to see if they will be interested in it.
Plan 2 is to self-publish my book through Amazon KDP to get print and e-book formats and on Okadabooks for my readers in Nigeria.
Plan 3 is if everything goes entirely wrong or my priorities change, release the book for free. I have never had to use plan 3 before but authors like Juliana Olayode have done this and it has been a successful move for her. You can also use paid services and platforms such as Authorpedia to release your book for free or unpaid but highly competitive services such as Parxis Magazine if your book is selected; because they have a larger network of readers they can connect you and your work with.
Now, these plans are just brief summaries of things I do, and there are more details that I have behind each plan which I won’t state here. Additionally, my plans are affected by my values towards writing and personal/career goals which may be different from yours. So, you may not need to follow all what I say or do. There have been many writers who don’t even know me or follow my ideas and have been successful in their works.