Would you join me in a thought experiment? What if you had to answer the following questions?
- What’s the optimum retail price for a book? When will a high price inhibit sales but a low price inhibit your income? Does the price make a difference if the book is fiction or nonfiction, a children’s book or one for adults?
- What binding should a book have–hardback or paperbound or both? Or should it be neither and be an ebook instead?
- What kind of book cover design will be most successful in reaching the intended audience for the book? Do different kinds of books need different kinds of covers? If so, in what ways? What kinds of designs draws readers in and what turns them away? Where do you find people with experience in book cover design?
- What if you want to include a photograph, artwork or other copyrighted material? Where would you go to get permission? What’s a reasonable fee to pay and what’s too high? What kind of permissions should you request?
- How will promotional or advertising copy affect sales? How should it be written to effectively draw in readers?
- What’s the right length for a book? Should it be long or short? Does it make a difference?
- What’s the best trim size? How is that different for different kinds of books?
- To whom should you give free copies to help promote the book? What magazines, blogs or other influential people should receive them? How would you locate them? What’s enough? What’s too many?
- How would you make sure the book got the widest distribution possible–through the internet, certainly, but also through bookstores, libraries, book clubs, to interested organizations who might buy in bulk, to schools and universities and more? And how would you make sure that all the major ebook distributors were selling the book, not just one?
Now what if you had to answer those questions and you had never written or published a book before, or maybe you had done so once or twice? How would you know the answers to those questions? Would you be confident you were correct? Or would you feel like you were shooting in the dark?
On the other hand, what if you had written or published a thousand or two thousand books before? What if you had seen which retail prices worked best for which books, which cover designs didn’t work and which succeeded, what length and style of writing had most appeal? What if over the years you had talked about these issues to hundreds or thousands of readers, authors, bookstores, professors, librarians and industry professionals? Now how confident would you be in your ability to answer the questions above?
So which route is best–the route based on the experience of one or two books or the route based on one or two thousand books? Or to put it more plainly, is it best to self-publish or work with a traditional publisher?
I may have seemed to have stacked the deck here, but honestly, the answer really depends. It depends on what you want to achieve. So to help you decide, I leave you with one final question.
If you have a book you want to write and publish, what are your goals?