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  • Writer's pictureSheri McGuinn

Deciding How to Publish your book

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

When you are deciding how to publish your book, it's important to do your homework.

Traditional publishing is still an option, but you’ll need an agent unless you manage to connect with an editor through friends or at a conference. In any case, they want you to have a platform with an existing, involved audience who will buy your book.

If you already have a platform, you may decide to self-publish to keep control of cover and other choices – and to keep a larger share of profits. However, remember, most books sell less than 500 copies – even those traditionally published – so don’t spend more than you can afford to self-publish, expecting to have a best seller that will get you out of debt. Traditional publishers only make money if your book sells. Look for a POD operation where YOU are the publisher, and they are the printer/distributer. They should make most of their money when you sell books.

When choosing a company to help you publish your book, one of the largest red flags is a requirement that you order a hundred or more books. Thirty years ago, when traditional publishing required type be set for runs of 500-1000 books, vanity presses would require a purchase of hundreds of books to cover the cost of the run. That was reasonable to cover their costs, but most authors ended up with boxes of books gathering dust in a garage or attic. These "publishers" make most of their money selling authors services.

Today, with print on demand technology, this sort of requirement is not reasonable. Whether you are printing one book or a hundred, when you are using POD technology the cost per book is about the same.

Espresso Book Machine, Print on Demand machine, at Sacramento Library's I Street Press
Espresso Book Machine at Sacremento Library's I Street Press

If you have a chance, go see a POD machine in action. It’s really cool. You make one .pdf file for your cover and another for the interior of the book. The .pdf for the interior includes title and copyright pages, all your chapters, and any material you include after the story – every page that will be inside your book. Both files are uploaded into the machine – through a USB port, just like loading them onto a laptop. Number of copies is set and the book comes out in its final form.

On Demand Books introduced the Espresso Book Machine in 2007 and the publishing industry is still adapting. POD has made it affordable to self-publish. Unfortunately, there are many predatory companies who claim to help you self-publish when they are really operating like the old vanity presses.

The Authors Guild and Writer Beware warn against current scams. The Alliance of Independent Authors has a watchdog list rating services for self-publishers. (This includes some that masquerade as Amazon’s KDP.)

Do your research, analyze, then make your choice.

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