Should I Self-Publish My Non-Fiction Book? Or is a Mainstream Publisher Better?

Writers often ask: “Should I self-publish my non-fiction book or is a mainstream publisher better?”

It often helps to write a marketing plan for your book before you make a final decision. This isn’t as complex as it sounds. Basically, you are establishing who your target readers are, why they would want to buy your book, what is unique and special about your book, and any ideas you have for promoting and marketing you book.

What many writers fail to grasp until it’s too late is that most mainstream publishers are distributors rather than marketers. They sign on the dotted line only to find they still have to do all the public relations (PR) and marketing themselves – and then hand over a large percentage of the royalties for their hard work!

So here are the questions you really MUST ask yourself before making any decision:

1. What do you know about PR & marketing?
If you don’t know much about PR and marketing, then are you willing to learn? Or can you afford to pay someone else to do your PR and marketing for you? Are you willing to spend the time relentlessly promoting your book?

2. Can you sell your book?
Do you have a ‘list’ of people you could sell your book to? How big is your ‘list’? If you’re a business person or a professional with a list of clients or customers, then can you market the book to them?

3. Can you persuade someone else to sell your book?
If you don’t have a ‘list’ of your own, can you think of any joint venture partners who would sell your book? Don’t be put off by the jargon. All a ‘joint venture’ means is that you will ask the owner of a business if they will send a letter out to their list of clients promoting your book. If they like the sound of your book and it ties in with their business, they should be more than happy to help. If you have written a book about childbirth, then midwives or baby experts would be good people to approach, for example.

4. Do you want to create other products from the same content?
Do you want to reformat your work so that it appears as different products. You might want to produce a book, a home study course and an audio series with the same content. This can sometimes be the clincher as you won’t be able to do this with a mainstream publisher.

5. Is this your passion?
Finally, the most important question of all: does this make your heart sing? Self-publishing a book can bring amazing rewards for authors – there’s no two ways about it. However, it is hard work. If you don’t love selling your book, if your heart isn’t in it, then self-publishing definitely won’t be for you.

To conclude, the answer is different for everyone. Some writers would be lousy at self-publishing. Others – usually, those of an entrepreneurial nature – would be held back and frustrated by mainstream publishing. By answering the above questions, you should be able to work out the best solution for you.