Wanna publish a book?
No matter your motivation, writing and publishing a book is hard. Research, writing, editing, publishing, marketing… It’s a lot.
Wouldn’t it be great if someone could take the idea you have and turn it into a book for you?
Well… technically, that’s totally doable, but it might not be so clear-cut as you’d expect.
You: Wait, Hannah–what’s the point of “writing” a book if you aren’t writing it yourself?
Me: There are actually tons of reasons you might want to publish a book but maybe won’t want to write it yourself. Let’s discuss.
- Reasons to hire a ghostwriter
- Reasons to write the book yourself
- Pros and cons of self-publishing
- Pros and cons of third-party publishing
- DIY or done-for you?
Writing: DIY or hire a ghostwriter
When it comes to getting your book written, your options essentially boil down to doing it yourself or having someone else do it. Typically with hiring a ghostwriter, you provide them an outline, a beat sheet, character profiles, or at least a developed idea of what you want them to do. The more thorough you are with planning the book, the less a ghostwriter will cost you.
The traditional way of producing a book is to write it yourself. This comes with benefits and drawbacks.
Reasons to hire ghostwriters
If you don’t have the time or desire to write a book yourself
Maybe you run a business and want an ebook as a sales funnel–you might know what you want in your book, but it doesn’t necessarily matter if you’ve written it yourself. A ghost writer can take the content you have in mind and flesh it into a full book, giving you an easy product.
Ghostwriters often have experience in the industry and might have a better idea of what sells
Even if they’re writing your story, they’ll likely know what details, themes, or tropes can boost interest and engagement in your story.
If you’re doing write-to-market
and you need to churn out a ton of books in a short span of time, it makes sense to hire people to carry some of the workload. Write-to-market is more common in genres like erotica and romance, where trends change fast and turnover is high, and these stories are often fairly formulaic. This means you can hire writers to flesh out the concepts you’ve drafted to fit the current trends without worrying too much about the minutiae of creative control.
Reasons to write the book yourself
If you like writing, obviously it’ll be a ton of fun to write your own ideas and see them come to life. If you send it off to someone else to write for you, you won’t get to experience that for yourself. Depending on your writing goals, you may feel unaccomplished if you haven’t written it yourself. If you’re purely coming at this from a business standpoint, maybe it doesn’t make a difference, but a lot of writers want to be artists first and foremost. Knowing that you didn’t technically write your own work can be a huge blow to the ego, even if the book sells well. It may make you worry that your audience won’t like your work over the ghostwriter’s, if you decide to start writing your books by yourself.
Ghostwriters are expensive! Some of the more affordable ghostwriters might charge just a few hundred dollars for a messy, awkward, unedited book if you give them a beat sheet and character profiles. But a quality ghostwriter can run you upward of $70,000.
Becoming a better writer
Drafting a book might be hard, and it may be tempting to hire a ghostwriter to handle concepts that you don’t feel ready for, but if becoming a better writer is important to you, you’ve gotta rise to the challenge.
Total creative control
If you write your ideas yourself, you decide how the book turns out. Everyone brings their own skill level, voice, experiences, and personality to their writing, and as much as we might like to, it’s impossible to get inside someone else’s head and tell them exactly how we want something to come out. Another writer won’t write it the way you would have–the only way to make it exactly how you want it is by writing it yourself.
As you can see, the decision of hiring a ghostwriter or writing the book yourself depends on your goals, abilities, expectations, and available resources.
What about after the book is written? Do you want to publish it yourself, or do you want to let someone else publish it for you?
Publishing: DIY or third-party
I’m referring to “publishing” as getting your book from your MS document into a reader’s hand.
When you think of traditional book publishing, you might think of Penguin/Randomhouse, Macmillan, or Harper Collins. These companies are huge and have been around for decades. They know what sells and they have their own established goals and ideas of what books they want to publish. Traditional publishing can be a tough club to break into.
But there’s a new kid in town, and it’s indie publishing. Indie publishing gives you the freedom to write what you want, publish when you want, and promote how you want. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each route and see where you land.
Self-publishing (indie publishing)
Self-publishing means you’re in charge. You don’t go through an agent, editor, or publishing house–it’s all you from start to finish. Some people might find this harrowing, some might find it exciting! (I’m in the latter.)
Pros of self-publishing:
Total creative control
Since you aren’t relying on a publishing house or an agent to sell your book, you don’t have those voices telling you what you can and can’t write about. From the content, to the cover, to the marketing, it’s whatever you want! With indie publishing, you don’t have to worry about traditional marketability, so you’re free to find your niche and publish what you’re passionate about.
Total business control
Like above, you get to run the business side of your publishing journey however you want. Whether that means hosting events, offering promotional prices, or bundling books, you’re open to do whatever you’d like without worrying about permission from a publisher.
Fewer barriers to entry
Like I said, traditional publishing is a hard club to break into. A manuscript can be rejected just because it doesn’t fit a specific idea, or because the author doesn’t fit a specific idea. Even if your book is amazing, it can be rejected Just Because. With indie publishing, your book can have a chance at finding a readership based on its own merit, not based on the whims of someone else.
Cons of self-publishing:
As a budding industry, some people still turn their noses up at the idea of self-publishing. Since anyone can do it, that means there’s no quality control, so self-publishing still conjures the image of comically awful erotica novels lurking in the depths of Amazon. Of course, this isn’t entirely fair–there’s plenty of awful books published traditionally, and there’s plenty of great work published independently. But that stigma can be irritating to deal with.
As an indie writer, you’re responsible for hiring people like editors and designers, managing your budget, tracking sales.. Dealing with the business aspects of publication can be daunting, but it’s also incredibly rewarding to watch your business grow entirely of your own doing!
If you’re someone who likes to be in control of your own fate and claim your own success, indie publishing might be for you! If the thought of making your own creative and business decisions sound horrifying, maybe third-party publishing is for you.
Third-party publishing (traditional publishing)
If you’re not up to the challenge of doing it yourself, your other publishing option is through a third-party publisher. Using a third-party publisher might give a bit of clout, but it’s not necessarily less work.
Let’s look at the benefits people typically associate with publishing traditionally.
Potential pros of third-party publishing:
Like I said, some people are a little snobbish about self-publishing, so selling your book to a traditional publisher can be seen as a mark of success. If you dig past surface-level appearances, though, you might be able to see what so many other writers have: traditional publishing is rife with nepotism and discrimination. Publishing is very much a “know-a-guy” business. If you have connections or a pre-developed platform and potential readership, publishers will want you. They don’t necessarily care if a book is good–they care if it will sell.
So even though a book deal might seem like a massive mark of success (and it can be!), that isn’t always the case.
If you look at the to-do list between a self-published author and a traditionally published author, trad publishing might look easier. They take care of the editing, the cover design, the technicalities.
But what about the road to GETTING traditionally published? There’s querying for agents, dealing with the rejection-revision-repeat cycle (often for years), and working with a company who is more concerned about what you’ll do for them than what they can do for you. On top of that? You have to do your own marketing anyway! No matter your publishing route, you’re going to have to sell yourself and your book. You have to build your readership. Trad publishers aren’t going to throw precious marketing money at a debut author, so even if you get a book deal, selling it is mostly your responsibility.
Potential cons of third-party publishing:
Even though you’re responsible for marketing your book, you don’t have all of the freedom to do it as you’d like. For example, you don’t have the freedom to run a promotional price period because you don’t control the price of your book. You also have less control over the content of your books. If you don’t make the changes they want to see, they can shelve your book and never publish it, and if you’ve already sold it to them, you can’t publish it either.
Slower publishing journey
Books can take around two years from selling the manuscript to a publishing house to it actually being available in stores. Sometimes a book can be shelved for an indefinite amount of time, sometimes it will never be published at all. Whereas with self-publishing, you’re in control of that timeline.
If you would rather spend your time winning people over and bending to fit a mold they need you to fit, then letting them make decisions so you don’t have to, traditional publishing might be for you!
Check out this deep dive about self-publishing vs traditional publishing for more information.
If you love writing, write the book yourself. If you’re invested in your book or its content, maybe write it yourself. If it’s just to build up a service offering or business you’re trying to grow, there’s no shame in hiring a ghostwriter!
If you want to write a book JUST for the book’s sake, as in you’re not necessarily using it as a tool to build your brand or business, then traditional publishing might be for you.
If you’re looking to control your book and use it as a tool to build your brand or business AND make money, self-publishing might be your route.
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