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Self-Publish or Traditionally Publish?

Your Writing Coach
Your Writing Coach

Beware: if you don’t answer this question when you begin writing your book, you may end up doing a good deal of extra work.

That’s because authors who intend to self-publish can just write their book, but those who intend to traditionally publish need to write a book proposal first, particularly for a nonfiction book.

A book proposal can take almost as much work as writing your book–and the time and resources you put into writing a great proposal can make the difference between no publisher and finding a publisher, or between a small advance (maybe $3,000) to a much larger advance (low- to mid-five-figures and up).

So, how do you make that important decision? I teach a 10 day self-study course on the subject (e-mail me if you’re interested in learning more about the course) along with a private coaching session at the end. That course takes you through several case studies, quizzes and lists, so that you can directly apply the information to your own book, but here are the basics:

1. To interest a publisher, you almost always need a platform (think big following of tens of thousands of people). You may reach these folks through the internet, public speaking, radio, TV, a print column, or a variety of ways, but  you need a strong following to interest publishers nowadays. If you don’t have one, are you willing to create one now, before you pitch your proposal? If not, self-publish this first book.

2. If your story is unbelievably compelling, it’s possible that an agent and publisher may see the media potential and be interested without a current following–but not terribly likely.

3. Okay, let’s say you have a following, should you definitley traditionally publish? Not necessarily. Take these things into consideration:

Book Writing Coach Lisa Tener
Book Writing Coach Lisa Tener
    • The biggest benefit of a traditional publisher is their distribution channels: they will get your books into book stores (ideally).


    • Either route, you’ll need to be the one to publicize your book.


    • You’ll have your book much faster, generally at least two years faster, if you self-publish. If your goal is to build your business and use the book as a multi-dimensional business card, you’ll want to self publish.


    • You’ll make more money per book self-publishing.


  • You’ll have more control self-publishing.
      • Any mistakes can be corrected faster by self-publishing.


      • It’s easier to get publicity as an author on major TV, Radio and in national print publications if your book is traditionally published. Usually, at the upper echelons of media coverage, it’s hard to get publicity for a self-published book.


      • A traditional publisher does lend credibility to your book.


      • A traditional publisher has experience with book covers, layout, editing (some publishers more than others), marketing and other aspects of publishing–you’ll have to learn many of these things, or find a qualified professional, if you self-publish–and you’ll need to beware of people who are not that competent.


This article should have answered some basic questions. Feel free to ask additional questions as a comment below.

Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

Reader Interactions


  1. Tara Crawford Roth says

    Great article Lisa. It begins to clear the confusion on which road to take in publishing. I encourage everyone interested in this to work with you one one one or in a class. Your gentle guiding hand will help them move forward with confidence!

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