It's easy to get caught up in overthinking when it comes to which publishing approach is best. Should you try to get an agent and get in with a bigger traditional publishing house? Submit to a smaller traditional house that allows un-agented submissions? Hire a hybrid publishing house to help you produce a high-quality book? Or curb upfront costs while building an incredible team in order to self-publish?
Use this simple quiz to determine the ideal publishing path for your book. Answer each of the following questions honestly to figure out whether traditional, hybrid, or self-publishing best aligns with your current author goals.
How much control do you want over the creative aspects of the publishing process (title, cover design, distribution options, easy access to author copies, etc.)?
a) I want complete control.
b) I want to have some input and the final say, but I'm also interested in getting input from those with experience in the industry.
c) I prefer to leave it to the publisher. I'm fine with whatever they deem most "sellable."
What is your budget for publishing? (Editing is separate from this. This is JUST the publishing component, which includes ISBN registration, cover design, interior formatting, and upload to distribution platforms such as Amazon.)
a) I have a limited budget (Less than $500).
b) I am willing to invest modestly in exchange for creative control and a higher profit margin ($5K+).
c) I don't want to invest upfront. I prefer to use a portion of my advance to fund marketing efforts and be willing to turn over a large amount of creative control.
How important is speed in getting your book to market?
a) It's crucial; I want the book to be available quickly (within the next 3-6 months)
b) I'm flexible, but I prefer a reasonable timeline (within the next 4-12 months)
c) I'm patient and willing to wait for the right opportunity (18+ months)
Do you have a well-established author platform or audience?
a) No, I'm just starting out.
b) I have some presence, but I'm looking to grow.
c) Yes, I have a substantial following (more than 50K followers on any one platform and a significant email list of more than 5000).
Are you comfortable promoting your own book?
*Keep in mind: whether you self- or traditionally publish, you will likely be doing the lion's share of the marketing. Many traditionally published authors hire outside PR firms to help with their marketing, and all self- and hybrid published authors have to be willing to get more comfortable promoting their books in a way that feels comfortable.
a) Yes, I enjoy marketing.
b) I'm willing to learn and do some self-promotion.
c) I prefer that someone else handles all the marketing.
How important is it to you to have your book available in physical bookstores (Barnes & Noble, independent bookstores, etc.)?
*Keep in mind: As of 2024, 71.2% of print books are sold online. 50% of those are sold through Amazon. Wholesalers, libraries, and specialty stores account for 25%. Barnes & Noble is in the teens, and indie bookstores account for 6-8%.
a) Not important. I believe I'll sell most of my books through Amazon, my website, and/or in-person author events.
b) Somewhat important. I'd like the option to have my books stocked by brick-and-mortar retailers.
c) Very important. Having a sales team that advocates for my book is critical because I don't have time to do it. This is so important that I'm willing to hire a sales team to help with this if necessary.
What level of editorial control do you want (when it comes to suggested edits to the manuscript itself)?
a) I welcome an editor's input, but I also want full control over the final content and to be able to choose my editor myself.
b) I trust the expertise of professional editors and look forward to getting their input. I want someone to help me identify where to find a great editor, but I want to be the one who makes the final selection.
c) I welcome an editor's input, but I don't need to be involved in editor selection or have the final say in what content stays and what goes.
How patient are you?
a) I'm impatient; I want quick responses.
b) I'm patient, but not indefinitely.
c) I'm very patient; I'm not on a timeline with my book project, and I'm willing to wait for the right opportunity.
How important is it to you to have access to author copies to sell direct to readers via your website or in-person events?
a) It's very important; I want to be able to easily order author copies whenever I need them, and I don't want to pay an upcharge when I order them.
b) It's important, but it's okay if I have to pay a slight upcharge in exchange for guidance through the publishing process.
c) Moderately important; I can see myself wanting copies from time to time, but not often.
How do you feel about profit margin?
a) I believe in the book and enjoy marketing enough that I'm willing to make a modest financial investment upfront in exchange for a higher profit margin.
b) I want to earn as much as I can, but I'm willing to trade some of my profits for guidance on publishing and marketing.
c) I prefer an advance, knowing that even a small one---paid out over 2-3 years (minus 15% to my agent)---and a lower profit margin once that advance is earned out. I want a big publishing house's imprint on my book.
If you have mostly As: Self-publishing sounds like the best fit for you.
If you have mostly Bs: Consider hiring a publisher (hybrid publishing) for a balanced approach.
If you have mostly Cs: Traditional publishing is likely the best path to pursue first.
If you haven't already (and if you'd like more information on the various publishing approaches, the pros/cons of each, and a hiatus on overthinking), be sure to download The Self-Publishing Starter Kit. You'll get out of the maze of ever-conflicting information and discover the exact steps to focus on (and mistakes to avoid) so you can self-publish an incredible book that's indistinguishable in quality from a New York Times bestseller.
If you're relatively certain that self-publishing is the route for you, have a look at the Publish A Profitable Book course! I've distilled 20 years of experience in this industry into a simple step-by-step process that shows you exactly how to publish a book that's indistinguishable in quality from a NYT bestseller.
If you're considering hybrid publishing, have a look at Finn-Phyllis Press's publishing packages, or do a search for "reputable hybrid publishers." Be sure to check out the 7 Critical Questions to Ask Hybrid Publishers to ensure you have a great experience with whoever you choose and your expectations are properly set from the beginning!
If traditional publishing is your initial route, you can check out Publisher's Marketplace to get familiar with the querying process and begin to identify agents to pitch!
Whichever approach you choose, please know that there is more than enough support available to you. The publishing industry is tough, yes, but it's also one of the most community-rich, supportive industries I've encountered. People are genuinely willing to answer questions, make introductions, and support you through the process. Writing is a solitary pursuit, but being an author doesn't have to be!