One of the biggest dilemmas for a first-time author is whether to self-publish or seek out a traditional publisher. As I get closer to finishing my first book and weigh-up both sides of the argument, I reached out to bestselling author Shannon Kaiser. With success as a self-published author, and now signed with one of the largest publishers in the world, Random House/Penguin, she offered these valuable insights for every new author:
1. Put the message before the money
Many new authors want to write a book because they think it'll make them a lot of money. But this is fleeting. Being an author, whether you self publish or work with a traditional publisher, is extremely hard work.
You have to love what you do, and let your message lead you forward.
A book deal is not going to make all your worries go away, it should be approached as part of the journey and as an author you want it to be about the message you have to share, not the money you make.
You can and will make a fabulous living doing what you love, but not if you focus on the money first. Put your passion first; publishers want to invest in your passion!
2. Focus on your platform
Traditional publishers want to know about your platform -- that's your audience and following. You need to build the groundwork for your book, where are you speaking? Where have you been in the media? How many social media followers and do you have? Focusing on reaching the right people with your message is key. There is no right size platform; it's about the quality of the audience, i.e. how engaged they are.
Having a self-published book out in the market is now considered a part of the platform. If your book does well, it makes the decision to work with you that much easier.
3. Passion Wins
At the end of the day you want to write because you love it. When you put your heart in soul into your work and your message this energy is infectious. Publishers will see this love and want to be part of it, they want to invest in confidence and clarity. Your audience can tell if you're being inauthentic.
4. Self publishing is a great way to establish yourself as an expert
With self-publishing, you have full control over the message; the look; the feel of the cover and layout. This can work to your advantage as you establish a brand voice. It's widely known that in traditional publishing, you don't have much control over these design elements.
Because I had a successful book cover form my self-published books, my publisher worked closely with me to create a new cover that fit in with my already established brand, rather than "re-brand" me.
5. Always market Yourself
Book agents and publishers want to work with experts and people who are uber passionate in their message. They want to get on the buzz -- not create it for you.
If your goal is to be published with a traditional house (as mine was from the get go), you want to get yourself out there and do what you love in as many ways as possible: lead workshops, sessions, book readings, get in contact with media, reach out to podcasts.
The more creative you are with your message, the more eager publishing houses will be to work with you.
6. Set a business plan
Self-publishing was part of my business plan -- it was a stepping stone to eventually work with a big publishing house. When you treat it like a business choice there is respect, dedication and an investments into your future. Sure self-publishing costs money, but it is an investment that pays for itself a millions times over.
When you invest in yourself and your dreams, it shows the world how much you care, and it shows traditional publishers you're serious and not playing around -- getting a book completed and self-published is a ton of work. Respect comes with that.
7. Breathe and Believe
There were many tough days, stumbling blocks, obstacles, and times I thought I wouldn't make it. The antidote was to stop, breathe, believe, and keep pressing forward!
Thai Nguyen is a writer based in Brisbane, Australia. His mission is to inspire you to become the best version of yourself. Connect with him at The Utopian Life.