Have you written the next best American novel? Do you have a curriculum that can impact the next generation? Is your life story ready to be told? No matter what form your story takes, it may be time to consider publishing. In today’s fast-paced publishing market, where authors rise and fall as quickly as they come and go, self-publishing offers an opportunity to authors and content developers who previously may have never had a chance to share their written words with the world. My first two books were self-published and went to market within one month of completing the final edited manuscript. Self-publishing allowed me to get my message and material into the hands of the people who needed it quickly and cost-effectively while maintaining control of ownership and the publishing process.

Self-publishing may not be for everyone, though. There are pros and cons to self-publishing, and only you can determine which path will best meet your needs as an author. Take a look at three main options for publishing your written work.

Traditional publishing can be a long-term process that may or may not help you reach your publishing goals. Traditional publishing will offer the best distribution and promotion opportunities and the best chance to promote a best seller. Traditional publishing can take years to see a finished book, and authors will relinquish writing and control of the publishing process in exchange for the large-scale services a traditional publisher can offer. But traditional publishing is not always accessible to unknown and first-time authors. If you do not have a successful history with a traditional publisher, this may not be an option for you.

Hybrid, sometimes called vanity publishers, offer a service for those who want the experience of a traditional publisher but do not have the experience, connections, or platform to get there. Be aware that vanity publishers are not very selective in who and what they publish, so aligning yourself with this type of publishing process may limit your publishing efforts in the future. A vanity publisher offers the author a contract like a traditional publishing contract but charges the author to publish, produce, and distribute the book. Vanity publishers can offer a wide range of services to potential authors, including proofreading, editing, print production, marketing, and distribution. For some authors, the high fees and limiting contracts offered by these types of publishers may be appealing, especially the first time around. If you do not intend to widely market your book, have a limited audience, or are more interested in having your book completed quickly with a limited amount of time invested, this may be a good route.

Self-publishing in recent years has become an industry unto itself that offers a wide range of publishing opportunities to new authors. Self-publishing can often provide an easy path to follow when publishing a book quickly is the goal. The main benefit of self-publishing your book is that you maintain control of your work. There are no middlemen taking commissions and mark-ups on the sales, and costs are lower while profits are higher. There are so many high-quality self-publishing platforms now that this process has grown beyond the initial limiting barriers authors faced with self-publishing a decade ago.

Keep in mind that the benefits of self-publishing also pose challenges. For example, a self-published author does not have a paid proofreader or editor on staff to safeguard the technicality of the writing and critique the integrity of the content. Cover design and interior book layout also fall to the responsibility of the author, and while this affords extensive creative license, a DIY approach to cover design can make or break a book. Production issues such as metadata, ISBN, BISAC codes, barcodes, copyrights, and Library of Congress filings can pose challenges to those who have limited knowledge of the legality and technicality involved in the process. Marketing and distribution issues such as print publication, social media, advanced reader copies, tip sheets, reviews, author events, and shipping are other responsibilities assumed by the author when self-publishing.

If you are ready to jump into the world of self-publishing for your next book, curriculum, magazine, white paper, or other informational publication, it is important to have an experienced, trusted self-publishing professional to navigate the complexity of this exciting process.