Can an Author Be Traditionally Published and Self-Publish?
The answer is yes! And today’s guest post is by someone who has done so. We welcome today’s guest blogger, Dr. Michelle Bengtson, who offers insights about both traditional publishing and self-publishing. Her unique books provide a faith-based and medical perspective on mental health disorders.
Michelle, tell us about your books.
My first book was Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression. My second book was the Hope Prevails Bible Study. I just turned in my third book about exchanging our worry, fear, and anxiety for God’s peace to the publisher a few days ago, but the title hasn’t been decided yet.
Tell us about your publishing journey.
My first book, Hope Prevails, was traditionally published by Baker Revell (who is also publishing my third book), and it released in August 2016. It sold out in its first printing and won the Christian Literary Reader’s Choice Award in 2017. (Congratulations, Michelle!) In response to reader requests, I wrote the Hope Prevails Bible Study and self-published it in October 2017. I decided to go the self-publishing route with the Bible study because I wanted to get it quickly to the readers who were requesting it, and I wanted it to support the original book.
My next book, also to be published by Revell, will release in the fall of 2019.
What did you like and not like about self-publishing?
I self-published the Bible study with Redemption Press. They took care of the editing and formatting, and I had the cover designed by someone who had helped me with marketing materials for the original Hope Prevails. I liked having more control about when the book released, and aspects like the title and cover. I did not, however, like how much of the process fell to me to do. More of the profits go to me, but on the flip side, I had to pay to get it published.
Tell us about your traditional publishing journey.
My first and third books were published by Baker Revell. I like them as a publisher, but a drawback is that things were always on their timetable which was rarely convenient for me as a working woman. I also didn’t like that they had final say about all the important matters, such as the title, cover, and price. Revell helped get my book into bookstores, but the marketing still fell to me.
The marketing team created a poster for me to use at speaking engagements. They also booked me on a few radio programs. I sent out letters and copies of the book to numerous radio and television stations, women’s ministry leaders, pastors, counselors. I also participated as a Redemption Press author at the 2018 Women of Joy conferences, where both of my books were sold. I also designed and printed bookmarks and postcards to have as promotional material at all speaking engagements.
Tell our readers anything that surprised or disappointed you about the journey.
The first two proposed book covers were terrible! My 12-year old non-techy son could have designed a better cover!! When I calmly expressed my concerns that the initial covers were not inviting and would not help sell books, I also had an artist sketch the cover that God had put on my heart. Finally, the publisher came back with a design that closely matched the image God had given me, which was a huge surprise on the heels of a major disappointment.
Give three tips our readers need to know about publishing.
- Know that traditional publishing does not have a quick turn around.
- Publishing/Marketing is expensive. You have to do it out of passion and obedience to God—not an expectation of getting rich.
- Also, I highly recommend that you get reader feedback before the final product comes out.
What do you wish you’d known before the publishing journey?
How long it takes from the time of submission to release! From the time I submitted my finished manuscript until the book released was approximately 15 months. Also, not everyone at the publishing house will share your passion for your topic or your vision for the project and you can’t take it personally.
What do writers need to know about life after publishing?
I think there’s a tendency to look at authors and think their lives are glamorous and exciting. While it is pretty cool to have people reading words you wrote, it’s not glamorous. It’s hard work, it can be expensive, and it’s one deadline after another.
One more thought:
If God has placed a dream in your heart to write, don’t give up. Write out of obedience and leave the results to Him.
Thank you, Michelle! Michelle welcomes your comments or questions.
Dr. Michelle Bengtson (Ph.D., Nova Southeastern University) is an international speaker, and the author of the bestselling, award-winning Hope Prevails: Insights From A Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression and the newly released companion Hope Prevails Bible Study. She has been a neuropsychologist for more than twenty years, and is now in private practice in Southlake, Texas where she evaluates, diagnoses, and treats children and adults with a variety of medical and mental health disorders. This doctor knows pain and despair firsthand and combines her professional expertise and personal experience with her faith to address her patients’ issues, both for those who suffer and the ones who care for them.
Using sound practical tools, she affirms worth and encourages faith. Dr. Bengtson offers hope as a key to unlock joy and relief—even in the middle of the storm. She and her husband of thirty years have two teenage sons and reside in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. She blogs regularly on her own site: DrMichelleBengston.com.
Great article that gives you a nice look at the pros and cons of both traditional publishing and self publishing. I appreciated all the details as they answered so many questions we authors could have. Thank you so much. And congratulations to Michelle who is making a difference in the lives of so many.
Anne, I agree that this was so helpful. And appreciate the way Michelle continues to minister!