Making Money Traditional Publishing A Book: The Pros And Cons

Before the internet, traditional publishing a book was the main way to get your book out into the world. Today, many aspiring authors have decided to bypass the gate keepers and go the self-publishing route.

Traditional publishing means that your book is published by an established publishing house. The largest publishers are the “Big 4” publishers: Penguin Random House, Hachette Livre, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, and Simon & Schuster (acquired by PRH in 2020). However, there are about 15 more reputable publishers today.

By going the traditional publishing route, you will have a team of professionals take care of the book design, sales, public relations, editing, ghostwriting (optional), and various other processes of the publishing world. Unfortunately, you won't get much marketing support from your publisher.

There are lots of cooks in the traditional publishing kitchen. But the meal has a higher chance of tasting good in the end. Then again, how many big budget movies have you seen that were absolute bombs?

The other alternative is self-publishing. This requires you to do everything yourself. If not, you have to recruit people to help you create the book, market the book, and then sell the book.

Due to huge platforms like Amazon and Createspace, it is easier to distribute a book than ever before. However, selling a book is also more competitive than ever before. If you don't sell your book on your own platform, you also cannot control the price.

In the publishing industry, traditional publishing is also referred to as “trad pub.”

My Experience With Traditional Publishing & Self-Publishing

On July 19, 2022, I published my first traditional published book with Portfolio Penguin Random House. The book is entitled Buy This, Not That: How To Spend Your Way To Financial Freedom and it debuted as a Wall Street Journal Bestseller! I help readers tackle some of life's biggest decisions using my 70/30 decision-making philosophy.

Buy This Not That Wall Street Journal Bestseller
BTNT is a WSJ Bestseller

Long Road To Getting A Book Deal

Getting my first traditionally published book was a long journey. For one year in 2012, I pitched a book idea to a dozen literary agents with no luck. So I gave up for seven years until I was approached by an editor at Portfolio / Penguin in late 2019 about the book idea.

To get a book deal, it usually takes signing with a literary agent first. The agent then pitches your book to established publishing companies. Literary agents often have connections that can help open doors. A literary agent also generally earns 15% from your book advance.

Not one to take “no” for an answer, I decided to self-publish my book on Financial Samurai a year later in 2012. The book is called, How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune By Saying Goodbye. It is also a bestseller that has been updated six times.

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My wife, father, and I did everything from writing and editing the book, to designing the cover, to registering the book with the Library of Congress. It took a tremendous amount of self-motivation and effort!

Today, my self-published book generates between $30,000 – $40,000 a year in passive income. The book gets updated every couple of years and has generates over $500,000 in profits so far.

If I had the discipline, I would have published at least two more books in a broader niche since 2012. However, self-publishing a 200-page book takes a gargantuan effort I was not ready to take up again.

A Traditional Publishing Opportunity Presents Itself

Years later, I finally had an opportunity to traditionally publish a book. Noah, an acquisitions editor from Portfolio Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House reached out with an enticing proposal.

An imprint is a publishing arm within a publishing organization. The imprint, Portfolio Books, focuses on the non-fiction genre and has authors such as Simon Sinek, Cal Newport, Seth Godin, Sophia Amoruso, Scott Galloway, Emily Chang, Kumiko Love, Arthur C. Brooks, Ryan Holliday, Vanessa Van Edwards, and General Stanley McChrystal.

Given I couldn't even get a literary agent to try and pitch my book proposal to a publishing house, this turn of events is quite a surprise. Perhaps gutting things out long enough really does bring about unforeseen opportunities. I'm honored Portfolio Books would even consider me.

Here are the reasons why I wrote Buy This, Not That. Now let's talk about the main benefits and main negatives of traditional publishing.

Main Benefits Of Traditional Publishing

1) You have a team of experienced professionals helping you.

Similar to trying to get a PhD, many people quit or take forever to finish a book. Even if they finish a book, it may not be very good. One of the benefits of traditional publishing is the support network.

A great team draws upon their experience to help increase your book's chances of becoming a success. Perhaps you get to network with fellow imprint authors as well.

2) You may gain more status respect.

Publishing a book with a major publishing house may boost your reputation. Suddenly, you gain a little more status and prestige as a published author.

As a published author, you might get opportunities to speak at conferences when they come back. You might even get invited to fancy soirees at a billionaire's home as a featured guest. TV studios might want to interview you too.

As a result, your network will grow if you take advantage of new opportunities. It becomes a virtuous cycle.

3) You make your loved ones proud.

Is there anything better than making the people you care about proud? Your parents may be thrilled to receive a signed copy of your book. They may brag to their friends about how their son or daughter is a published author. This will give them a sense of pride.

If you have children, your children can show off your book in English class. They might even ask you to come in to speak to their classmates. To make your parents and children proud might very well be the greatest feeling ever.

I'm dedicating Buy This, Not That to my father and mother.

4) You will make some money.

The publisher will cover all upfront costs and typically pay you a book advance. If you earn out your advance through enough book sales, you will also earn royalty payments.

If your book becomes an unlikely international bestseller, you could earn millions of dollars a year. Your book will also likely turn into a TV series or movie if it ever becomes that popular.

However, the statistics say only about 30% of traditionally published authors earn royalties. This means 70% don't sell enough books to cover their book advance.

I believe I've written the best personal finance book ever. Unfortunately, great content alone is not enough to make a book a sensational hit. Smart and consistent marketing is needed.

5) Your children might benefit.

Being a published author may help your children get into competitive private grade school or college. It's a stretch, but a possibility.

Private schools aren't just looking for rich families to donate lots of money. Private schools are also looking for families with diverse backgrounds in the arts.

After all, a school's main purpose is to teach various subjects. If you write a book that teaches something, you are already a part of the family of teachers. Having a parent as a published author is an asset to the school community.

If you subscribe to the Legacy retirement philosophy, a traditionally published book is in alignment, especially if it is a helpful one.

6) You gain a sense of accomplishment.

Creating a new product from start to finish is an extremely rewarding experience. The harder the project, the greater the satisfaction once complete. Once you publish a book, nobody can ever take the accomplishment away.

Traditional Publishing A Book: The Pros And Cons

In Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs, self-actualization (including creative activities) is at the top of the pyramid. If you are a serious writer, perhaps traditionally publishing a book might provide the greatest joy.

The feeling might be akin to an athlete training all his life to finally qualify for the Olympics. Even if the athlete can't place on the podium, just getting to compete is the greatest feeling. Just don't get a silver medal. I hear that's quite tormenting!

After spending two years writing and editing my book, I feel a tremendous amount of satisfaction and accomplishment. Whatever happens in terms of sales and publicity, I'm happy. However, I certainly would love for Buy This, Not That to be an international bestseller! Talk about hedonic treadmill.

7) You get to help more people.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of traditionally publishing a book is getting to help more people. Traditional publishing offers another way to reach more people beyond a blog, a podcast, radio, Youtube, or TV.

Books can make us laugh when we are in a dark place. Books can also provide us with the knowledge and confidence to achieve our goals. To maximize a book's impact, authors should explore every avenue of distribution, including traditional publishing.

I'm excited that Buy This, Not That will be in airport bookstores. Millions of people are traveling again and the book is going to be perfect to help people achieve financial freedom sooner. Here are more thoughts on whether to write a book or not, the pros and cons.

How Much Can You Make Traditionally Publishing A Book?

Given Financial Samurai is a personal finance site, let's discuss how much an author can make traditionally publishing a book.

There's a reason why the stereotype “starving writer” exists. It's hard to make a lot of money publishing a book. People in the arts know it's tough to make money doing anything creative, which is one of the reasons why there is a tight community.

I hardly made any money on Financial Samurai for the first couple of years. Thankfully, I had a full-time job to pay the bills. You really need to love to write if you want to be a professional writer.

That said, like any venture, the money-making potential is unlimited if you create a great product and market it brilliantly.

The Book Advance

Most traditional authors earn a book advance. An advance is a signing bonus that’s negotiated and paid to the author before the book is published.

A book advance is paid against future royalty earnings. This means that for every dollar you receive in an advance, you must earn a dollar from book sales before you start receiving any additional royalty payments. 

The average book advance for a first-time author is less than $20,000. Some literary agents peg the number closer to $10,000. $10,000 – $20,000 for a first-time author doesn't sound too shabby, if you can get it all up front. But that's usually not the case.

A book advance is often paid in two, three, or even four equal installments. In other words, you might only get 1/3rd of your book advance upon signing, 1/3rd after submitting a final draft, and 1/3rd after the book is published 1-2 years later.

In the example of a $20,000 book deal paid in thirds, expect to receive $6,667 for each installment before tax. At $6,667 an installment, you would need to get three book deals a year just to be at the Federal Poverty Level Limit for 2021!

Therefore, you may want to negotiate as high of a book advance as possible. However, there are consequences for going too high as I will discuss below.

Royalty Payments

In addition to earning a book advance, there are royalty payments an author might earn as well. An author earns royalties, a minority percentage of book sales, after enough copies are sold to cover the book advance. You probably think that an author will surely make a lot of money on the back end, but you would be wrong.

Unfortunately, roughly 70% of traditionally published books don't sell enough copies to cover the author's book advance. In other words, 70% of the time, the book advance is the most an author will ever earn from his or her book.

Book Royalty Example

Let's say your book sells 15,000 copies in one year, enough to make it on many bestseller lists. You negotiate a book advance of $60,000 and royalty payment for each book of $2.

You would only start receiving a royalty of $2/book after you sell 30,000 books ($60,000 / $2). Therefore, you won't receive royalties until the second year, at the earliest since you “only” sold 15,000 copies the first year.

The downside to receiving a high book advance is that if the book doesn't sell sufficient copies to justify the advance, the publisher may be reluctant to give you a second book deal. If you are like most savvy wealth-builders, your goal as an author is to continue getting book deals for as long as possible.

The upside of receiving an advance is that it's guaranteed. So long as you follow your contract's guidelines, even if your book doesn’t sell enough to earn back the advance, you don’t have to return the balance to the publisher.

Please note it is very hard to make it as a professional writer and make enough to live. I worked for 2.5 years to write and market my Wall Street Journal bestseller. There is no way my book advance could pay for my family's living expenses in San Francisco.

A Book Publisher Is Like A Venture Capitalist

A book publisher is like an investor. Some of its investments are in early-stage startups (first-time authors). Some of its investments are in Series C or later round private companies (up-and-coming authors). Meanwhile, some of its investments are in mature companies (established authors with a platform).

A publisher knows most of its book deals will break even or lose money. But the books that hit will hit it big and contribute to the majority of its profits.

Take a look at this chart that highlights how much some of the most popular writers made between June 2017 and June 2018. Some big money is at stake!

And interestingly, all of the authors come from similar backgrounds. Therefore, if a book publisher doesn't care about diversity and is just focused on profits, there is an archetype author to pursue.

Highest paid authors of traditional published books are all white

How Hard Is It To Get A Book Deal?

Supposedly, only around 1% of writers who submit manuscripts get book deals. In a more focused survey, roughly 25% of professional writers who submitted manuscript got published. Then there's one story of a woman who has spent 10 years trying to get a book deal.

To sign a book deal with a traditional publisher, you often first need to get a literary agent. The literary agent might only select a handful of manuscripts out of hundreds viewed. Then, the literary agent has to try and sell your manuscript to a publishing house, which also sees hundreds, if not thousands of pitches.

Despite the difficulty of getting a book deal, the 1% figure seems way too low. Around 300,000 books are traditionally published each year in America alone. Therefore, it's hard to imagine 30 million manuscripts being written and pitched each year in this country.

If you want to traditionally publish a book, you certainly have a chance! I will estimate the odds of getting published is closer to 10% – 25% if you are serious about becoming an author.

Conversely, you have a 100% chance of self-publishing your book if you really want to.

Book consumption in the United States by type

The Downsides Of Traditional Publishing

Now that I've shared with you the positives of traditionally publishing a book, let's look at the downsides.

1) Time and effort.

Too bad creating something great doesn't usually come easy. Despite having a team to help you get your book created, you still have to spend hours and hours writing and revising the book.

If you are a parent with a couple young kids to care for during a pandemic, your time might already be stretched too thin. Every minute you spend writing your book is one less minute spent on doing something else. Always consider your opportunity cost when writing a book.

After my book made the Wall Street Journal bestseller list, I felt elated for a week. And after that, I felt a trough of sorrow because I realized I had neglected my family relationships during the book marketing process.

2) You may lose creative control.

Having many cooks in the kitchen might mean that you can't write exactly what you want. One of the reasons why blogging is so fun is because I don't have an editor. I can write what I want, whenever I want.

In a way, a traditional author is like being an executive at a firm who still has a boss. While being a blogger is like being an early retiree with absolute freedom.

I have to say, the editing process was my least favorite part about writing a traditionally published book. We went through over 15 full edits as I had to work with two content editors and three copy editors. My wife and I both re-read in full Buy This, Not That eight times.

3) You may sell yourself short.

Depending on how you, your literary agent, or your lawyer negotiate your contract, you may sell yourself short. There are TV options, international translation rights, book club rights to consider.

If your book ends up taking off, you may not gain as much as you think due to poor negotiations. The book advance and royalty percentage is just one part of a book deal.

You've also got to weigh the potential opportunity cost of not self-publishing. For example, if I traditionally published my severance negotiation book in 2012, I would not have received between $20,000 – $50,000 a year in passive income from the book since.

As long as I continue to update my severance negotiation book and keep Financial Samurai running, the self-published book should continue to generate at least $30,000 a year.

In retrospect, I think I put in $500,000 worth of time to write my traditionally published book. Unfortunately, my book advance was much less than that. Even so, I've decided to write another book with Portfolio Penguin.

This time though, I don't plan to invest marketing dollars into it since I'm already a Wall Street Journal bestseller. Sure, it would be nice to be a two-time WSJ bestselling author, but the incremental benefit isn't there. I didn't get paid as much as I wanted for my book deal, but I decided to accept anyway to be an inspiration for my kids.

4) The book might be a flop.

Even with all the help and support from a traditional publisher, your book still might not be any good. As a result, instead of feeling proud of your book, you might feel embarrassed.

Happiness is about meeting or beating expectations. If you are satisfied with just having your book published by a traditional publisher, then you will be most content.

If you won't be satisfied until your book becomes a WSJ Bestseller, then you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. Please note that the NYT Bestseller list is an editorial list. If you are a minority or write about some topic the editorial board doesn't like, no matter how many copies you sell, you might never get on the list.

Instead, you want to shoot for more fair and straightforward bestsellers lists like those from The Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

Here's a detailed post I put together on how to make the Wall Street Journal bestseller list. It's much harder than you think.

It's harder to get your book published as a minority

To Traditionally Publish A Book Or Self-Publish?

Now that I've shared with you the pros and cons of traditional publishing, I've got a decision to make. Do I accept another offer from Portfolio Books, a Penguin Random House imprint, to traditionally publish my second book? Or do I just rest happy knowing I'll forever be a bestselling author?

On the one hand, it would be helpful to go through the entire experience of traditionally publishing a book again. I could then help other readers navigate the traditional publishing maze through subsequent posts. It would also be fun to bring readers on this journey and help create this book together with your input!

I'm also driven to make my parents and my children proud. I never had much encouragement growing up. It's a cultural thing where bringing home a 95% test score in an Asian household meant being asked, “What happened to the other 5%?”

Leaning Toward Trad Pub Again

If I can traditionally publish my second book, perhaps I might inspire my children to do hard things as well. One of the worries jobless FIRE parents have is demotivating their children due to a lack of work. Once the book is published, I can always point to my book if my children ever think I'm slacking off too much!

On the other hand, mainly thanks to the pandemic, I'm tired as hell. Earning money from a traditional book is nice. I did say my plan is to re-retire in 2023.

My family should have enough to live a good lifestyle already thanks to our passive income and online income. With my son in kindergarten and my daughter going to preschool part-time, I've got more time on my hands to write a book.

A Longshot To Glory With Traditional Publishing A Book

As someone who is not a public figure, who doesn't enjoy the limelight, is an Asian American, and who doesn't work at a large media company, the odds are heavily stacked against us to write a bestseller.

In comparison, I have one friend who works at one of the largest media companies in the world. Not only is he a great writer, but he can also write an instant bestseller partly because he can utilize his huge platform that was founded in 1851. He also has colleagues and friends at similar platforms who can help promote his work.

We've got none of that folks!

We're like first-generation immigrants with no connections, battling against the odds. All we've got is our grit to try and make a name for ourselves one day. Then maybe, we can earn enough to provide for our families in this cruel and inequitable world.

Perhaps just getting a book deal from a Big 5 publisher is good enough for the soul. It's kind of like getting an acceptance letter from a target university and then not going due to cost. But then again, we might always wonder what if…

My Direct Experience With Traditional Publishing

My book, Buy This, Not That: How Spend Your Way To Wealth And Freedom, took two years to write. It is full of charts and wonderful original art as well. It is a great book I hope all of you guys buy it.

You can order my book on Amazon now where it is a #1 New Release in Investing, Money Management, and Retirement Planning. BTNT also became a #1 bestseller in the Retirement Planning category and a Wall Street Journal Bestseller as well.

Buy This, Not That: How To Spend Your Way To Wealth And Freedom Bestseller

I strongly believe my traditionally published book will provide at least 100X more value than its cost. Thank you for your support!

I hope you enjoyed this article about whether to traditionally publish or not. If you have an opportunity, I say go for it. This way, you will never regret not trying.

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37 thoughts on “Making Money Traditional Publishing A Book: The Pros And Cons”

  1. Sam, Congratulations on the book deal offer! A big deal regardless of your decision. Every day I juggle opportunities vice life balance. Truly blessed. Keep up the good work.

  2. Bad news, Sam. Even if you win at getting a publisher, they are going to want to see YOUR marketing plan. Unless you are already a big established author, that’s the world we live in.

    I’ve written several works of fiction and published them to Amazon and others and yes, it was a herculean effort learning all the different things, in addition to just writing the darned things, never mind the endless, endless, proofreading. Then setting it up so they could be ordered as paper copies as well as ebooks was a whole new learning process.

    Like you, my wife and I are moving beyond comfortable to very comfortable and we still have day jobs, so the money just wasn’t a factor.

    I didn’t advertise or run wild on book tours, or any of that, so sales were only a few thou per book, even though the reviews (the ones by total strangers) have been very nice). I didn’t write them for money, fortunately, and I knew ahead of time that myth-based fantasy is something of a niche market.

    But I am pleased and the copyrights are now part of my estate that I will pass on to my kids.

    1. May I ask why is it bad news if a publisher ask for my marketing plan? To me, marketing is pretty straightforward. I have a platform, I know I’ll people in the media. And there’s also social media.

      Of course, the publisher also has a marketing team as well.

      What made you not want to market your book more aggressively to try to make it a best seller?

  3. I don’t think I’m old enough to be your mother, but, really how proud will she be?

    I think the bottom line is whether you think you will enjoy writing the book and what you will not do because you are writing it. A traditionally published book that appears on bookstore shelves is a very big status boost. Your family’s friends will understand what it means, more so than the financial successes you describe here.

    Is that worth it? Only if you want to write the book.

    1. Thanks for your feedback. I hope she and my dad would be proud. Those are very rare words spoken due to our culture.

      I enjoy writing, which is why I continue to write every day on Financial Samurai. It’s gratifying to put thoughts onto paper and also help others sort out their own thoughts and dilemmas.

  4. “What should Sam do”? My analysis:

    1. This is not a financial decision. If you write the book and either self-publish or traditional-publish, it won’t make enough money to change your lifestyle. You are already financially independent with “millions” of dollars in wealth and a concurrent income. You are young and your wealth and income will continue to grow doing what you do now. The book would have to make 10s of millions of dollars to have a meaningful impact on you and your family’s financial life. The chances of the book making 10s of millions is near zero.

    2. This is a lifestyle decision; specifically, an opportunity cost decision. You’re “young”. You have 30 to 40 years of productive life in front of you. The opportunity cost is not money, it is time. A project of this magnitude will take at least a ‘man year’, 2000 hrs. Maybe two or three. At the high end that could be 10 % of your remaining productive years. Le’ts say it is 1-10% of your remaining years. What are you forgoing to do this ‘write a book’ project? Again, this is relatively independent of the ‘self-publish or traditional-publish’ decision.

    3. Is there a book in you crying to get out? Is there really something you want to say to the world? If so, then you have two choices:

    3a. You could self-publish again. You know the process and how much it will cost in time and effort. But I sense that you have a “been there, done that” mentality towards this option.

    3b. You could take the ‘traditional-publish’ route offered to you. It sounds like something you’ve always wanted to do. Do it, but with some limits built in: specifically calculate how much effort, mostly your time, you’re willing to expend on this effort as compared to your other opportunities. If you find that you’re doing way more than you planned or just aren’t enjoying the experience, get out. I’ve long held that if you are reading a book and aren’t really enjoying it, you should quit; sunk costs be damned. I’m thinking now that the same thing applies to writing a book although I have never written a book and don’t feel much inclination to do so.

    4. You are a smart guy. You will benefit regardless of the outcome in path 3b. If you do it and succeed or not, you will still have added to your ‘talent stack’. You will be an expert in ‘self-publishing versus traditional-publishing’ of a book. If you do start and then get out, you can still use some of the efforts of your work. For example, if it’s “nonfiction”, chop up the completed work into blog posts. If fiction, chop up into short stories.

    5. If you do it, I recommend a monthly blog post, “How Am I Doing on My Book?”
    Let us know how you’re doing. Be honest with yourself and us. Define some metrics to track your progress and satisfaction:
    Time: hours spent last month on the project
    Progress: (some sort of “earned value” calculation of where you are in the project)
    Satisfaction: How close am i to being done? How close am I to quitting?

    Those are my thoughts. If I had more time, I would have written less words. You can finalize the above analysis using information only you have (e.g., your opportunity options, how much effort you think this would take).

    1. Thanks for your thoughts! Opportunity cost is a great one. I made a commitment to work as hard as comfortably possible before I get vaccinated or once there is herd immunity. I intend to keep that promise and then enjoy life to the max!

      The book comes at an opportune window of time. Although, I am concerned more time will be spent on it than not. It always happens this way when many people are involved. Nobody is as efficient as you in getting things done, another reason why I left work.

      ‘The book would have to make 10s of millions of dollars to have a meaningful impact on you and your family’s financial life.”

      I think if it made $500K, that would be a positive life-changer b/c then it would be a on many of the best sellers lists.

      What is your experience writing books?


      1. I have zero experience writing books. I have never had a burning desire to write a book. Why not? For nonfiction, I don’t think I have anything new (novel?) or unique to say. For fiction, I can’t just get inside someone else’s head and write their dialog. In my book, everyone would think and speak like me. Not an interesting novel. I just finished reading Somerset Maugham’s “The Razor’s Edge”. What a writer! I could never do anything one tenth or one hundredths as good. Clint Eastwood summed it up well; “a man’s got to know his limitations.”

        I’m not sure that $500000 would really mean that much to you. But even if so, if the book takes 2000 hours that’s $250/hr. At 6000 hours, you’re down to $83/hr. You can make more money consulting and there is no risk. I think what would be life changing about a successful book is not the money, but the experience and recognition.

  5. Sam

    Thank you for this post and your willingness to put it out to everyone to view and comment on prior to making a commitment either way!

    You really are an inspiring individual!

    Congratulations on publishing your own book successfully!

    This past year I was fortunate to meet another man who has done the same, although maybe not yet as successfully as you have but with the same personal fulfillment that comes with the accomplishment.

    I felt really proud and sincerely happy for him.

    If everyone could get joy out of other people’s successes this would truly be a magnificent world to live in.

    You know what they say, “if you ever want to hurt or get even with someone for eternity just be more successful than they are”.


    1. Thanks Chris! It’s a fun process to consider and get the community involved.

      Not sure where the revenge aspect of your comment comes from, but it makes sense I guess!

      1. Sam

        The revenge statement was only a correlation to anyone being successful!

        Not meant to reflect on you or your posting at all, my apologies for any misunderstanding!


  6. Sam

    Good morning

    I just located the all post collection site!

    This definitely helps with keeping up with ongoing conversation.

    Thank you

  7. Frugal Bazooka

    It’s fascinating that a trad publisher is contacting you now to add your voice to the FIRE trend that peaked a few years ago. I say peaked not because people aren’t interested in it still, but rather the media interest in it seems to have waned.
    While I’m a fan of “how to FIRE/Frugal” books, there are certain tenets of each book that I’ve grown weary of hearing about. Maybe you can take the conversation to a higher level and bring a much needed different perspective. Maybe a book that’s written for beginners seeking FIRE, but also includes areas of interest for those of us that are already well past FIRE…investment strategies, vacay destinations etc
    Either way, Congrats on the achievement! You’ve shown once again that hard work and old fashioned intestinal fortitude pay off every time!

    1. Ah,the pitch to me wasn’t about writing another FIRE book. Although there are certainly elements of FIRE in it.

      Good feedback on your assumption that it is a FIRE book! Will share in due time. Thx

  8. Congratulations! It’s an exciting opportunity and I’m sure it will be a cool experience. You’ll probably learn a lot during the process too.

    Feels like there’s a higher chance of regretting NOT doing rather than doing.

    Do it! To me it’s a no brainer!

  9. I self-published a book and while I am very happy with how it has turned out, as you say, it was a LOT of work. I think a second one will be easier to publish given I now know what is needed to produce a good book. But, more important is coming up with a book to publish. To me that decision is a practical one: given everything else, will you actually tackle writing this second book if not motivated by external deadlines? How motivated are you? As far as the actual publishing, as so many have pointed out, by going traditional, what you may forego in revenue on the second, might be largely made up by increased traffic to the first. It’s really a win-win either way.

    1. Congrats on hour self-published book!

      Going to traditional publisher route is like having fitness coach. They keep you on track and help you get through deadlines. Yes, there is a much higher possibility of actually having your book published, and a great version of it, with traditional publishing in my opinion.

      1. Writing your book can’t be about money. You enjoy tennis, but if you did it for money, you would be miserable. You play tennis for the experience of playing tennis. The playing is its own reward.
        Writing the book should be your reward. It doesn’t matter if it is read. Write the book for the joy of writing the book.
        We build sand castles at the beach for the love of building them. We know the tide will erase our work, but we don’t care. The building is its own reward.

  10. Hmm. I say it is a toss up decision. Obviously it would help to know the exact amount of the advance, but assuming it is a few years worth of equivalent self-published book revenue, it certainly is something to consider.

    The real value might be in having the Portfolio Books help supercharge your marketing efforts, thus driving more revenue to the Financial Samurai site and your eBook. Clearly it could set you up in an even better passive income situation for both the site and the traditional book down the road.

    Ultimately it comes down to IF you want to write another book. If it is not a “Hell Yeah!” for you then it should be a “NO”. This is the mantra I have been trying to live by lately:

    Hope that helps…

    1. I don’t think it’s as easy as Derek Siver’s “hell yeah” approach unfortunately.

      The only times I think to myself hell yeah is when a friend of mine invites me to go play tennis down at Indian Wells and then watch the tennis tournament all expenses paid. That’s kinda hell yeah! But then I think about the time away from my family and find a need to cut the trip down to 3 days from 7.

      What are some hell yeah things you’ve decided on?

      1. Yeah, I get that most of life’s situations are more nuanced than “hell yeah” or no, but it does have credence for bigger projects and time commitments IMO. I also like How Greg McKeown puts it in Essentialism. He says you should score things on a scale of 0-100 and if it is less than a 90 throw it out. Same concept, more concrete way to implement.

        For me, I decided to leave my business of 9.5 years, because it was clear that it was no longer a “hell yeah” — and I could have stuck it out for more money and more stock options, but it wasn’t worth showing up and faking it every day.

        Trips. We want a “hell yeah” this is excited and worth or money, or we aren’t going to go. Had led us to go to Tahiti, Costa Rica, Europe, Rome and even in covid, CA central coast.

        Books. If I’m not feeling it, I’m not going to waste any more time suffering through a book I don’t like.

        Freelance Projects. I’m not going to take any gig that comes my way, I have to be able to add real value and enjoy it or I probably won’t be able to deliver the client the best results they can get.

        But I admit that with family it is just jot possible. There is give and take and if I want to have real relationships it can’t always be that cut and dry.

        Anyways, those are a few ways I’ve tried to implement it.

    1. Perhaps! How much of an advance would you require to go forward? Given I realize it’s tough to make money from a book, especially did to the installment plans, money isn’t the primary reason to write a book. Especially the first one.

  11. BTW Random House just bought Simon and Schuster this past year.

    It IS tough to get published. I think 1% success rate sounds about right. Think about how you couldn’t even get a literary agent to take you on—and finding an agent is just the FIRST hurdle bc after you sign on, that agent still needs to sell you to an editor. And then that editor has to sell you Acquisitions. As an illustrator, it feels like everyone and their dog is a writer, especially of kids books. I often get strangers asking me to look at their writing because they are also on a quest to be published and think art will boost their chances of success (fyi editors prefer to pick the illustrator when they acquire a ms—they have a better sense of the market appeal of the text, plus they know more artists).

    If you’re making $40-50K in passive sales of your self-published book, you don’t need a traditional publisher. But traditional publishing will provide you with status, and likely give you a giant boost in sales and recognition since publishers have a marketing/sales force with connections.

    1. Thanks for the heads up on the acquisition! I am starting to read about the pros and cons of the acquisition. It looks like a lot of independent publishing houses are not happy in my crowd them out. The publishing business does seem to be super competitive. Everything seems to be super competitive actually.

  12. Tracey Kim Powers

    Sam, First of all Congratulations!
    Congrats for working tirelessly on Financial Samurai for over 10 years (sorry this is very late, as I meant to congratulate you on your 10th anniversary!)
    And for having a publishing company pursue YOU is something that deserves accolades as well!
    I have finished writing 3 children’s books and am currently working on another book about what I’ve learned from nursing home visits (the elderly have so much wisdom and a great sense of humor!)
    2 of my books have been accepted by publishers–the inbetween kind that meld self-publishing with expensive packages where they do some or all of the work, but you pay them up front instead of the other way around. Publishing is a complicated process, as I’ve learned through much research!
    Needless to say, I’m still not published, but will continue to write. Hopefully my kids and grandkids will appreciate my books someday.
    If I were you, I’d definitely go with the Traditional Publisher since you’ve not done it before, you’ll learn a ton, and they will pay you up front! Since your other book sold really well, you’ll most probably end up getting the royalties from this one, and you’ll be able to reach a potentially wider market.
    Go for it!!! And may God bless your efforts:)

    1. Thanks Tracey! Congrats on publishing your books as well! I feel a kinship to other authors who have gone through the whole process. It really isn’t easy.

      Thanks for your feedback. I’m going to take in as much reader feedback and other people’s feedback as possible before making a definitive decision.

      I’m leaning towards yes, because these opportunities don’t seem to come around very often.

      GL with your books!

  13. The hybrid model of publishing direct but produced with help is interesting. Strategic Coach (and many others) have tools and teams to help extract the book and help publish it. This way the author can minimize the work outside of their strengths but still control the IP better.

    I think the old model gives away too much to non-value added people and activities so I would have a hard time supporting them but that’s just me.

    In your case whatever path you take I’m sure will be a solid success so it’s just a difference in paths but probably not destinations. I know I can’t wait to buy your book. :)

  14. Wow that is so impressive to get that offer to publish a book with Penguin!!! I can’t imagine how much work that would take, but if you can manage it that would be incredible. Really, really cool that you were pitched to publish a book. Shows how great of a writer you are Sam!

  15. Ms.Conviviality

    Do the traditional book. I think it would be a hit! Just look at all the readers you’ve gained based on your writing already. The publisher would be able to market the book to so many other people.

    1. Thanks for your support! Let’s see what exactly the marketing department does. I’ve heard mixed reviews on exactly how much marketing traditional publishers do. I’ve heard the onus is mostly on the author.

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