The Two Main Publishing Options for Therapist Writers

Mental health professionals are out there trying to make a living like everyone else. Most of them agree that getting a book published, which builds a therapist’s credibility, is good for business. But with all the publishing options available today, which is best?

Basically, you have two choices:  Traditional Publishing and Self-Publishing. With traditional publishing (also called “New York,” trade, mainstream, or commercial), they pay you. With Self-Publishing (also called “subsidy,” “author service” companies, or “indie” publishing — all using print-on-demand [POD] digital technology), you pay them.

Gutenberg struggles with his printing press in the 15th Century. Today, self-publishing is a tad less strenuous.

Are you with me so far?

Now, if all you had to do was choose between “They pay you” and “You pay them,” then your decision would be obvious, right? Duh! But not so fast. Picking one of the “They pay you” options isn’t as easy or doable as it sounds. Nor is it necessarily the best choice for you financially.

Consider this: In today’s publishing environment, a new, non-celeb author’s chances of getting a book contract with a top “New York” publisher or one of their many imprints are slim — maybe 1-2%. Plus in most cases (not all) you have to get an agent first to arrange the introduction, which is a challenge in itself. It may be wiser to move on to one of the hundreds of small, independent (i.e., not under the umbrella of one of the majors) houses. But here again you still may need an agent. Ugh.

If this is what’s holding you back, then consider one of the specialty,  academic or university presses (listed in annual directories such as Writer’s Market or Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents 2011).  Some of these don’t require an agent, which is great. It cuts out a major gatekeeper. And, being smaller and publishing fewer books, they can give their author/experts more time and attention. But they can take ages to get back to you and be slow about putting your book out. This is frustrating if you have a timely topic or depend upon workshops and speaking engagements to make a living. You want your book available now for those back of the room sales.

All the more reason to start investigating the fascinating world of self-publishing – the option that many authors are going for first these days because they have more control, because there are no gatekeepers, and because they can make more money if they market their book well (which is the biggest challenge of all).

One option is to become your own publishing company and publish your book yourself (making you “indie” published rather than self published, a nice little distinction when it comes to any remaining stigma). In my state, California, becoming a publisher involves filing for a DBA and putting a notice in a local newspaper for four weeks. To publish, you can upload to a printer (such as Lightning Source) or sign up with an “author service” company, such as Amazon’s Create Space. Just be careful  not to buy expensive packages that contain things you don’t need. There are scams out there, so do your homework.

The more you DIY, the cheaper it will be. With Create Space, authors can buy their own ISBN number (, keep ownership of their files, and do (or farm out) their own editing, interior design, covers, proofing and marketing. And finally, don’t forget to arrange for an e-book version of your paper book. E-Books are hot and it’s another “income stream.” So therapists, do it. Publish that book. Just think — what if Freud had never published a book, where would we therapists be then?

(copyright 2011 by Sylvia Cary, LMFT)


4 responses to “The Two Main Publishing Options for Therapist Writers

  1. This was so interesting, informative and well-written.

  2. thank you for this helpful information.

  3. hello: my fellow shrink and i have awarded you the Versatile Blogger Award.
    you can accept or not….details are here:

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