Whether you're traditionally or self-published, profit or non-profit, your book is your business. You invest time, money, creativity, effort, and, hopefully, heart into your work. Why wouldn't you do your best to make it successful?
Regardless of whether you're in it for the money, if you're publishing a book, you want people to read what you've written. To do that, your book needs to be good quality, and people need to know it exists. There are some key investments you need to make in both traditional and self-publishing. This article by The Cadence Group does a great job of pointing out the cost of publishing that many don't think about.
Once your book is written, you need professional editing, formatting, a great cover, and a business plan. Yes, you do need a professional cover design. Think about it this way: Let's say you just started a gourmet restaurant. You wouldn't serve this perfect food to your guests in a used dog food bowl, right? How about on some paper plates? Why not? Of course, it's bacause the quality of the presentation doesn't match the food. It's an instant turn off.
Readers pay for a quality product, just like any other consumer. When you package your book in substandard material, your customer's expectations drop. If your cover looks like your cousin made it in beginning art class, or worse, that you made it yourself with little or no experience, readers will expect the same quality of work on the inside. Yes, we actually do judge books by their covers. Don't jeopardize the success of your book by not investing in an amazing cover.
Let's assume that you did the smart thing and invested in a profession cover design. Now that you've grabbed your reader's attention and they've started reading your book, what will they find? Not to be redundant, but let's go with the restaurant analogy again. Your customer has been seated in your professionally decorated gorgeous restaurant, and their mouth is watering as they wait for their food. They savor each bite, it's so satisfying...until they discover a bug in their food. You might find a few people willing to eat around it, but their opinion of your fine establishment just dropped. We avoid this by getting our books professionally edited. Critique groups are amazing, use them! But when they've helped all they can, hire a professional editor to do the rest, or your readers WILL find bugs in their food.
At last, you have the world's best book, and you're ready to change people's lives. Time to throw it up on Amazon, the book's so great, it'll sell itself! Dead wrong. With very rare exception, the only books that sell themselves are porn. If you don't believe me, just think about it. If you want your book to be seen, you need to make it visible. Yes, of course I'm going to talk about marketing, I'm a marketing specialist, it's what I do.
Do you know that, in the publishing industry, a book that sells one thousand copies is considered to be a success? How successful do you want your book to be? What are you goals? Is that one thousand your dream number, or do you want more? If that number sounds good, then you can probably sell most of them to family and friends. If you want more, you need a marketing professional and a professional marketing plan. You can't just spam, "HEY! BUY MY BOOK!" if you want to sell. People don't like things thrown in their face. This is where the strategies come into play.
Again, your restaurant just opened. The food is exquisite, the place is amazing, but no one shows up. Way too many authors experience this, it's the main reason I started this website! I understand that, for most of us authors, money can be tight, but you can get creative. I promise to write more about this later.
I could go on forever, and you know I probably will later, but I'll leave you with these thoughts. There's a famous story about Dr. Seuss talking to a brain surgeon. The surgeon said that someday he should take a month off and write a book. Dr. Seuss replied, "Maybe someday I should take a month off and try brain surgery." Forgive me if I didn't word it exactly right, but I hope you get the point. Every aspect of writing and publishing requires expertise. Do NOT attempt brain surgery if you're not a surgeon.
When you invest so much to write your book, why would you sabotage it by not putting enough into getting it published? Remember, no matter how emotionally attached you are, your book is a business and must be treated like one.