Self publishing vs. Traditional publishing

Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing: Which is a Better Choice for you?

self publishing vs traditional publishing

Do you have a book idea roaming around in your head? Or perhaps you’ve just finished your manuscript, and you want to know the next steps to take? You mostly have three options ahead of you; ship it out to literary agents, submit to publishers accepting unsolicited manuscripts (without an agent), or self-publish. All of these are viable options for any author.

When you are ready with a book and ready to get it for the world to read, there is still confusion regarding which route to choose for publication. You are still not sure whether to self-publish your book or go with traditional publication. You needn’t worry. Self-publishing vs. traditional publishing is a continuing debate among everyone in the publishing industry.

The article will try to shed light on both and the pros and cons of self-publishing vs. traditional publishing. Before we dive into it, let us look at both these routes of publishing to have clarity.

Basics of  Self-publishing

Self-publishing a book means paying a self- publishing house a certain sum of money to publish your book. The money paid usually includes the creation, marketing, and distribution of your book.

Thanks to the invention of the Gutenberg Press in the 15th century, most authors fund publishing their own books. Still, it was not until the existence of eBooks and Amazon, the domination of indie authors became possible.

Self-Publishing gives the author 100% control. You are the boss when you choose self-publishing since all the decisions regarding editing, formatting, and book design is your own.

What is Traditional publishing?

Traditional book publishing is when the publisher signs a contract with the author, then prints and sells the book. They act as a third-party to publish and release your book. The publisher takes care of the editing, reviewing, design of the book, and marketing. They will release the book and pay the author small percentages of the royalties.

You need to find an agent and submit your manuscript many times before it gets accepted. The agent then submits it to the publisher, which doesn’t guarantee any approval yet. If approved, the manuscript still goes through many edits to finally get published.

Traditional publishing is highly competitive, and you need to pass these gatekeepers before your manuscript reaches the publisher’s desk.

Difference between Self-publishing & Traditional Publishing

You have an idea about both these types of publications. Still, it doesn’t answer the vital question for aspiring authors, which is better, self-publishing, or traditional publishing? As mentioned earlier, there are pros and cons to both self-publishing and traditional publishing.

We will look at both these routes of publications through the main categories to have a better understanding.

1. Creative Freedom

Self-publishing is all about creative freedom. While professional editors and designers guide you along the way, you will be in control. Since the book’s rights are with you, the outcome will be the way you want it.

Some authors prefer to do everything themselves right from editing, formatting, marketing, and distribution to save money. Although this does sound exciting, it is always better to give your 100% to writing and leave the rest to the professionals. You will have a say with these aspects but will get the help necessary.

In traditional publishing, you are signing away the rights on your book. It is the publisher who gets your book reviewed, edited, and designed. The author might not have the final say in these aspects.

2. Time Frame

Now that you have finished penning your book the excitement kicks in! Let me just put it out there for you. It roughly takes about 1-3 months for your idea to transform into a book proposal to your literary agent. The agent to the editor and the book contract offer it takes another 2- 5 months. You can imagine how the rest goes!

The total time from the idea of your book to print might take approximately 2 years. The mileage might vary, but I’m sure you wouldn’t want to wait that long for your book to hit the shelves.

Whereas in self -publishing, as soon as you tell them the idea of your book or   give them the manuscript, someone is assigned to guide you. Do not worry, because you can still call the shots, and your book will hit the shelves in just 3- 4 weeks.

One of the joys of self-publishing is the ease and convenience of the entire process. Whether you decide to go direct to the platforms like Amazon KDP, Kobo Writing Life, etc. or take advantage of the services of a self-publisher. It’s a pretty easy road. Once your manuscript is edited and properly formatted, you upload it with a book cover, set your price, and hit publish! There are a few minor steps in between, but that’s the gist. No waiting months and months to hear back from an agent or major publisher. No wasting time. Just simply write, edit, format, and publish!

3. Money&Profits

The author has to spend penny from their pockets as far as self-publishing is concerned. The cost of self-publishing a book will include spending money on editing, formatting, design, cover design, printing, and promotion. It might seem expensive since all these crucial factors require professionals.

In traditional publishing, the author doesn’t have to shell their money on getting the book designed, printed, and published. The publishing house will take care of these expenses. They will pay the author a percentage of royalties after the book sales.

Everyone wants to make money, and if you say, you’re in it for the passion, then well and good. Your book sales are the source of making money. It can be anything from “having just enough money to put food on the table” to making millions — all this varies on how your book sells. If you do get published traditionally, they have a bigger chunk of money.

The bottom line? Have the bigger chunk and 100% of the royalties via self- publishing for yourself instead of giving up the major share to the traditional company.

4. Control & Consequences

The rapport with professionals is crucial when it comes to self-publishing. You get to be the boss. The professionals will come up with suggestions and pitch so many different ideas. You can go ahead with the idea if you want to. You don’t even have to change your story. Want to write about a unicorn ruling the world? Your imagination is our command.

It is not the same with traditional publishing. The traditional way of getting published sounds all professional. But the author rarely gets a say in the cover design or book design. The author can’t have say on where the story should be modified or altered. The publishers make the major decisions. They can even edit, remove or do anything with your story since you have given them your book’s rights.

In conclusion, in traditional publishing the author doesn’t have to stress regarding finding professionals to do the job. The publishers will take care of everything. But with self-publishing, that’s not the case. Since, you have a lot of freedom; you also have to take the burden that comes with it.

5. Beginner’s Luck

It is very rare for a first-time author to land an agent at a traditional publishing agency, let alone get their book published. Even if you do, let me tell you this.

You get less than 10% of the net proceeds.

Why not take the lion’s share by selling your masterpiece? If you are lucky to land a deal with a traditional agency, that’s great. But I’m sure you wouldn’t want to sign away your first book’s rights. Many first time authors prefer self-publishing as they have full control over every aspect of their book.

The above mentioned factors tell you the benefits and shortcomings of choosing either route for publication. Here is a list of advantages of both these methods for an easy view.

Benefits of Self-PublishingBenefits of Traditional Publishing
Complete Creative FreedomLiterary prestige & validation
Guarantee to publish the workPublisher takes care of the production cost
Higher royaltiesEasy to get the book to physical bookstores
Get the books to the stores fasterNo upfront financial cost

Self-publishing is an easy route for many authors today. Their dream of publishing a book is becoming a reality with it.  If you are keen on getting your book traditionally published, go for it. Later if you decide to self-publish your book, also have a look at the benefits of working with a self-publishing company.

Perks of Working with a Self-publisher

As I mentioned above, going the self-publishing route in any way means that you don’t have to opt into the exclusivity acts that a lot of platforms demand. Self – publishers offer and get your book in front of millions of readers. This way you are never bound by a restriction like exclusive contacts.

The Real Deal on Exclusive Contracts

You can make more moneyLocked into a contract
Reach more specific readersCan’t publish your book anywhere else (not even as a free gift)
Access to special benefitsRisk of getting your account closed due to pirate sites offering a copy of your book

Marketing & Distribution

What most new writers don’t understand is that being a published author is hardly about writing. Most of the work an independent author does is marketing and distribution. This means hitting the “streets” to constantly promote your book and ensuring that it’s delivered to as many bookstores as possible. This is a heavy process and often takes up about 70% of an independent author’s time. Leaving only about 30% for actual writing.

What’s involved in Marketing?

  • Daily promotion on social media
  • Connecting with readers and book clubs
  • Setting up paid ads
  • Paying for other forms of promo

What’s involved in Distribution?

Unless you’re with a large distributor like Ingram, you’ll have to cold call bookstores and ask them to showcase your book . Stores take a hefty chunk of your profits, usually they ask for a 55% discount.

Often a basis of consignment (you give them the books and they pay you IF they sell)

Keep 100% of Royalties

In all my years of working in this industry, never have I come across a self-publisher that allows its authors to keep 100% of their royalties. Even Amazon KDP takes their chunk which is anywhere from 30-70%, depending on what your book is priced at. Imagine working with a company that handles all the hard work, gives you so much creative liberty, a say in how your book is published, and lets you keep all the profits?

If you’re an aspiring author with a finished manuscript, definitely self-publish an eBook or try a self-publisher such as Pen2publishing some consideration. There are more pros than cons to going this route over traditional publishing and you can stick to what you do best; writing! The publishing industry is a great place to be, especially with the rise of eBooks, putting books into the hands of readers faster and easier.

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