This innocent question troubles many aspiring writers and authors.
I mean, think about it, why should you or I go to the self-publish route when there are so many good publishers asking for manuscripts?
Or maybe we should not jump too soon to a conclusion and instead look deeper into this question.
So, let's dive in... Shall we?
When I wrote my first book... I thought it was great, and publishers would line out of my door not only to publish it but also pay me record-breaking, leave-your-job kinda royalties.
Those $$$ royalty checks and advances would be great to buy a new Merce or a big house. All I had in mind was how I would manage my time to attend all those TV interviews and book signing tours?
Typical author dreams.
This is a common trope in the story of every new author. After all, we writers believe our book is flawless, and every reader out there would kill to have it.
Well, the reality is just not so rosy in the traditional publishing world.
And like any industry, traditional publishing also has its pros and cons.
Self-Publishing Versus Traditional Publishing
Before digging into the pros and cons of each publishing mode it is important to get the differences. This is what will permit you to chart a good course as an author.
When it comes to good old traditional publishing, an author must land an agent. This is normally a time-taking process and there are no guarantees. Once you land an agent you will now have to give them the pitch of a lifetime. The agent will then send your manuscript to the publisher if they are impressed with your pitch. The publisher will also take their sweet time to go through the manuscript. If they like what they see, they will offer you a contract which means they will own the copyrights to your work.
A traditional publisher will take care of the entire publishing process which includes:
As an author, you will earn royalties based on how many books you sell. So what are the pros and cons of working with a traditional publisher?
Let's get to the pros first,
#1: LITERARY AGENT SUPPORT
#2: A BUILT-IN PUBLISHING TEAM
#3: LITTLE TO NO UPFRONT COSTS
#4: CASH ADVANCES
#5: GREATER VISIBILITY AND REACH
#6: MORE TIME TO WRITE… THEORETICALLY
#7: GREATER OPPORTUNITIES FOR ACCLAIM and AWARDS
So far, so good... now let's get to the cons,
#1: LOWER ROYALTY RATES
Self-published authors typically enjoy 30% to 90% royalty rates per copy sold. Meanwhile, traditionally published authors may take home as little as 5-15% for every dollar their book earns.
Why so less?
Because there are middlemen in the traditional world. If you are not spending money on your book, that doesn't mean it doesn't need money, and whoever, in this case - publishers take a significant cut from your book profits to cover production expenses. Then most of the literary agents earn a 15% cut of their author's earnings.
One thing to note is that authors only start receiving royalties after their book earns out - after sales exceed their initial advance.
For more information on advances and royalties, check out this article from Alan Jacobson.
#2: INFREQUENT PAYDAYS
As a self-published author, I receive monthly royalty payments, but when I was with a traditional publisher, I rarely get paid on time and generally twice a year. So, not an excellent way to earn a living through your writing.
#3: LOSS OF CREATIVE CONTROL
As a traditionally published author, I had little to no say over how my book would be presented, including the book title, cover, book blurb, and even where it will be stocked in bookstores.
Sometimes, the publisher even asked about content changes that drastically altered my vision for the story. If you can handle that kind of loss of creative control, then traditional publishing is for you.
#4: LONG-DRAWN PUBLISHING PROCESS
As a self-published author, I can prepare my book for publication in as little as a few months, and listing a book for sale online usually takes less than 72 hours. But not so was the case when I was traditionally published.
Compared to self-publishing, 18 months is a typical turnaround time in the trad world, and sometimes a book can go for upwards of 3-4 years to finally appear on shelves.
#5: REJECTION, REJECTION, REJECTION
Breaking into the traditional publishing industry is far from easy. I received 39 rejection letters before that one, yes, and it took me eighteen months to get that.
But rejection may not end there. One signed book deal is no guarantee that a publisher will contract you for the following books, mainly if the first doesn't sell well.
#6: LOOSING YOUR RIGHTS
As a self-published author, I retain the rights to all of my work. But when I sign a book deal, I'm selling the rights to my content to the publisher that can be a significant issue in many situations.
#7: COMPLICATED CONTRACTS
I do not think that I need to say more on this topic.
#8: THE EVER-CHANGING INDUSTRY
Literary agents come and go. Publishing houses fold and merge. Editors quit and switch publishers. These shake-ups can leave authors like us without an agent, with a manuscript in limbo, or with a contract, we can't escape. What do you think of that?
Let's get to the Self-Publishing
When it comes to self publishing or indie publishing, the author is solely responsible for every aspect of the book. They write, edit, format, design, market, etc. The book is then published on a platform.
Self-publishing was taboo once (read 2015 or early), but in 2021 and 2022, even the traditional published authors are going the indie route.
Let's find out.
Because with self-publishing, Ideas have gotten a new form of independence. Authors are churning out books like never before, thanks to self-publishing platforms like Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Google Play, and Barnes and Nobles. I'm living proof that if you do it right, you can start earning good money. Of course, this calls for an ever-necessary deep dive into the subject.
Ideas have gotten a new form of independence. Authors are churning out books like never before thanks to self-publishing platforms. There is also proof that after some time, they start earning good money. This makes it necessary to dive into the subject even deeper.
BUT What is REAL Self-Publishing?
Self-publishing is the process of kicking out traditional publishers and doing all the work.
Yes, I said it.
It is a process, not an act or event.
Plus you have to put in the work.
There is no agent or publishing house.
Why Self-Publishing Is Better Than Traditional Publishing
One may easily conclude that self-publishing is better than traditional publishing because it meets the needs of the author. There are no agents to book and publishers to impress but there is one thing every author should note. Self-publishing is not just something you wake up and do. People are not going to read a book just because it is on Amazon or Apple and since there are no gatekeepers for you, you have to be extremely good at what you do. And if you can't do it all on your own then you might as well hire people.
So, what makes self-publishing unique?
Publishing is easy
You are the only person who can stop yourself from publishing. There is no one pushing you because of sales. You work at your own pace and come up with an excellent piece of work.
It’s print on demand
Traditional publishing is expensive because the sales are in the printed copies. With self-publishing for authors, you can print what the customer wants.
You have the power to start your own publishing empire
All you need to do is purchase an ISBN and you will be good to go. Of course, it is possible to publish for free but the best thing is to invest in your products.
4 MORE Benefits of Self-Publishing
100% Creative control
Higher royalty rates
Instant publishing: With self-publishing, the time between the completed manuscript and the finished, sellable product can be less than a week.
Make a career - In trad publishing, if you are not selling thousands of copies every month, it is very difficult ot make a career from your words. But, in self-publishing, due to higher royalty rates, you don't need to sell thousands of copies every month to earn a good amount of money.
Also, if you're a debut writer, it will be harder for you to attract the publishing industry's attention anyway. Putting out your book as a self-publisher can help you attract a fanbase and build up an email list while also proving that you know how to write a book to potential publishers. Many successful authors got their start in self-publishing, and producing an underground hit on your own may attract the attention of traditional book publishers in the future.
4 Downsides of Self-Publishing
Not everything is rosy in self-publishing too. There are cons as well.
Less visibility: Self-published authors miss the validation and prestige of being associated with a major publisher like Random House or Harper Collins. Indie writers are also not invited to participate in the literary prizes.
Higher costs: While traditional publishers pay for editing, design, printing, and marketing costs for your book, with self-publishing, those upfront costs rest on the author's shoulders.
And publishing deals usually come with long-term contracts and financial advances. Unfortunately, for self-published authors, there's no such thing exists.
No support system exists for self-published authors when it comes to proofreading, publicists, professional editing.
Harder to get print distribution: If your definition of success is to see your book in a major bookstore, that won't be easy to achieve through self-publishing.
Self publishing is here to stay but Traditional publishing is also not going anywhere. It all depends on your creative flexes.
Self-publishing is for authors who want to start small under no pressure. These are for authors who either have the know-how or have the learning inclination to understand how to use email, social media and their website to their advantage. These authors understand that in self publishing it is 10% writing and 90% other stuff. These authors are patient and not servants of their own ego. These authors are not afraid to consult an expert or hire one.
Traditional publishing for authors on the other hand works for authors who do not mind sharing the earnings but you still have to do the marketing.
Now I have laid out each publishing method's benefits and disadvantages, So the method you choose depends on how you answer the following questions:
How soon do you want to get published?
How many readers do you want to reach?
How much control do you want over your work?
How much do you want to earn?
What is your main goal?
Self-publishing is a satisfying route for many modern-day authors. It is a path taken by those who want a hands-on approach. This of course, should not stop you from seeking the traditional option.
But, You should not self publish until you read this article