As someone who has been both traditionally published and self-published, I have a unique understanding of the benefits and downsides of each. And because we are so often asked which avenue an author should choose, following are some important considerations.
Please keep in mind that the goals and agenda of each author is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all path for everyone.
- You can get your book to market quickly.
- You have full creative control of the cover art, interior design, and your entire manuscript.
- You keep control over all of your rights.
- Individual book cost is low, resulting in a higher profit margin when you sell books yourself.
- Distribution is readily available on Amazon and other online bookstores, making it easier than ever to reach a broad audience since the majority of us buy books online anyway.
- There is still some stigma in self-publishing, though it’s gotten better in recent years.
- You have to do all the work: establish a publishing company, purchase an ISBN, get the cover created, lay out the text, get listed with distributors, etc. (unless you hire a hybrid publisher for assistance).
- Startup costs can be high since you have to invest in book production services.
- Revisions can be expensive if you haven’t yet sold the bulk of your initial inventory (beware of initially ordering more books than you can sell).
- It is difficult to get bookstore distribution, though not impossible (you need to work with a distributor).
Traditional Publisher Pros
- Added credibility when your book is published with a major press.
- Broader distribution is more likely available, including brick and mortar bookstores.
- Large media outlets are friendlier to traditionally published authors (more likely to get book reviews, major press coverage, etc.).
- SOMETIMES the publisher invests in marketing, though this is rare. In most cases the publisher still relies on the author to market, unless you’re already a celebrity. They invest most of their resources into their well-known authors.
Traditional Publisher Cons
- It typically takes a year or more for a traditional publisher to release a book.
- Unless you make it onto a major best sellers list, you aren’t likely get rich. Publishers typically pay authors around $1.00 to $2.00 per book sold.
- Book advances are lower than ever, averaging around $5,000 to $10,000 for non-celebrities. And you must earn that back through book sales, an average of $1.50 at a time, before you will see any additional royalties.
- The publisher has all the control. They can remove chapters from your manuscript, change your title, design a cover you don’t like, etc.
- You will lose the rights to your work. For example, most publishers require exclusive rights to the e-book version of your book, meaning that you can’t sell or distribute it yourself.
With all of this said, I personally decided to abandon traditional publishing. I don’t want to give away my rights, have my book title changed, earn pennies per book, or be at the mercy of a big corporation that isn’t truly invested in my success. I love the freedom of producing my books my way, but this isn’t the right choice for everyone.
There is also no harm in pursuing a traditional book deal. The process forces you to get clear about your marketing plans, your audience and the overall goals for your book.
What about you? Any experiences you can share here?