Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing—Pros and Cons

Book PublishingTo self-publish or traditionally publish? That is the question—or at least a question I hear a lot! The world of publishing can sometimes feel complex because the options and costs/benefits are constantly evolving. What’s best for a particular author can often depend on several different factors, including the book’s genre, the author’s name/brand recognition, and his or her social media savvy.

I have pursued both self-publishing and traditional publishing and have discovered some distinct benefits and drawbacks with each. Choosing which avenue to pursue is ultimately a personal decision, but to get you started, here are some pros and cons to consider:

Self-Publishing Pros

  • 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 available on Amazon and other online bookstores, making it easier than ever to reach a broad audience since the majority of us are buying books online anyway.

Self-Publishing Cons

  • 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 custom publisher for assistance).
  • Startup costs can be high since you typically have to purchase a large quantity of books if you do it all yourself, or invest in custom publishing services.
  • Revisions can be expensive if you haven’t yet sold the bulk of your initial inventory (beware of ordering more books than you can sell).

Traditional Publisher Pros

  • Added credibility when your book is published with a major press—for some circumstances, this makes a difference.
  • Broader distribution is more likely available, versus publishing yourself.
  • Your book is likely to appear on bookstore shelves (though it will be pulled quickly if the book doesn’t sell)

Traditional Publisher Cons

  • Unless you make the bestseller list or leverage your book to grow your business, you aren’t likely get rich. Publishers typically pay authors around $1.00 per book sold!
  • Book advance checks are lower than ever: averaging around $5,000 to $10,000—and you must earn that back, $1.00 at a time, before you will see any additional royalties.
  • You will lose control and many of the rights to your work. For example, most publishers require exclusive rights to the ebook version of your book, meaning that you can’t sell or distribute it to anyone.

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. What about you? Are you going after a publishing contract or taking back control? Any experiences you can share here?



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