Traditional Publishing and Self-Publishing: Pros and Cons

Equipped Devotional Book by Ruth L. Snyder

The two main types of publishing include traditional publishing and self-publishing. There are pros and cons to each of these methods, and they each prove to be successful for different reasons. As writers near the publication stage of writing a book, they should look into each type of publishing. This will allow them to make an educated decision on what makes the most sense for them and their book.

There’s nothing like holding a copy of your own book in your hands! No matter how many books you write, the process is like giving birth to a child. Each one is unique. The process can be painful…but the results are worth all the sweat and tears. Just like birthing a baby, there are options you need to consider when it comes to publishing your book.

Advantages of a Traditional Publishing Contract

No Cost to the Author

o   The author does not have to pay a publisher to publish their book. The traditional publisher makes money by selling the book. Publishing with a traditional contract can save authors money upfront.

Publisher Does Most of It

o   The author submits the manuscript, and the publisher takes care of editing, formatting, cover design, and publishing.  This saves the author time, money, and effort. Plus, the whole process is done professionally and well.

Marketing and Distribution

o   The publisher will help the author with distribution and marketing. When a traditional publisher takes on a book, the publisher is then responsible for distributing the book and advertising it. When a large publisher publishes a book, they know all of the strategies for distributing and marketing. This is their job, so they know how to do it effectively. Traditional publishers now want authors to help with the marketing. You will need to discuss these expectations with the publisher.

Disadvantages of a Traditional Publishing Contract

Author Gives Up Control

  The author has very little control over the final product. If the author wants to have a say in the cover design, formatting, or much else, it is better for the author to publish the book on their own. The author can share some input, but the publisher will decide on the final product.

Author Receives Lower Royalties

  A traditional publisher will pay the author between 10-25% for royalties. Because authors do not have to pay the publisher upfront, the publisher is planning on making money off the book sales. This means that authors only receive 10-25% for royalties. This is a small percentage and can be a big determining factor for authors. Authors can keep much more of their royalties by publishing on their own.

Publisher Decides on Schedule

  The publishing process usually takes a couple of years. Publishing a book is not an easy task. When an author works with a traditional publisher, the publishing process is on the publisher’s calendar and not the author’s schedule. The publisher works publishing multiple books at once. The book has to be positioned to sell. Some books sell better during certain times of the year too, such as the holidays. 

Advantages of Self-Publishing

Author Maintains Full Control

  The self-published author has control over every step of the publishing and marketing process. When the author publishes the book on their own, they get to choose exactly how they want the book to look and how to market it. This is especially important for authors who may have a clear vision in mind for their book.

Publication Date is More Flexible

  The self-publishing author can usually get a book written and published in as little as 90 days. Since the author is in control of the publishing schedule, how quickly the book gets published is in their hands. They do not have to wait for anyone else to position the book or make any necessary changes. As mentioned, traditional publishers are working with multiple authors and books at any given time.

Author Receives Higher Royalties

  The self-published author receives 30-70% for royalties. When an author takes care of editing, publishing, and marketing (or acts as a contractor to get these tasks done by others), they end up pocketing more of the book sales profits. As mentioned, authors only make 10-25% for royalties when their books are published traditionally. 

Changes Are Easier to Make

  The author can easily make changes/updates after the book is published. If an author decides to make any changes to the book once it has already been published, it is much easier to do so independently. Otherwise, the author has to work with the traditional publisher again to make the changes. This can be a long process due to the number of projects a publisher might be working on.

Author Controls Marketing

  The author can choose marketing activities that suit their book and personality. There are many different ways to market a book. Traditional publishers have come up with certain ways to publish that are general and work for many types of books. There are more creative types of marketing that the author can work on independently. By self-publishing, the author can choose the marketing activities that best fit the needs of their book.

Disadvantages of Self-Publishing

Author Does It All

  The author will need to act like a contractor, walking the book through all the necessary steps. The publisher takes care of the publishing, cover design, editing, marketing, and more. If the author chooses to self-publish, they will need to take care of all of these different components on their own, or find people they can hire to do specific tasks for them.

Up Front Costs

  The author will have to pay for copies of the book to be printed. While the traditional publishing companies pay for the books to be printed, a self-publishing author has to pay for this out of their own pocket. Having books printed can be expensive. (The typical cost for printing a book is around five dollars ($5.00) per copy. Often, there are options to order them in bulk to save money, but this costs the author more money upfront.

Marketing & Distribution

  Distribution and marketing can be a challenge. When a book is published by the author, the author does not have the resources that a traditional publisher does. A traditional publisher has tools to both distribute and market the book effectively.

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