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Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing

You’ve spent the last 6 months polishing up the best thing you’ve ever written. It’s been edited more times than you can count. Everyone who has read your book has loved it. Now you’re wanting to get it published. For most writers, this means deciding to self-publish or to pursue traditional publishing.

In the self-publishing vs traditional publishing debate, each method has its own strengths and weaknesses that must be considered. Let’s take a look at some specific topics to compare both publishing options so you can decide how to proceed with your manuscript.

#1. Control Over Your Manuscript

In self-publishing, you have the final say over everything. This means the final book will look and read in the exact way you want to present it. In traditional publishing, most authors can offer advice on the final look and wording of their manuscript, but typically do not have full control over the final outcome that gets published.

#2. Control Over Your Design

Self-publishing gives you the option to create your own covers if you wish. You can decide to include an ISBN or not depending on how much distribution you want for your book. You write the content for the flaps and the back cover. If you include an author photo, you’ll be having someone take that for you as well. In traditional publishing, you might be able to write some of the content, but other aspects may only have an advisory role.

#3. Marketing

For self-published works, the writer will be marketing their book on their own or they’ll be hiring an agency to do the marketing on their behalf. Any costs in this area will typically come out of the writer’s pocket. In traditional publishing, your publisher and your agent will work together to help market your book, schedule appearances and interviews, and it’s all to help increase the sales of your book. You’re basically along for the ride at that point.

#4. Length of Time To Market

In self-publishing, there are some options that can allow you to take a printed work to market in 72 hours or less if you’re using an e-format. Even if you publish a printed work, it may only take a month or two to get the book listed online or available for sale through retail stores. In traditional publishing, the entire process could take 1-2 years depending on how many books you’ve written and how many books are waiting to be printed by the publisher.

#5. Payment

In self-publishing, you will be paid royalties from retail or online sales based on your distribution agreements. There may be minimum payment thresholds that need to be met before a platform will cut you a check. Self-publication also gives writers the option to sell books on their own, pocketing the profits from the sale immediately. Traditional publishing typically offers writers an advance check on the expected royalties of the book. No more payments will then be issued until the advance has been paid back in full by the royalties earned.

#6. Cost

In self-publishing, the writer pays for everything. From printing costs to design costs to editing costs, you’ve either got to do all the work yourself or you’ve got to hire someone to do it for you. This means a writer can end up investing several thousands dollars into the publishing of their book before they ever make their first sale.

In traditional publishing, the primary cost to the writer is time. It takes time to send out query letters to literary agents and publishers. It takes time for the publisher to line edit and copyedit a manuscript. It takes time to make the recommended changes in the book and to have those changes edited. The actual costs, however, may be the postage spent in correspondence and the cost to print hard copies of the manuscript as needed for initial contacts.

#7. Retail Support

In self-publishing, there is no guarantee of any retail listing. Some self-publishing imprints may offer distribution to specific bookstores. Amazon allows for listings to be created by authors pretty easily. In traditional publishing, retail support happens almost automatically thanks to the distribution channels that are in place.

In the self-publishing vs. traditional publishing debate, either method may be the right choice for an individual writers. All of the pros and cons must be evaluated to determine what the best course of action will be. Use the key topics in this guide to start making the decision about your manuscript and eventually you’ll know what you need to do.

Melissa G Wilson

Melissa has been a leader in the book writing, publishing and marketing arena for the past two decades. To date, she has helped more than 100 thought leaders write, publish and market their books. Her clients include executives such as Dan Weinfurter a seven-time Inc 500 winner and Orlando Ashford, President of Holland Cruise Lines.

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