Wilson Book Group: Traditional Publishing vs Self-Publishing: The Pros and Cons
So, you want to get a book published deal, but you’re not sure how to go about it. You’ve read every “Getting My Book Published” article on Google, and you’re still not sure which way to go. Like many, you may be at home, sitting on one or two drafts of your favorite work, wanting to get it out there, or you may be a budding author passing the offices of “The Big Five” Book Publishers in NYC waiting for the chance to pitch your idea.
The questions are endless — Do you want to get an agent, pitch your story, wait out the long publishing process and possibly become the next New York Times bestseller, or do you want to self-publish, risk the stigma, and see more immediate results? Both sides of the publishing industry can be hard to navigate. To help you decide which road you want to take, here are some of the pros and cons of traditional publishing and self-publishing.
Self-Publishing - Pros
1) You Run the Show: As a self-publisher, you are your own boss. You can control the price of your book, the cover, the design — you get higher royalty rates and you make every decision. As long as your book is selling, the royalties roll in and your paycheck comes in, consistently, like clockwork. With self-publishing, you get higher royalty rates and a monthly check.
2) It’s Pretty Instantaneous: With many self-publish platforms, as soon as you click “publish” your work is out there (though for some sellers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble it might take a few hours or days to list). You are in control of the editing process and you choose when your book will reach your audience.
3) Anyone Can Do It: Self-publishing, inevitably, is made for everyone! Though finding the right platform (if any) can be difficult, self-publishing is pretty simple once you get the hang of it! Plus, because of the potential for subpar work, being successful, and self-publishing quality work is pretty impressive! You can be immensely proud of the work you made happen all by yourself.
Self-Publishing - Cons
1) You’re on Your Own: Being your own boss is great, but it comes with drawbacks. To get your book off the ground, you’ll have to edit, format, and produce cover art by paying someone else (and amassing upfront costs) or putting in the work yourself. Self-publishing is also only a small fraction of the book market (1/10).
2) Less Professional Marketing = Fewer Sales: Though you can choose your pricing and receive higher royalty rates, without professional marketing backed by big firms, sales are inevitably lower and less widespread. Self-promotion is key!
3) Stigma: As unfortunate as it is, the stigma around self-publishing is something to think about. Some look down upon publishing that feels less “legitimate” even when you’ve put weeks and months into your work.
Traditional Publishing - Pros
1) You Have an Agent: Having an agent can be a huge weight off your shoulders. They are there not only to advocate for you and your book but also to more easily connect your book with publishers.
2) Professional Help: With traditional publishing, you have an entire team that wants to ensure your work is it’s very best. Whether it’s editing, cover art, formatting, marketing, or targeting audiences, a traditional publisher has both skill and experience. Though your work may change and grow drastically, you’ll have guidance from professionals who want you to succeed almost as much as you do.
3) Visibility: With an established publisher, even if it isn’t one of “The Big Five,” you have much to gain. Once your book is published you have greater visibility and reach to your audience and therefore, more opportunity to make it big.
Traditional Publishing - Cons
1) Rejection: Before you even secure a book deal, the possibility of rejection is high especially in such a competitive market. It can be very hard to break into the industry. Don’t be discouraged though, many publishers have a genre focus, or cater to certain audiences, you might just have to find the right one!
2) Lower Royalties: With traditional publishing, there is more acclaim, which often leads to lower royalty rates. This may mean you make more in traditional publishing because of the marketing and visibility, but much of what your book does “earn” you might never see.
3) Long & Complicated Processes: Assessing and signing a complicated contract is only the first step - after you’ve signed, you are often put at the end of the publishing line, and even once you start the process, the editing, re-writing, numerous drafts, cover designs, marketing, and final release, the entire wait could take years.
Ultimately, the choice of which kind of publishing you’d like to pursue is not easy and the decision is an important one. Either way, putting your art into the world welcomes praise, ridicule, critique, and hopefully, many, many sales.
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