Self-Publishing Versus Traditional Publishing: How to Choose What's Best For You
Updated: Oct 13, 2021
Starting From Scratch
When I first started my journey of writing and publishing a children's book I didn't know where to start. After hours of reading and researching I found there were a few ways to go about it. The main two were traditional publishing and self-publishing.
I couldn't decided which road of publishing I wanted to head down so I created a pros and cons list. Ultimately, at the end of the day, I chose self-publishing and managed to become a #1 Best Seller on Amazon with my children's book Princess Gabriella and the Never-Ending Kiss.
So why was self-publishing the best option for me versus traditional? Let's dive into it.
How To Choose
When most people think about getting published they think of the more traditional route in which the author gets a deal with a publishing house who then goes on to create and sell their book. This is different from self-publishing as authors have complete control from start to finish of the book. So what are the pros and cons of the two types of publishing?
Traditional Publishing Pros and Cons List
Traditional Publishing can lead to more exposure as most publishing houses have a large following. A large following can include social status and also selling status in stores and online sales. These can lead to large sales for the author and future sales for upcoming series.
Experts help you through each step of the process. Other than writing the book, which in some cases there are even professional ghost writers, the experts at the publishing house will walk you step by step through the process and/or do the work themselves which cuts down on research time for you.
Even though they might have a great marketing team to sell hundreds or maybe thousands of books, if you are lucky, the publishing house keeps a large portion of the royalties. This leads to having to sell more books to have a decent income depending on the style of book. Nowadays, it seems newly released hard covered novels can range between $18 to $30 to which 90% goes straight to the publishing house's pocket. That doesn't leave much left over for you.
Editors, formatters, illustrators, marketers, etc. ensure your book is top notch with little to no errors. Publishing houses have reputations to uphold which includes selling high quality books for a range of audiences. This includes everything from the book cover design to making sure every last punctuation is correct. The better quality the book the better the sales.
You might not have a final say on every aspect of your novel. Most often times when publishing houses decide to move forward with a story the author looses creative freedom which ultimately leads to a finished product the author isn't 100% proud of. Some publishing houses have been doing this for decades and know what sells. It's important when signing a contract to understand how much say you as an author get in the final product as your name will be on it for a life time.
It can take years before a publishing house accepts your work, that is if you get one at all. You might have a best selling book, but you would never know unless a publishing house accepts it. There are some best selling authors who took years before someone finally gave them a chance. Ultimately it can work out in the long run it might just take longer than expected.
Writing query letters to literary agencies can be a waste of time. Before a publishing house takes on your book you first have to convince a literary agent to represent your work. With this comes a down side. Each literary agent wants a personal letter written just for them with each letter needing to meet certain requirements. This can take weeks and often times they don't get back to you or, if they do, it's several months later. In the long run, literary agents will do what's ultimately best for you and your work so finding a good one is necessary.
Even though the publishing house has decided to take on your story, doesn't mean they are going to pay for it. Usually authors are paying thousands out of pocket just to get started. This means everything from the marketing down to the formatting of the book. You could spend tens of thousands of dollars just to have your book not sell, because someone on the marketing team didn't do their job correctly.
Self-Publishing Pros and Cons List
You, as authors, are in control from start to finish of the story. This means every single step including writing the entire story to selling your first book. In this case you have complete creative freedom.
Errors, bad illustrations, incorrect formatting are more likely to occur when you're the only one working on the project. Most people don't know where to start and due to money restricts or lack of knowledge either hire someone or do the work themselves. This tends to lean more towards the unprofessional side when it comes to quality. Readers take note of the smallest mistakes and sales can plummet along with receiving poor reviews.
Less likely to sell books as people don't know where to begin when it comes to marketing or lack of following. Most first time authors don't have a following unless it's from something else they have worked on in the past. This means less exposure to a buying audience and less likely stores will sell your book.
You keep a large portion of your royalties depending on which site you are selling your books. If you sell on Amazon, especially eBooks, authors can keep 70% of royalties. That's a steal compared to traditional!
You don't have to wait on others to get things done. With more and more people leaning towards reading eBooks you can write, upload, and sell a book in less than 30 days. You don't have to wait on the middle man to get things done for you when you are doing everything yourself!
Authors still have to pay for everything related to the book, but overall is cheaper since they aren't paying the big bucks for other people to do the job. Only downfall could lead to a lower quality book including wrong processes to errors when publishing.
It takes a lot of time to research how to do things and figure it out by yourself. Processes could take 3 to 5 times as long as you learn each process step by step. This can be stressful especially if you are looking at a specific completion date.
Even though self-publishing as been around for years most people don't consider it as a form of publishing. With anyone able to upload their book to Amazon some say this is not a true form of publication even if your novel becomes a number one best seller.
Reading through the pros and cons list I decided self-publishing was going to be the best option.
If you have read my other posts, then you know my friends and I gave ourselves one year to complete a book. Knowing this and wanting to have total creative freedom, self-publishing was my best option and I'm so glad I did!
Without it, I wouldn't have started the blog which I enjoy greatly!
I also love learning while beginning new projects and this was one I could do start to finish. In the end, I got everything I asked for while staying in budget and was able to share it with friends and family.
So when you get ready to start your book, think of the pros and cons list. See how much time you will have to work on certain parts because the writing is the easy part! If money is a worry then look into how you can save and budget to make your book become a reality.
If one publishing method works better for you then great, because in the end you get to create something amazing and share it with others!