Hello my fellow Bookworms and Page Turners,
This is the question that has been buzzing aroudnd my head for a while now. I admit I have not yet finished a peice that is worthy of such a question, but with my mind being what it is, I tend to map things out thoroughly before I follow through with them.
Now by no means am I an expert on this topic, but I plan to put the findings of my own research here, and should this help you, you are welcome to it. If you disagree this is not a problem, and I would like to invite you into a discussion about the topic via the comment section, as I do wish to get myself published before too long.
Now as I see it, Self-publishing vs. Traditional publishing is one of the great debates of the literary world. Those Authors who Self-publishing sing the praises of creative control and higher royalties, while those whom go the traditionally published route say theirs is the only path to mainstream success. But which one is correct? Well it appears to me that its somewhere in the middle.
What is Self-publishing?
When you self-publish, you are thrust into the responsibility of undertaking all responsibilities surrounding the publishing process. This means you have the final say on any edits, illustrations and the formatting of your peice, this if you experienced can be a godsend but for the inexperienced can be the kiss of death. However, as you have full creative control of your work, you can outsource to whom ever you wish in order to get the job done.
While from a creative standpoint this is amazing, it does mean that any additional services will have to be arranged and paid for out of your own pocket, which could amount to a considerable cost especially if you are just starting out as an author and have not quite worked out a balance of what exatly is needed and what needs to be prioritized.
You will also be responsible for arranging your own marketing which means writing out to individuals and stores yourself, which as an introvert may be excrusiatingly difficult and uncomfortable, but as I said before you could always outsource the job to a marketer of your choosing at further cost.
Despite all of this additional work/cost the main upside to self publishing is that you maintain all of the rights to your own story, and you will recieve 100% of the profits from any sale (minus any bills from the additional services you have employed).
What is traditional publishing?
Traditional publishing is usually done by working in conjunction with an already established third party publisher, in order to get your book on the shelves. The publisher will manage the editing, design work, and marketing for your book. They’ll then release it through one of their imprints and pay you, the author, a percentage of royalties.
Essentially you are the surrogate for the book, you nurture and create it but then you hand it off to someone else to further sculpt and raise it into a potential bestseller. You no longer have complete ownership, but everything will be taken care of!
If you want to learn a little more about traditional publishing, check out these posts that i found which are written by far more qualified indiciduals than myself:
- How to Get a Book Published in 2021
- How to Write a Query Letter to Attract Agents
- The 20 Largest Book Publishers in the World
Self-publishing vs. traditional publishing
So after a bit of research we can now see from a top down perspective what the major differences are between Self Publishing and Traditional Publishing. Now we can drill down a little more into the main issues that concern myself as a fledgling writer.
1. Costs & Gains
I know, I know, its somewhat crass to start with this. But, its a big deciding factor for many individuals as well, money doesnt exaclt grow on tree’s especially in this current lockdown world (Circa 2020 -2021).
Having looked it is rather pricey to self publish a book if you are going to do it properly, and not try to do everything yourself. By my calcualtions once you have factored in a professional artist, an editor, a marketor, and the aquistions of actual physical copies of a book not to mention currier and or travel costs it works out at aound £1,500 to £2,000 to launch your own book.
The silver lining to this is should you choose your assistants wiseley, and make the right end decisions to entice readers to pick up your book, with your increased royalty rate you can potentially recoup those losses surprisingly quickly.
For example if you sell your book for £10.00, at a 70% Royalty rate, you will recoup your £2000 by only selling 286 units. At a 50% Royalty rate you would be looking at 400 units.
On the flip side, traditional publishing, is far more wallet friendly from the outset. The third party publisher sorts out all of the costs, so you dont have too. However when it comes to sell your book at market, you will only be recieving around a 5-15% Royalty, which means you would need to sell around 2858 Units to make £2000 (@ 7% Royalty) so that is nearly 10x the amount of units then if you self publish.
2. Publishing Timeline & Deadlines
This is another section where the differences between Self Publishing and Traditional Publishing are fundamentally different. As you are the one in full creative control with self publishing you can publish whenever you want. This could take anywhere from weekss to years, It all depends on when you feel your project is ready.
Where as Traditional Publishing couldnt be more different. You are constalty dancing to another persons tune, and there is usually a sea of contracts, various paperwork and red tape to make sure that you are in perfect timing to what they want. Even if you are a heavy hitting author after you have handed in your manuscript it can still take years for it to be processed through their system, before they actually publish it. This delay can be due to re-write requests, numerous in house edits, or simply because they want to space out releases of their heavy hitters so that they are not in direct competition at their debut allowing a larger market saturation rate.
I have even heard a few horror stories where a publisher has postponed a book indefinitley and refuses to release it ( a terrifying thought). Im not sure I would cope very well if that happned to me
My Final thoughts
Seems like I better get saving those pennies. To me Self Publishing seems the more appropriate route for myself, although I do feel it may be a case of the blind leading the blind somewhat but im a quick learner so fingers crossed I wont make too much of a hash of it.
That being said if you have always dreamed of being published by a big time company like Penguin Books, go for it! I just dont feel like that route is for me, not right now anyway!
I hope my bit of research has helped you out, or atleast kept you entertained for ten minutes. Please feel free to spark up a discussion in the comments section, I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time, read more books!