I’ve been noticing a huge trend amonst authors these days: an interest and desire to self publish. It’s a double edged sword and the decision to self publish shouldn’t be made without some serious considerations. I think it’s a very valid way of doing things and would encourage it, but only if you have the time and money to do it properly.
Both traditional publishing and self publishing have merits; they also both have pitfalls. We’ll start by enumerating some of those benefits and drawbacks here so you can see them side by side. The pros and cons of traditional publishing assume a good, valid publisher that can effectively work for the author not a back alley publisher that wants your kidneys to sell on the black market.
Traditional Publishing Pros:
- Should not cost the author money to edit, market, design, or print the book.
- Should provide a large range of marketing possibilities for your book to get them into the hands of readers effectively.
- Should be able to be trusted to provide high quality editorial feedback to make your book the best it possibly can be.
- Should be able to access larger booksellers (depending on the publishing company).
Traditional Publishing Cons
- The author makes drastically less money than they do when self publishing.
- The author loses (usually) some or all rights to the book for the contracted amount of time.
- The publisher has a fair amount of control in the editorial process which means you may have things you don’t want changed changed in order to meet their publication requirements.
- Sometimes you just plain won’t get picked up by anyone. Sad, but true.
Self Publishing Pros
- The author receives the full profits of producing their book.
- The author has complete control over the contents, design, and marketing strategies used for their book.
- The author does not need to wait for an agent or publisher to pick them up in order to publish their work.
Self Publishing Cons
- Self publishing can be costly unless you learn to do the required typesetting, cover design, etc. yourself.
- Self publishing authors frequently do not have access or understanding of some marketing strategies used to market books.
- Self publishing authors who do NOT pay for the aforementioned services predominantly have books that do not appear professional which can seriously hurt sales.
- Major bookstores will not typically pick up your book (you won’t see it in Barnes and Noble).
- Unless you wish to pay a fair amount up front for printing costs from a printer (like Createspace) you will not be able to produce physical copies of the book for local bookstores (you can do PoD for sales, however).
Now, I know it looks like the self publishing cons are heavy (and they are) that doesn’t mean you should give up on the idea if it’s something that’s really stuck in your head. However, going into it with eyes open is extremely important. The reality is if an author is dedicated to making their self published book a success they are going to need to invest money into it. Receiving professional editing is almost a must. I don’t say that because I am one; I say that because a professional editor gives your work the opportunity to be viewed in the most professional way possible.
With self publishing becoming a far more prevalent thing these days it’s extremely important to view the pros and cons before making a final decision. It’s not as simple as “the heck with Penguin books! Down with the man!” It has to be something you approach with an awareness that if you don’t invest appropriately in your work (whether financially or time to learn the skills so you can avoid spending the money) you will absolutely not see a return. Traditional publishing takes some of your freedoms and profit away in exchange for providing you the services that could easily cost you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars free of charge. They eat the costs of these services because they will be making a profit off of your work (theoretically).
Both sides of this coin are both valuable and important. However, it’s very much up to the author to make a choice about their work’s future. I can tell you this, though: you get what you pay for (or should, more on that in another blog). If you skimp and refuse to pay for necessary services (and don’t take the time to learn them properly yourself) you will wind up with your book making profits matching what you put into it: nothing.
- CanWrite! 2013: Day 3 Traditional vs. self-publishing panel (melaniemarttila.ca)
- Self-Publishing Facts and Figures (dianewriting.wordpress.com)
- Traditional Publishing? or Self Publishing (lawritersblog.com)
- Self-publishing vs. traditional publishing: The religious debate (teleread.com)
- Self-publishing a book: 25 things you need to know (reviews.cnet.com)
- Thoughts on Self-Publishing (mkircher.com)
- Self Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing: The Reader’s Perspective | Jack Woe (jblog.universal-nexus.com)