After thousands of rough drafts and revisions, you’re finally ready to publish your book. Great! If you haven’t published a book yet, however, you may be confused with all these options for publication looming over your head.
There are two major forms of publishing that you have to consider. There are many smaller, more specific categories, but the two major divisions are traditional publishing and self-publishing. One may not necessarily be “better” than the other, but each form certainly has its own set of pros and cons to consider.
Take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of each option and figure out what works best for both your book and your budget!
This form of publishing is the one most widely heard about in media. You submit your book to an agent who sends it off to a large, well-established, publishing house and hopefully they’ll love your writing. When you hear tales of authors being rejected from multiple publishers time after time, they’re probably talking about traditional publishing houses.
If you’ve done any research into the publication process, you’ve probably heard of some of the biggest names in publishing. Penguin Random House, Scholastic, and HarperCollins are all well-known publication giants, just to name a few. With traditional publishing, your book reaches editors at these companies who decide whether or not your book can sell. If they think it’ll make big bucks at the book stores, they’ll offer you a deal. If not, they’ll likely reject you.
With so much rejection, why do people work with traditional publishers in the first place? It’s all about the money. When your piece is accepted by a traditional publisher, they’ll offer you a book deal. They bear the cost of marketing, editing, binding, shipping, etc. and in turn get a percentage of your profits. They’ll often offer you a set percentage of royalties in exchange for the rights to your book, and will likely offer an advance on those royalties.
With that in mind, here are the biggest pros and cons of working with a traditional publisher.
Pro #1: As stated previously, the upfront cost is handled mostly by them. This makes your out-of-pocket costs much smaller. The publisher takes the financial risk of producing your book in exchange for profits off of it.
Pro #2: Your book gets handled by top-notch editors, marketing professionals, and cover artists. Established publishing houses will have a set of professionals that produce your book, meaning you don’t have to pay out-of-pocket to have your book prepped for sales.
Pro #3: The advance. If a publisher decides to accept your book, they’ll offer you a book deal, which usually includes a royalty percentage and an advance on those royalties. The advance may be upwards of thousands of dollars, which is a nice chunk of money to have, especially if you’re concerned about your book selling.
Con #1: The publisher can request edits. Because the publisher is bearing the majority of the risk, they can request changes to your book before offering you a deal. They need a book that is going to sell, and if they think something about your book won’t make it marketable, they will request you make adjustments before handing over a book deal.
This can be frustrating for authors who have grown attached to their story and characters, especially if the publisher is requesting a major change. You can deny making changes, but they, in turn, can refuse to offer you a book deal.
Con #2: Getting accepted can take years, seeing your book in print can take even longer. You can think the world of your book, but publishers may not see it the same way. You can submit your book to numerous publishers, make countless edits, and hire a variety of editors and agents and still never get a book deal. That sort of rejection can be frustrating and difficult to deal with.
Even after you get accepted, it can be a while before your book hits the shelves. Your book will need certain edits made, copies will need to be produced, and the publisher will need to position the launch of your book against the other books it is handling. If you decide to go with a traditional publisher, expect to wait a while before you see your title in bookstores.
Con #3: Royalty rates may not be what you’d like. When you work with a traditional publisher, you by no means will get 100 percent of profits. As part of your book deal, the publisher will offer you a royalty rate, often times somewhere around 10 percent, which can be even lower if you’re a new author.
If you’re hoping to make more off of your book, this can feel like a roadblock, and you may think you could make more by using other publishing avenues.
Self-publishing is becoming an increasingly more attractive option as technology has developed through the years. There are now many different kinds of self-publishing services out there ranging from book manufacturers who simply print whatever you send them for the cost, to custom publishing firms who operate similarly to a traditional publisher. The biggest difference between the two is that with self-publishing, you’re financing your books production, and not the other way around.
Unlike traditional publishing, self-publishing doesn’t require waiting around for a publishing house to accept you, but you bear much more of the responsibility. That being said, there are still many pros to this option.
Pro #1: You have creative control and you aren’t forced to make revisions. Unlike working with a publisher, you make all the decisions about the content of your book. The cover art, formatting, everything is up to you. Nobody is requesting you cut down your chapters, delete a character, or change your message. You decide exactly what you want your readers to see. If you are extremely attached to your content and would hate to see any of it altered, this may be a very attractive option for you.
Pro #2: You make more from book sales. There may not be a ten thousand dollar advance, but if your book takes off and becomes incredibly popular, you don’t have to fork over the majority of your profits to a publishing house. You’ll walk away with a higher percentage of sales. If your book becomes a best seller, you’ll reap the benefits, not a big name publishing house.
Pro #3: Quicker turnaround. Because you’re making the publishing decisions, there isn’t any waiting around for your book to be accepted and there isn’t waiting years to see your book in print. When you think your book is ready for publication, it is time for you to publish! This issue can be especially important to non-fiction writers with books focused on current events, who want their books to be released while their subject matter is fresh in their audience’s mind.
Whether you choose to publish your book as an eBook or in-print book, your book can be on the shelves much quicker.
Con #1: The upfront cost is substantially larger. Unfortunately, because you’re making the decisions, you’re also paying the bills. The cost of hiring an editor, a book manufacturer, a cover artist, and a marketing specialist can add up quickly, and those costs are all on you. With a traditional publisher, these costs are taken care of by the publishing house. When self-publishing, you’ll have to hire all these professionals individually. If you don’t have money to invest, this can be nearly impossible.
Con #2: Marketing becomes more difficult. When working with a publishing house, they do all the marketing. When you self-publish, that marketing is all on you. You can pay a self-publishing firm to market your book, but that will continue to add to your upfront costs. As listed before, you can also hire a marketing expert. If you don’t have the money to do so, the task of promoting will fall on your shoulders.
However, if you have already established a following through a blog, a business, or previously published book, you may have people lined up waiting for your next piece. If you are a new author, however, you probably don’t have an existing audience, and could stand to lose more money than you make.
Which is Right for You?
There isn’t really a right answer to this question. The decision about whether to self-publish or work with a traditional publishing house is ultimately based on what you’re looking for.
If you’re a new author trying to find a home for your first book, a traditional publisher may be your best bet, especially if you lack experience in the industry. You won’t have to worry about finding and hiring individual professionals and won’t have to figure out marketing on your own. This is especially attractive if you don’t have stacks of cash waiting to be spent on all the services that go into the production of a book.
However, if you are somebody with an existing following, self-publishing might be a better option. You have an audience lined up, and you’ve likely got a career bustling in the background. When your book comes out, it will be easier to find consumers ready to snatch up your writings and spread the word.
As you go forth with the publication of your book, weigh the pros and cons of each option and see what works best for your timeline and budget. In the end, the choice is yours!