Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing – Everything You Need to Know

You’ve finally done it. Maybe it’s a childhood dream that has finally come true or just another milestone you get to check out from your long list of goals.

You had a story to tell, a message to communicate, or an opinion to voice – whatever the objective was, you have penned it down, and it’s ready for the world to devour.

Writing a book is the most challenging yet rewarding thing one can do, and publishing it for the world to read, criticize, and adore is possibly one of the bravest things of all.

So, if you are brave enough to do this, you might as well do it right, right?

How do you publish the book?

Should you approach a publisher and follow the traditional ways? Or should you become an indie author and self-publish?

Which is a better option, traditional publishing or self-publishing?

Let’s find out.

Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing: The Difference

Self vs. traditional publishing is undoubtedly one of the great debates of the literary world.

Authors who choose self-publishing can’t stop praising creative control and higher royalties. On the other hand, those who go for traditional publishing claim it to be a one-way road to mainstream success.

So, with people singing the praises of both approaches, the question remains: is it better to get a publisher or self-publish?

To find that out, we need to understand the difference first.

What is Self-Publishing?

Self-publishing is when the author publishes their creative work without employing a publishing house.

In this approach, an author writes a book and completes the entire publishing process themselves, including editing, designing, and formatting the book without the aid of a traditional publishing company.

Authors who self-publish their books claim this approach to be more liberating as it gives you complete control over the creativity wheel.

Self-publishing will always be defined differently. There are three most models to self-publishing that makes it a varied approach:  

Self-Publishing Independently

An author follows independent self-publishing when he/she singlehandedly handles the entire publication process, from writing, editing, and formatting to printing, distribution, and marketing.

If the author lacks the necessary skills to, for instance, design the book or market it strategically, they can always hire professionals to complete the process for them.

Self-Publishing with a Company

There are self-publishing companies that allow authors to self-publish a book with their help and guidance. In this case, the company does not bear the publishing expenses; instead, the author does.

Some self-publishing companies charge the author to handle the publishing process for them.

Some self-publishing companies are only limited to getting the book printed. In contrast, others follow the process similar to traditional publishing houses providing complete publishing and marketing services.

The key to choosing the best self-publishing company is doing your research.

We suggest finding a self-publishing company that can offer all or major aspects of your publishing and marketing services. This adds cohesion to your final product and maintains a solid consistency throughout the book.

Print-on-Demand Self-Publishing

Authors who require small quantities of printed books go for print-on-demand (POD) self-publishing.

POD publishers offer printing and design services only and do not go through any screening process to accept or reject drafts before printing.

Larger organizations commonly use POD to conduct test marketing or while reprinting out of print books.

What is Traditional Publishing?

Compared to self-publishing, traditional publishing is the more formal approach to getting an author’s work out in the world.

When an author chooses to get their book published by an established publishing house, the process is called traditional publishing.

Traditional publishing comes with a team of professional people who take over book design, sales, marketing, and all other publishing processes.

As appealing as it may sound, traditional publishing is a time-consumingly challenging process.

Most traditional publishing houses do not accept manuscripts quickly and only work with literary agents.

But before you get the process started, you will need to send a query letter submitting your manuscript. The manuscript will be scrutinized, and the publishing house will decide whether they want to pursue this book or not.

After and if your manuscript is approved, it will take more time to do a final edit, strategize how to market and sell your novel, and finally get it to shelves.

The difference?

An author who pays for the editing, formatting, or cover design is self-publishing their work. On the other hand, the book is traditionally published when the publisher pays the publishing expenses.

However, the critical difference lies in royalties.

If the author owns the rights and royalties, then the book is self-published. However, if the publishing company owns the rights and royalties, then the book is traditionally published.

What Are the Pros & Cons Involved?

Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing Advantage and Disadvantages

·       Money, Money, & Money

There’s no denying that self-publishing is more expensive than traditional publishing.

You have to finance the entire project yourself. Of course, it will cost you more.

According to market data, the average total cost of self-publishing a book is around $2,000, including editing, design, and marketing services. However, the silver lining comes in the shape of royalty rates.

If you have a strong marketing plan, your royalty rate can range between 50-70%, and you can thus, quickly earn back all that you invested and more.

Traditional publishing, conversely, looks cost-friendly and a better option from the outside.

But the saying, ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch,’ is the perfect fit in this situation.

These cost-friendly rates later eat up massive chunks of your profits as the royalty rates in this approach are as low as  5-15%.

The bottom line: You may have to spend money to make money with self-publishing, but in traditional publishing, you’ll need to sell 6x as many books to match your potential self-publishing royalties.

·       Creative Control & Freedom

If having creative control is important to you, go with self-publishing. At its essence, self-publishing is all about the freedom to write and publish your book the way you want.

Self-publishing allows you to define your costs, determine your timeline, earn a high percentage of royalties, and follow your own marketing strategy.

On the other hand, traditional publishing takes a part of that control away from you. If you don’t like making hard decisions and want someone else to lead the project, traditional publishing is your best route.

The bottom line: If you self-publish, you have boundless creative control, and if you traditionally publish, you lose that control.

·       Publishing Timeline

Traditional publishing is a time-consuming process that may take years to complete. Just having your book acquired by a publisher is a struggle on its own, which can take years. Then add in the time (a couple of years) to make the edits, approve the work, and finally publish it for your readers.

Moreover, traditional publishing may delay your book due to extensive in-house editing, wanting to put a gap between big releases, and can even postpone a book indefinitely and refuse ever to release it.

On the other hand, self-publishing allows an author to publish a book whenever they want – today, tomorrow, or 20 years later. All you have to do is find a self-publishing platform and upload your work.

The bottom line: If you want to publish on your own time, self-publish. If you don’t mind it taking years and are ready to accept that your book may never get published, traditionally publish.

Final Thoughts

The takeaway is that self-publishing allows authors to easily publish their work and communicate their message with the world.

Whether you want to pen a nonfiction book or a fictional one, create a children’s picture book, or want to write down a self-help book, the options for publishing on your own are virtually limitless.

That said, if publishing traditionally has been your lifelong dream, don’t let us stop you! Traditional publishing comes with its perks, and if you are willing to accept the downsides that come along, by all means, go for it.

However, if you are confused between the two, there’s always another option – the hybrid approach.

The literary industry has changed, and it’s not an either/or choice anymore.

Authors who choose the hybrid model pay for publishing and receive higher royalties than in traditional publishing but significantly less if they are self-publishing.

Hybrid publishing is the middle ground between traditional and self-publishing, and many authors prefer taking this route nowadays.

Are you ready to publish your book? At BookWritingPros, we offer editorial, writing, publishing, and consulting services to new and current authors who want the very best results. Click here to learn more.

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