Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing

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Approximately 60% of English-language books are produced through the “Big Five” publishing houses. This means that ALMOST HALF of English-language books are being published by indie houses or self-publishing!

Many authors ask me about which direction I think they should go, and I tell them: “The answer lies in your goals.”

If you want to be published sooner, pick your editor, and retain full rights to your book, online publishing may be the right answer.

If you are looking for a potential advance on your royalties, a print run, having the process taken care of for you, and don’t mind it taking longer (6 months to 2 years) for it to be published and marketed, then traditional publishing is great.

It really depends on your goals. Personally, I wanted my book out right away so I could use it as a marketing tool for my business.

I was fine with the upfront cost and kept full rights, including publishing and copyrights. And one of the cool things about self-publishing is that I could have the book up for sale immediately and start to get feedback and reviews from real readers right away, and I can always do a print run later! This was the best option FOR ME.

Everyone is different. Your book, your goals, your interests, your needs. This is a very small snapshot of the differences in types of publishing and just a way to get you started thinking about the differences.

The Publishing Process

To decide, you have to look at how the process works.

An upfront cost may not be ideal or the right way to go for you. But maybe being able to pick your editor and retain creative control is really important to you.

In traditional publishing, you will either look for a literary agent who will shop your book to publishers for you or you’ll begin researching publishers and submitting your book to each one individually. You will need to go through their submission process and if your book is picked, an editor will be assigned to you and the publisher handles things like paying for editing, paying for the cover and formatting, and then putting together some promotions.

In self-publishing, you are responsible for finding and paying an editor, cover designer, and formatter, as well as figuring out how to market and promote your book.

There are resources to help you along the way in both processes, but it comes down to how and why you want to write and publish a book.

Fun Facts about publishing:

  1. Did you know that the book publishing industry today is worth $103 billion globally?
  2. There are 814,000 people employed in the global book publishing industry and there are 69,709 independent publishers.
  3. About 200,000 books are published each year in the United States alone.
  4. Fun fact on a self-published author: Mark Dawson, one of the Kindles’ most successful self-publishers, makes $450,000 annually!
  5. Traditional publishers make around 75% of its profit from retail sales. Unfortunately, the largest book retailers in the U.S., Borders and Barnes & Noble, have closed hundreds of stores in recent years. This is another reason they are being even more selective in what they publish.
  6. E-book sales grew from $64 million to $3 billion from 2008–2012 while hardcover sales declined from $5.2 billion to $5 billion.
  7. Did you know that More than half of Amazon’s book sales are from books you won’t find in a bookstore? Online publishing WIN!
  8. In recent years, there has been a switch and many experienced, published professional authors are switching to independent publishing. They want to control their own intellectual property, keep the rights and are making MORE money, so more authors are leaving their publishers to switch to indie publishing!
  9. In 2008, for the first time ever, more books were self-published than were traditionally published.

What are your goals with your book? Do you prefer one way of publishing over the other? Why or why not?

Check out my book Concept to Conclusion: How to Write a Book and learn everything you need to know to conceive of, outline, write, publish, and market a book!

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Entrepreneur, writer, editor, book coach, cat lover, weirdo, optimist. Author of “Write. Get Paid. Repeat.” & “Concept to Conclusion.”

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