I know that the question titled as this post was one I struggled with once I was in the finishing stages of completing my final manuscript. Maybe you're in the same boat right now, or that question will need an answer a few months or a year away. I'm here to help you figure out what will fit your needs or wants best.
Traditional publishing, self-publishing, or vanity publishing? You've probably heard of or met some die-hard self-publishers or always hear the tooting of traditional. With all the noise, you can't see how you can make a proper decision. And this decision is super important! Why? Because both will affect your life in completely different ways. Today we're going to look at the advantages and disadvantages of traditional and self-publishing. I'll include a word on vanity publishing at the end. This is the first part in a two part series. The second part will be up on Thursday.
Advantages of Traditional Publishing
1. Having a big name to back you up, readers will more likely invest their money in buying your book. Why? Because they know this publisher was behind their latest book love, so they're willing to bet yours will be next.
2. You don't have to pour out a huge sum of money to see your dream come true. Traditional publishers will deal with all upfront costs. You don't see any of those. Also, many will offer advances. Even if your book doesn't sell the desired amount of copies, you get to keep the money.
3. Traditional publishing excels at getting print books in stores and selling to booksellers. You don't have to do all the necessary calling. They have a sales rep team to do that for you.
4. You've got a professional team to work with, already provided. Formatters, editors, cover artists (you get the idea!)
5. It is easier to get literary acclaim and win literary prizes. Self-publishers are not even allowed to enter their books for the chance to win. It's rare.
Disadvantages of Traditional Publishing
1. I personally think the worst disadvantage is losing total creative control (this story I'll tell in the pros of self-publishing). Once the deal is signed, your book belongs to the traditional publisher.
2. It takes a really long time to break into the market. It might take one to two years to get an agent. Another one or two to find the right publishing house to pick you up. Another one or two to go through all the revisions, proofreading, formatting (all the nitty gritty stuff). Then it will take another six months to a year to get your books on the bookstore shelves.
3. Watch out when it comes to signing the contract. Check for all the clauses (like do not compete clauses) that could take away rights you should have to yourself (like World English rights in all formats) and read the fine print.
4. Low royalty rates are the norm with traditional publishing. Don't dream of making a fine enough penny to quit your job and build mansions in the sky.
5. Although traditional publishers will market to booksellers, they don't market directly to consumers, which can be a problem since selling to consumers rather than booksellers is the new successful model of today's world. You still have to do a lot of marketing on your part.
Advantages of Self-Publishing (or Indie Publishing)
1. I think the best quality of indie publishing is that you have total creative control. With my first novel, I decided what the cover was going to look like. I decided how the book was going to be portrayed in the book trailer. The story was told the way I wanted to tell it. You get to make all executive decisions. Now, how's that for empowerment!
2. If you enjoy learning, then the process of completing a book on one's own is a great educational experience. I learned how to format the manuscript although I still had a good friend of mine who has excellent knowledge of Word make sure everything was perfect. I discovered a love for videography while filming my book trailer. Having an editor take a look at the first two chapters and then pushing myself to view my book as objectively as I could, that was an experience. Finally, I learned a thing or two about marketing over the last year so I could do it well myself.
3. It takes a whole lot less time to put it out there for consumers to buy. The timing all depends on you. You can do it as slow or as fast as you want.
4. You get higher royalties around 70% on Amazon, unlike the 7-25% bracket you receive from traditional publishing. It doesn't mean you're going to get more money this way. It depends on how many books you sell, which depends a lot on how well you market.
5. You retain all the rights and your book can go global.
6. Indie publishing is perfect for a niche market. Major publishers cater to the main genres of fiction and nonfiction, but there are a lot of niches that certain consumers identify with that the main amount of consumers may not. So if you've got some nerdy knowledge on a certain computer game or interest in paint balling, this is great for you.
7. You can use indie publishing to snatch up bigger publishing houses. There's been many a traditionally published author that first started out as an indie author before traditional publishing companies wanted to take on their books (some authors even do both). That's kind of the idea I had when I self-published my novel. I would work hard to get it noticed and see if I could get picked up anywhere. I've already had one publisher approach me. We're still in discussions, but at least it's a start. Even if this doesn't pan out, there may be other opportunities in the future.
Disadvantages of Self-Publishing
1. You have to do everything yourself or take the time to find professionals to help you.
2. If you want to do this well, there are large upfront costs. There's a wide range in terms of how cheap or expensive you can go. As I mentioned before I had my first two chapters edited by an editor. Then I took the constructive criticism I received and applied it to the rest of the book (however for my next novel I would like to have the whole thing edited). I paid a friend who's a photographer and graphic designer to do the cover. For every shipment of books I need for book signings or books to put into stores, I pay it all upfront.
3. You don't get any recognition because you're a nobody in the literary world. It takes a lot of work to start to get noticed and be taken seriously. There's no immediate prestige.
4. It's harder to get your books into bookstores. Doesn't mean it's impossible, just takes more work. For all the stores I've had my books in, I've had to call or drop in and bring my book to show its quality and marketability myself. I've had to deal with all the consignments. It's very hands on.
5. Most literary prizes don't accept self-published books which is a bummer since once you have a literary prize attached to a book, that's a marketing tool in itself.
Now I said I would say a word on vanity publishing. Vanity publishing is paying for a publisher to take your book to fine tune it, to apply all the necessary services to make a book a sellable book, and then to distribute it through various channels. This option is definitely a post on its own. Perhaps in the future you'll see one on vanity publishing. That was an option I was looking at, as well.
Did I miss any disadvantages or advantages pertaining to traditional publishing and self-publishing? If so, please share in the comments below. I hope this has helped shed some light on your options. If you have already been published by either means, what did you choose and why? Look for the second part of this series on Thursday. We'll be talking about when to use either option.