Don’t Debate Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing

There are 4 reasons why self-publishing versus traditional publishing doesn’t matter

Don’t Debate Traditional Publishing vs. Self-PublishingAuthors often wonder if they should bypass finding a traditional publisher and just self-publish their books. It’s a weighty question with a plethora of answers. Each option possesses a list of pros and cons, warranting careful consideration, but today I’ll share four reasons why it doesn’t really matter.

Readership: Either way others can read our work. Although some write for personal gratification, almost all writers have a deep desire for other people to read their work. Even those who won’t admit it, generally have an inner yearning to share their words. Both self-publishing and traditional publishing can accomplish this.

Marketing: Either way we must market our books. Except for A-list authors – those all but guaranteed to sell a million copies – all other authors need to promote their own work. True, traditional publishers will do some marketing, but their budget will be limited. Unless our book becomes a run-away sensation (unlikely), its success will hinge on our willingness to promote it – regardless of the publishing method.

Earn Money: Either way we can make money. It’s possible to make money with either publishing model. Though the amount of money varies with the situation, type of book, and market size, as well as our personal preferences and personality, either form of publishing allows the potential to earn income.

Tangible Results: Either way we can have a printed copy of our book. There’s something significant about holding a printed copy of our book. It’s tangible proof our work is viable – and is something we can autograph. Both forms of publishing can result in a printed version of our work (as well as an e-version and usually both).

In future posts, I’ll address the pros and cons of both options, but in the big picture, it doesn’t matter.

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Can You Self-Publish Your Book For Free?

If we publish our book with a traditional publisher, there are no out-of-pocket expenses. The publisher even pays us an advance. Although it might not be much, at least we receive some money at the beginning of the publishing process.

This is not the case when we self-publish. When we act as our own publisher, there is no advance and there are expenses, which can add up quickly. We don’t earn any money until we can sell copies of our book. And that can take a while.

Is there a middle ground, a way to self-publish without incurring a bunch of upfront costs? The short answer is, “Yes!” However, the wise response is, “No!”

Self-publishing without spending any money would require a huge investment of time, and the results would not be good. Regardless of how talented we are and how diverse our skillset, one person cannot cover everything required to produce a quality book. The finished product would look like an amateur did it. And it’s hard to sell a book that fails to meet the expectations of today’s buyers.

Here are a few of the expenses we’ll encounter when we self-publish:

Cover: People do judge a book by its cover. A professional impression is critical because there is only a split second to catch someone’s attention. Don’t try this yourself.

Editing: Few writers can edit their own work and do it well. And your friend who majored in English is seldom the answer – nor is your mom, high school writing teacher, or second cousin who reads a lot.

Interior Layout: Have you ever opened a book and sensed something was wrong? You’re not sure what it is, but you know the book is different – and in an odd way. This is because of a poor interior design, and those books are hard to read.

Headshot: Taking a quality self-portrait is improbable, and selfies are out of the question for a book cover or publicity shot. Just because you own a fancy, high-resolution camera doesn’t make you a photographer.

ISDN: For any book to sell, it requires an ISBN. If you plan to only peddle books from the trunk of your car, you can skip this expense. Otherwise you need to purchase an ISBN.

There are additional items, but these are the more critical ones. Though you might be the exception who has the experience and ability to do one of these tasks with excellence, no one can master them all – especially if you want your book to sell.

Six Downsides of Self-Publishing

In my post “Five Reasons a Writer Should Self-Publish,” I listed several advantages of self-publishing. Although compelling, there are also downsides. Consider these six items:

1) Quality is Often Lacking: Traditional publishers put their books through several rounds of editing, to produce the best possible product. The temptation of self-publishing is to skip these steps. Even if a professional editor is hired, the chance of her or him catching everything a traditional publisher would in their multiple rounds of review is slim. But too often, authors self-edit or tap a friend who, although well-intended, lacks the needed experience. From a production standpoint, there’s no reason for substandard output anymore. But it’s too easy and too tempting to cut corners.

2) Credibility May be Illusive: Although self-publishing no longer carries the stigma it once did, some people still consider it a second rate option.

3) Self-Promotion is Required: Self-published authors are responsible for their own marketing, promotion, and sales.

4) The Author Must Become an Entrepreneur: Self-publishing is a business, requiring an investment of time, effort, and money – all with no promise of a return. It’s risky.

5) Limited Distribution: Although some distribution options are available, they don’t match the reach of a traditional publisher.

6) No Advances: Self-publishers must shell out money to publish; advances are not part of the equation.

Five Reasons a Writer Should Self-Publish

Last week we looked at “5 Reasons Why a Writer Should Go With a Traditional Publisher.” Now we’ll consider the opposing view.

Here are five reasons to self-publish.

1) Greater Control: Self-published authors enjoy more say over their work and the finished product. This can be good, or it can work against them, but either way they have more control, usually a lot more.

2) Earn More Per Book: Self-published authors can earn more on each book sale, generally much more: five times as much or even greater.

3) Faster: Production of a self-published book is quicker, putting it in the hands of readers faster than a traditional publisher. This means writers can start selling books sooner and making money quicker.

4) Ideal for Small Niches: If your market is small or hard to reach, traditional publishers will likely not be interested. Self-publishing is ideal for small and undefined markets.

5) Great for Entrepreneurs: Self-publishing is effectively a small business. The entrepreneurially minded will enjoy this option, realizing the rewards of hard work.

What other reasons are there?

Five Downsides of Traditional Publishing

In my post “Why a Writer Should Go With a Traditional Publisher,” I gave five advantages of traditional publishing. Although these reasons are compelling, there are also some downsides. Consider these five items:

1) It Takes Longer: Unless a book is “fast-tracked” it will typically take eighteen months to two years from contract to bookshelf. Smaller presses may be more nimble, as larger publishers seek to streamline their processes, but the bottom line is, traditional publishing takes a long time.

2) Agents Are Often Required: Increasingly, publishers will only deal with agents. It makes their job easier, as agents become the first level of screening. Unfortunately, finding an agent is challenging; since agents are paid on commission they won’t take on a project they don’t think they can sell.

3) Rejection is Likely: For those publishers who will talk directly to writers, the odds of them accepting a submission are small, sometimes less than one in a hundred. Even with an agent, rejection is expected.

4) Authors Must Market Their Own Book: Traditional publishers will do a small amount of marketing for all their authors, but the bulk of their attention and dollars go to the A-list authors. If a book is to sell, the author is the best person to make it happen.

5) Be Patient With Royalties: The process of collecting, accounting for, and remitting royalties is confoundingly slow. Don’t rely on royalties to pay bills; treat them as a bonus – if they occur. Since initial book sales are applied against the advance, some authors never sell enough copies to earn any royalties – ever.

Five Reasons a Writer Should Go With a Traditional Publisher

In “Why Self-publishing Versus Traditional Publishing Doesn’t Matter” I pointed out that both options have the potential to satisfy the core needs of a writer seeking publication. Writers must carefully consider the pros and cons of each option before pursuing either one. The next four posts will consider some of these issues.

To start the discussion, here are five reasons why a writer should go with a traditional publisher:

1) Wider Distribution: Traditional publishers have distribution avenues that are effectively not available to self-published books. Sure, there are work-around solutions, but they’re limited and require much time and effort. Traditional publishers handle the distribution; easy peasy.

2) An Advance: Traditional publishers provide an advance. Self-publishers don’t. While the advances are getting smaller, they still exist.

3) More Prestige: An author of a traditionally published book earns greater respect and garners more esteem.

4) Higher Quality: Traditional publishers generally produce a higher quality product. There are more eyes looking at it to catch errors.

5) They Do the Heavy Lifting: What about e-books, hard cover and paperback, press releases, cover designs, ISBN and bar codes, back cover material and author photos? A traditional publisher handles all these items. There’s nothing for the author to master or worry about; traditional publishers make it happen.

Given all this, why would anyone want to self-publish? Next week, we’ll consider why.

What would you add to this list?

The Key Consideration in Self-Publishing Versus Traditional Publishing

Yesterday I attended a webinar that discussed self-publishing versus traditional publishing. I hoped to pick up some new points to ponder, but the hour-long class didn’t offer any fresh ideas. It seems I covered the considerations of the debate quite well in my four posts on the subject:

However, with any good educational experience, the words said often prompt other ideas beyond the speaker’s teaching. Such was the case with this webinar.

Though this publishing deliberation looms as a decision every author needs to make for him or herself, on an author-by-author basis, it’s not that simple. It’s a consideration every author must make on a book-by-book basis.

Yes, depending on the book, some lend themselves to traditional publishing and others cry out for self-publishing. Critical considerations are the book’s topic, genre, and audience size, as well as an author’s goals for reach, distribution, and earnings. I have some books I hope to publish with a traditional publisher, while others I expect to go the self-publish route.

The question of self-publishing versus traditional publishing isn’t a once-and-done consideration, but a topic to revisit with each book.

Traditional Publishing is the New Vanity Publishing

I’m not sure who said it first, but over the past several months many have averred that “traditional publishing is the new vanity publishing.”

As writers struggle with the quandary over self-publishing or traditional publishing, many cling to traditional publishing as the preferred solution merely because they see it as validating their work. In their mind, finding a traditional publisher is an endorsement from the corporate world, affirming their book’s viability and ensuring it’s quality.

This might be a legitimate perspective, but it could also be a form of vanity, especially if self-publishing has the potential bring in more revenue for the author.

At one time vanity publishing meant paying someone to produce a book that no one was willing to publish because it was either poorly written or possessed  limited commercial value. Now the pendulum could be swinging to the opposite extreme, where vanity publishing is insisting someone produce your book merely to satisfy your ego or attain affirmation.

Whichever side of the traditional versus self-publishing dilemma you select, make sure you pick the right solution based on what’s best for you, your book, and your future, not to appease your ego or out of vanity – there’s no future in that.