Traditional or Self-Publishing?
Ann, in previous lives, has been a nurse and a secondary school teacher in New Zealand and the UK. She has produced a number of resources for the education sector, including Anti-Bullying Guides for teachers, parents and children. Her fiction book ‘Batjack’, for 9 to 13 year olds, was shortlisted for the Tom Fitzgibbon Award in 2011, and ‘Suspicion’, a young adult novel, was released in 2017.
Ann is the Managing Director of the boutique publishing company, CreateBooks.
Traditional or Self-Publishing?
Letting go of your baby is the hardest part of writing a book. Authors now have a choice as to how they publish and get their books into the hands of readers. I have done both and, of course, you don’t have to choose between them either. Many authors are now hybrids, using both forms of publishing for different projects. This article aims to compare the two main publishing options so you know you are doing the best for the birth of your miracle.
Pros of traditional publishing
- Prestige, kudos and validation.
- Print distribution in bookstores is easier.
- An established professional team is provided: editors, cover designers, formatters, marketers, promoters.
- There are no upfront financial costs. (NEVER pay to have your book published – there would then be no incentive for the ‘publisher’ to sell your book.)
- Literary prizes and critical acclaim are more likely. Many literary prizes aren’t even open to self-published authors.
- The author is taken more seriously by stores, by some readers, and by the media.
- Potential to become a brand-name author. Well, you never know!
It is usually a slower process.
Cons of traditional publishing
- Loss of creative control of your precious baby (though some publishers involve the author in all decisions).
- Lower royalty rates.
- You still have to be involved with marketing.
Pros of self-publishing
- Total creative control over content and design.
- Faster time to market.
- Higher royalties.
- Opportunity to sell by any means in any global market, as you retain the rights.
- Use it to get into ‘the game’.
Cons of self-publishing
- You need to do it all yourself, or find suitable professionals to help. Obviously, you still have to do the writing and marketing, but you also have to do the publishing – find an editor and a cover designer to work with, decide on the title, get your work formatted into ebook, print and any other format you want, and find suitable professionals to help. This isn’t such a big deal but, for some people, this is a negative because they just don’t have the time to do everything, or they don’t enjoy doing it, or they’d rather be writing/sipping champagne at the beach…
- There’s no prestige, kudos or validation by the industry.
- You need a budget upfront if you want a professional result. You will need to pay to get your book assessed, edited, illustrated, designed, promoted, reviewed, and distributed – maybe not all of these but at least some.
- It’s difficult to get print distribution in bookstores.
- Many literary prizes don’t accept self-published books, and some mainstream media literary critics won’t review them. Grrrr!
While not everyone is accepted for traditional publication, there are exciting options in our digital world today for writers who want to see their work as e-books and/or print books. Anyone can create a book. BUT, not everyone can create a quality book, or even a good read. For most of us that requires professional help from an assessor, an editor, a proof-reader and, probably, a designer. So, yes, anyone with the means to handle or pay for the many tasks necessary can create a quality book. Don’t sell yourself short by skipping the processes.
Remember, a publisher is investing in you as a writer by providing (and paying for) professional editing, design, copyediting/proofreading, preparation for different formats, publicity and marketing. They also put their own credibility and good will on the line when adding an author to their list. Having said all that, being published by a traditional house is no guarantee of major media coverage, great sales or a perfectly satisfying experience either!
Would I take a traditional publishing deal? Absolutely – for the right project and for the right terms and conditions.
Would I self-publish? Definitely – I’m not spending all that time writing the monster for it to languish in the back of the wardrobe! But I would have my baby assessed and edited before publishing. And I’d try for a traditional publishing deal first.