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  • Vince Font

Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing: Which Path is Right for Your Book?

Read all about the pros and cons of self-publishing vs. traditional publishing.

So you've written a book and you want to get it published. Of course you do! Nobody writes a book for themselves. Getting others to read it is what it's all about. So how do you go about doing that?

In the not-too-distant past, traditional publishing was the only route available to people who didn't have the ability to cough up tens of thousands of dollars on a vanity press. Fast-forward to the self-publishing era, where you can upload your book to Amazon (and a bunch of other online book retailers) with relative ease. But which method is better? Should you spend time trying to get your book traditionally published, or should you take the DIY route? Both options have their merits and drawbacks, and understanding the pros and cons of each is what we're going to talk about today.

The Pros of Self-Publishing

  • Complete Creative Control: Self-publishing puts you in the driver's seat and grants you unparalleled creative freedom. You retain full control over the content, cover design, and release schedule of your book. All throughout the publishing process, your unique creative vision remains intact.

  • A Speedy Path: The time frame for self-publishing a book is significantly quicker than when working with a traditional publisher. In some cases, a traditionally published book may not see the light of day for two years. But with self-publishing, you determine the timeline, enabling you to get your book out when you want it available.

  • More Pay: Self-published authors keep 100 percent of profits for themselves. Traditional publishers can keep as much as 90 percent of royalties for themselves, paying you just cents on the dollar.

  • Global Reach: Self-publishing platforms and online distribution channels let you reach a global audience instantly. E-books and print-on-demand services make it easier for readers worldwide to discover and purchase your work.

The Cons of Self-Publishing

  • You're in Charge of Everything: When you self-publish a book, you're responsible for handling every aspect of the publishing process, including editing, cover design, marketing, and distribution (not to mention all the minutiae involved with building an online listing and negotiating the self-publishing platform—Ingramspark can be particularly difficult). Handling all of this can be time-consuming and require expertise in multiple areas.

  • Marketing and Promotion: You're also in charge of shouldering the burden of marketing your book. Building an audience and gaining visibility can be challenging without the support and resources of a traditional publishing house.

  • Perception: Despite the growing acceptance of self-published works, some readers and industry professionals still harbor biases against authors who don't go the traditional route. You have to be willing to face and overcome these biases. The best way of doing that is by making sure you've had your book professionally edited. Nothing screams "bad" like an error-riddled book.

The Pros of Traditional Publishing

  • Editorial Support: Traditional publishers provide professional editing that will vastly improve your book.

  • Marketing and Distribution: Traditional publishers have established networks and resources for marketing and distribution. They can secure book reviews, arrange author events, and negotiate deals with retailers, potentially increasing exposure and sales—although in many cases, even traditional publishers are responsible for taking on much of their own marketing, especially if they're not celebrities.

  • Credibility and Prestige: Being traditionally published carries a certain level of prestige and credibility in the literary world. A publisher's "stamp of approval" might make it easier to attract readers and reviewers (but that's not to say you can't accomplish this if you self-publish).

The Cons of Traditional Publishing

  • No Creative Control: Traditional publishers always have the final say on the books they publish, including the cover design, changes they want to see in the book, and even the book's title. If you are traditionally published, you may need to compromise your vision to align with market demands and the preferences of the publisher.

  • Longer Timeframes: Simply put, it can take forever to see a traditionally published book finally in print. The longer timeframes in traditional publishing are caused by the review process, editing, and distribution logistics. It can take months or even years before a traditionally published book reaches the market.

  • Significantly Lower Royalties: Since traditional publishers foot the bill for everything from editing to design and promotion, they keep the lion's share of a book's royalty and pay authors a small percentage.

Ultimately, whatever road you choose may come down to your ability to get your book accepted by a traditional publisher. This is something that's become increasingly difficult due to a sharp rise in competition and the fact that most traditional publishers won't even look at your manuscript unless you have an agent. For the vast majority of writers, however, getting their work read is far more important than obtaining the official blessing of the high and mighty literati. Self-publishing, or hybrid publishing, is your best bet to connecting with readers who appreciate your work and building a fan base.

For more updates on self-publishing best practices, subscribe to our no-spam newsletter. If you have further questions about self-publishing or would like to find out how Glass Spider Publishing can help you bring your manuscript to the masses, let us know! Send us a message, give us a call, or schedule a free one-on-one phone consultation.

Vince Font is the owner and chief editor of Glass Spider Publishing, a self-publishing service that's produced more than 100 books since 2016. He is the award-winning author of American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman and the Shadows on the Page book series.


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