Traditional Publishing or Self-Publishing: What’s Better?


Traditional publishing is a great way to ensure you have a higher chance of getting readership. Notice that I didn’t say you have a chance; you simply have a higher chance. Self-publishing on the other hand is harder to pull off, especially since you would need to do most of the work yourself. However, self-publishing has great benefits too. At the end of the day, you should choose between traditional publishing and self-publishing based on your needs and goals.

Why Is Traditional Publishing Recommended by Most?

Traditional publishing is safe. The minute you sign a contract with a literary agent or a publisher, you’d be getting your foot in the door. This doesn’t mean that your book will be published. Lots of factors go into book publishing, and many authors with literary agents wait until their second or third books before they are published. This isn’t always the case, but it does happen. Nevertheless, having an agent means you are good to go. You have been vouched for. Thus, your book is more likely to get published, get stocked on bookstore shelves, and sell. This is a big reason why traditional publishing is often recommended.

Still, keep in mind that traditional publishing doesn’t pay you your full earnings. You typically gain 15% of book sales. Plus, from that 15%, your literary agent will also take a small chunk of money. So you end up making very little compared to the amount the publisher earns.

Sure, with traditional publishing, your literary agent will try to get movie deals for your books to bring in more money. This is good. But movie deals are not that common.

Also keep in mind that if your book gets published traditionally, you typically earn $5000 as an advanced deposit. Unless you’re a popular author who already sells lots and lots of book copies, this is the usual advance. Authors like Stephen King probably earn a larger advance because their books are guaranteed to sell. So, unless your book sells a lot, you might only earn $5000 (plus a little more depending on sales). If your book doesn’t sell enough, the publisher will take the losses, but you get to keep the $5000 advance.

When authors start out under traditional publishing, they usually don’t sell too great with their first book, and possibly with their second book too. Some get lucky and become bestsellers, but again, all that is rare. So while you would be getting your foot in the door, it is a slow start and has no guarantees of a decent starting salary.

Why Are More Authors Utilizing Self-Publishing?

Self-publishing does not guarantee success either. However, you do have more control with it. Unlike traditional publishing, you do not have to depend on the publisher to create a book cover design, edit your novel, and get your book out into the market. Instead, you get to do as you please. You analyze the market, figure out how much you need to sell to make a decent salary, and market the book on your own. The one downside of this is that you’d have to do it using your budget, and this can be costly. Expect to spend a few thousand dollars. Though, if you earn a good amount in return, you’d make back what you spent and then some.

Self-publishing also gives you the freedom to write what you want, edit as you’d like, and market your book to any target audience you please. You have more freedom. It’s your book, your publishing, and all the money you earn is yours. You still have to get an editor (there are great freelance editors out there) and a book cover designer. You also must copyright your novel, purchase an ISBN, find a reputable print-on-demand publisher (a company that only charges you for printing your novel when someone buys a copy), and market the novel. This is not easy work, but it can be done.

The pros of self-publishing include: if you do it right and get readers hyped for for your novel through marketing, you cannot go wrong. Like I said above, you have compete control over the publishing and sales process with self-publishing.

If you’ve found this blog helpful, be sure to check out my others for awesome writing tips and more! You can also find me on YouTube sharing extra writing tips and humorous writing skits.


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