Many authors struggle with the decision of which publishing path to pursue. Since the rise of self-publishing, there are several things one must consider before making the decision.
- Who pays? You or the publisher? One of the main differences between traditional and self-publishing is the finances. With traditional publishing, the publisher pays an advance to the author for the complete rights to the manuscript and takes on all risks of publication. In self-publishing, the author assumes the financial risk and pays a publishing support company for the services needed to publish their book (editing, cover design, marketing, etc.).
- Distribution: Another key difference between the two options is distribution. When a book is traditionally published, it is more likely to end up in physical bookstores such as Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, etc. With self-publishing, in-store distribution can be a bit more challenging for an author who may lack the budget and resources of a major publisher.
- Control: If you choose to self-publish your book, you have more control over how the product turns out. You work hands-on with editors and designers in the entire process of turning your manuscript into a finished published book. On the other hand, if you traditionally publish your book, you may have some input, but do not have control of how the manuscript is edited, designed, or marketed.
- Rights: Traditional publishers pay you an advance for the rights to your book. When you self-publish, you own everything 100%.
- Marketing: Traditional publishers generally handle all the marketing of the book for you (although that is quickly changing in today’s publishing world), but if you self-publish, it falls on you to market your book.
Depending on your goals for publishing your book, some of these factors may have more weight for you than others in choosing which path to pursue. More and more authors that were once published by a traditional publisher are turning to self-publishing because of the greater control it offers and financial limitations of traditional publishing agreements. A few authors, such as E.L. James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey, have started out as self-published and were later picked up by a traditional publisher and found huge success.