Many authors are struggling with the decision of how they should publish their manuscripts. Since the rise of self-publishing, there are several things one must consider before making their decision.
- Who pays? You or the publisher:
One of the main differences between traditional and self-publishing is finances. When you traditionally publish, the publisher takes on all the risks and pays an advance to the author for the rights of the manuscript. In self-publishing, the author assumes the financial risk, and pays a self-publishing company for the services needed to publish their book (editing, cover design, marketing, etc.).
- Distribution: Another key difference between the two institutions 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 is a bit of a challenge.
- Control: If you choose to self-publish your book, you have more control of how the product turns out. You work hands-on with editors and designers in the process from taking your manuscript to a published book. On the other hand, if you traditionally publish your book, you 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. Whereas when you self-publish, you own everything 100%.
- Marketing: Traditional publishers generally handle all of the marketing of the book for you (although that is quickly changing in today’s market), but if you self-publish, it falls on you to market your book.
Depending on your goals in publishing your book, some of these factors may have more weight for you than others in making a decision on which path to pursue. More and more authors that were once published by a traditional publisher are turning to self-publishing due to the control and financial aspects of the publishing process. A few lucky authors have started out as self-published and were later picked up by a traditional publisher and found huge success, such as E.L. James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey.