traditional or self publishing

As an author, you’re faced with a crucial decision: Should you pursue traditional publishing or take the self-publishing route? Both paths have their merits and challenges. Let’s break it down.

Traditional Publishing Overview

Traditional publishing involves submitting your manuscript to literary agents or publishing houses, usually in hopes of landing a book deal. The publisher then takes care of the editing, cover design, distribution, and legal aspects of publishing. They don’t however, usually do much book marketing – and they don’t usually pay that well (most trad published authors still need a real job, and most trad published books lose money or never sell 100+ copies). If you want to go this route, keep in mind learning how to craft a book proposal or pitch your book involves a bunch of skills that take time and dedication to master, when you could be focused on writing more books.

Pros and Cons of Traditional Publishing

The traditional route comes with a slew of benefits. You get access to professional editing, cover design, and wide-scale distribution. Additionally, the prestige associated with traditional publishing can be a significant advantage.

However, traditional publishing also has its downsides. It’s often a slow process, sometimes taking years from manuscript submission to the book hitting the shelves. Authors typically have less creative control and lower royalty rates compared to self-publishing.

Self-Publishing Overview

Self-publishing, on the other hand, involves independently publishing your book, often using platforms like Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing or IngramSpark. As a self-published author, you’re in charge of every aspect of the publishing process. Which is kind of the problem; because it means you need to learn a million things, and most authors burn out. Some quick tips though… getting the cover right is huge, and 99% of book marketing doesn’t work. So focus on your book’s actual conversion when you put it in front of the right people, and figure out a price point that can sustain advertising – which may not be possible until you have a longer series or a high-priced nonfiction book.

Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing

Self-publishing brings its own set of benefits. You maintain complete creative control over your book, including its cover design, price, and marketing strategy. (This is actually the main problem, because new authors don’t have the skills or experience to make smart choices, and will make easily avoidable mistakes if they aren’t careful… it’s also very common for 1st time authors to refuse everybody’s good advice because they’re determined to do it they way they want). The publishing timeline is much quicker, and the royalty rates are typically higher – but only if you know what you’re doing and manage to do it well.

Self-publishing also comes with challenges. You’re responsible for every step of the process, including costs for editing, cover design, and formatting. You can do all this yourself on a budget, if you find the right tools and resources (hint… we’ve got them!) Also, self-published authors often have to work harder at marketing and distribution.

Which Path to Choose?

So, which route should you take? It depends on your goals, resources, and personal preferences. If you crave creative control, don’t mind the extra work, and want a quicker publishing timeline, self-publishing could be the way to go. However, if you’re looking for the prestige of a traditional publishing deal and don’t mind a slower process, traditional publishing might be your best bet.

Most authors still consider self-publishing a last result of failed writers, but that’s an uninformed position. The truth is, many traditionally published authors have gone indie because they can earn more money. You’ll have to work *much harder* to go traditional, but you’ll probably earn less and you’ll have wasted a lot of time. And it’s also pretty common to pitch a book for 2 years, not find an agent, and then start looking at self-publishing (when you could have written six more books in that same time period).

I’m a fan of self-publishing, but it’s true that few authors get it right. Those that do, stick with it for years, learn what works through failing, and pivot when things stop working. But at least your in a position to make changes and test things out.

Whether you choose traditional publishing or decide to self-publish, it’s essential to understand what each path entails. Weigh the pros and cons and choose the one that aligns best with your goals as an author.

Stay tuned for more insights on writing, publishing, and book design. Until then, happy writing!

Derek Murphy
Derek Murphy

Derek Murphy is a cover designing indie author enthusiast, finishing a PhD in Literature and shopping for a castle in Europe.