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The Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing

The internet has been a game-changer for the arts community. Musicians and writers, in particular, no longer depend on record labels and publishing companies to present their work to the world. Nowadays, you can simply “DIY” it. Many do, however, when I recently spoke to a poet who was getting ready for the launch of her latest book of poetry, I was reminded of the advantages of having the support of a publishing company. Apart from having an agent, editor and plenty of support for the promotion of your book, you also get paid while you write.

On reflection, self-publishing also comes with its fair share of perks, though perhaps not of a financial kind.

Regardless of whether you have already written your very own “bestseller” or just have an idea for a book, it’s worth taking a look that the pros and cons of both, self-publishing and traditional publishing.

Traditional Publishing – The Process, and the Pros and Cons

Though not absolutely necessary, many writers submit manuscripts to a literary agent who will then approach publishers on their behalf. The advantages therein are in the experience and networking abilities of your agent. She/he is likely to be well connected and be in a position to get you a foot in the door. On the downside, it can be rather difficult to find a good agent in the first place, to be accepted into her/his group of writers.

Submitting a Manuscript or Book Proposal

Publishing companies are in the business of making money and therefore when you submit a manuscript, it is much like submitting a business plan to a bank. You have to convince the publisher of the financial viability of your book, outline your target audience, pitch it against competing books, and persuade the publisher that your book will be profitable. All those points must be covered, even before you are submitting your top-quality manuscript.

The quality is obviously key and so is your choice of publishers. Carefully choose a publisher that is in the business of selling similarly-themed books.

Publishers are inundated with manuscripts and it may take months before anyone even reads your excerpts. Many publishers prefer receiving an outline of the book, a couple of chapters, a writer’s bio, and a book proposal rather than simply a full manuscript. Before submitting any work, check out submission guidelines.

When Your Proposal Has Been Accepted

When you’re book proposal has been accepted, publishers will give you a timeline. How much time you get, depends on the publishing schedule of all their books and may or may not suit you. At this point, you are likely to get an advance payment ranging from $20’000 to $200’000. If you have an agent she/he will get a 15-20% cut.

Editing, Book Cover, Launch, and Promotion

Throughout the writing process, you will be working with your agent and editorial team, who will make sure you remain on track. The choice of your book cover will probably be made by your publisher, even if you don’t like the design.

When your book hits the shelves, you will have the power of the publishing company behind you, and your book will be sold in all good bookstores. While the publisher will contribute to the promotion of the book, you are also expected to do your own marketing.

On the sales of the book, you will receive approximately 15%.

Self-Publishing – The Process, and the Pros and Cons

The self-publishing route is obviously much more straightforward. You will only need to convince readers of the quality of your work and do not need to follow the instructions of an agent, publisher, or editorial team.

Naturally, there is no advance payment, you will just be writing the book in the hope of selling copies and eventually getting paid for the long hours of writing.

You can design your own book cover, choose fonts and print size and decide how many copies to print. With Amazon, you can have even the smallest numbers of copies printed.

Once your book is ready, it will be up to you to find bookstore willing to put your book on display. You will also have to craft your own marketing drive, however, this can be an enjoyable and creative process.

100% of the profits are yours, keeping in mind that you may have to pay the designer of your cover and perhaps a designated editor.

Merits in Both

You can see the merits in both routes, and your choice may ultimately depend on your ability to get published by well-known publishing companies.

On a final note, I recall a now well-known author describing how a publishing company had agreed to publish her book, however, throughout the editing process the editorial team wanted to make so many changes, that the writer decided to pull the book and self-publish instead. The book sold millions of copies and was also made into a movie.

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