Traditional vs. Self-Publishing by Cindy C Bennett
Up until a year or two ago, most readers were unaware of the difference between traditional and self-publishing. One simply chose a book, read it, and then judged it based on the quality of the story. Then self-publishing exploded and with it came a slew of both amazing books from new and established authors as well as some less-than-stellar books.
Traditional publishing means a book is published through an established publishing house. Self-publishing means the author has chosen to bypass a publishing house and do it on their own. I’ve published my books both ways. Geek Girl and Rapunzel Untangled are both published through Sweetwater Books, and everything else I’ve self-published. I love that self-publishing has given the world some fantastic authors who might otherwise remain silent. Because of my experience, I’ve learned quite a bit about the pros and cons of both methods.
I actually self-published Geek Girl originally because I was worn down by all of the agent rejections. However, I knew nothing of marketing a book so I began looking for a publisher who would accept a previously self-published book. In the meantime I self-published Heart on a Chain. Then Sweetwater Books, a subsidiary of Cedar Fort, sent me the spirit-lifting acceptance letter. I’ll admit it—I felt somehow justified, legit, vindicated, like an authentic author for the first time, no matter how many copies of my books I’d already sold.
That’s when I discovered some of the cons of traditional publishing. It takes months for your book to go from acceptance to publication, whereas with self-publishing you can be in print within a few weeks of final editing your manuscript. It was 9 months for Geek Girl, and that’s very fast for a publisher. Sometimes it can be up to 2 years before your book sees the light of day. It requires patience for sure. As an author, it takes a leap of faith to hand your baby over to someone else to mold. You have little to no say on the cover, book layout, sometimes the title and even content can be changed by the publisher.
However, a publisher can do things for an author that as of yet a self-published author can’t do for themselves. My publisher was able to put my books on the shelves at places like Costco and Barnes & Noble. A self-published author doesn’t have a prayer of getting their books in either of those stores. Plus, there’s a certain validation that comes with having been accepted by a publisher. Because of the way I published, I don’t have an agent (which I’m grateful for since that’s one less person taking a slice of the pie) so I can’t really speak to what it means to have an agent and publisher both.
Other than being on bookstore shelves, some of the disadvantages of self-publishing are that it can cost you some money up front for things like editing, a cover, formatting, and book layout unless it’s something you know how to do on their own. There are ways of doing those things cost free, but it’s a matter of making the choice to spend the time to learn. Some advantages are much faster publication, more creative control, and a higher royalty percentage.
As far as marketing your book goes, it’s equal work for both traditional and self-published books. As an author, you are your marketing team. If you are willing to put in the time and hard work—and you’ve written a good book—you’re going to get your title out into the world and into your reader’s hands. If you don’t, and just sit back and wait for others to find your book, it’s probably going to languish in oblivion.
If you have a book ready to publish, I suggest you study both routes and decide which is best for you and your future as an author. Go into it educated and informed, with the understanding that both ways have pros and cons, and neither one is the magical answer to putting you on the bestselling list—but both can lead to the bestseller list if you have the talent and are willing to put the work into it.
Thank you Cindy for this amazingly informative guest post.