Note: My work with new clients always begins with a conversation on the options they have for publishing, the timetables associated with those choices, and the costs. The majority of my clients choose to self-publish for various reasons, among them that they are unknown, their work is simply for their family and friends, or they don’t want to wait to get it out into the world. To help people better understand the differences between self-publishing and publishing, I’ve asked Savannah Cordova of Reedsy to write a guest blog in which she well outlines both options. This week, she discusses traditional publishing, and next week, she’ll talk about self-publishing. I help authors with both avenues, and I offer my publishing recommendations based on the quality of the work and the author’s experience, reputation, and online presence. If you want to hear more, reach out when you’re ready!
If you’ve written a book you’d like to publish, you might be fretting over whether to choose self-publishing or traditional publishing. The good news is that you’ve already gotten the hard part out of the way; no matter which path you go down, you’re over the hump of writing.
Still, choosing how to publish one’s book is one of the most important decisions an author can make. To help you proceed confidently, this post will explain the differences between traditional and self-publishing, outlining the pros and cons of each, and give you some questions to ask yourself in order to work out what’s right for you. Let’s start with the basics.
Traditional publishing provides you with the resources of an established company.
The traditional publishing route is most authors’ first thought when it comes to getting published. You pitch your book to literary agents or publishers that accept direct submissions, negotiate a deal, and the publisher takes care of the rest.
To be sure, the shiniest advantage of traditional publishing is the advance. This will be around $5,000 to $10,000 for most first-time authors, the exact amount depending on the size of the publisher. Most indie press advances are more in the range of $1,000 to $2,000. In terms of other benefits, you won’t have to do nearly as much work compared to a self-pub author; traditional publishers will handle the editing, design, and often the marketing work as well.
However, a trad pub deal is often difficult to secure. This is especially true if you write in a niche genre, even more so if you have your heart set on a Big 5 publisher (Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, or Simon & Schuster). And for authors who wish to retain creative control and the majority of their royalties, a traditional publisher may not be the move; they’ll certainly make most of the design and marketing decisions, and they’ll leave you with a 15 to 25 percent royalty share at most. Many authors get more like 5 to 10 percent.
Again, these factors are mitigated if you go with a small press; the royalty share can go up to 50 percent, and you’ll be more creatively involved. But if significant control over these things is important to you, you may find any form of traditional publishing to be limiting.
Then again, between receiving an advance and saving on services, you might make more money with trad pub than self-publishing. It all depends on your product, your target audience, and which strategy makes sense for you personally (as we’ll touch on next week).
Next week: Self-publishing: creative autonomy and better royalties
Savannah Cordova is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace and resource hub that connects authors and publishers with industry information and professionals. In her spare time, Savannah enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories.