The Pros and Cons of Self Publishing (& Traditional Publishing)

I stumbled upon this great article from JA Konrath on his “A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing.” The piece focuses on how to make money on ebooks (if you have a minute I highly recommend reading the entire thing), but one section of the article really caught my eye (and should catch yours). Konrath breaks down the pros and cons of self publishing versus the pros and cons of traditionally publishing. It’s spot on and something every writer should consider before taking the leap in either direction. Here’s that slice:

Q: Should I forsake selling ebooks in order to try and land a print deal?

A: Let’s look at the pros and cons of both sides.

Traditional Publishing Pros

  • Wide distribution and more exposure
  • Most offer an advance, sometimes a large one
  • They do the editing, formatting, cover art
  • Marketing power

Traditional Publishing Cons

  • Take six to eighteen months before publication
  • Price ebooks waaaaaay too high
  • They have power over cover art and title
  • Don’t use the marketing power they wield effectively
  • Pay royalties twice a year
  • Don’t involve you in many of the decisions regarding your book
  • Difficult to implement changes
  • Lousy royalty rates, between 6% and 25%
  • Very hard to break into

Self Publishing Pros

  • Paid once a month
  • You control price and cover
  • Publication is almost instant
  • Easy to implement changes
  • Every decision is yours
  • Great royalty rates
  • Anyone can do it

Self Publishing Cons

  • No free professional editing, formatting, or cover art
  • Fewer sales
  • Less than 10% of current book market
  • Greater potential to publish crappy books

You need to figure out what your goals are, and set them accordingly.

If you feel strongly that traditional publishing is still your route to success, be sure to follow the Guide to Literary Agents blog which continually offers great advice on landing a literary agent.

Seriously, bookmark Konrath’s piece on how to make money on ebooks and read it when you have time.


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4 thoughts on “The Pros and Cons of Self Publishing (& Traditional Publishing)

  1. jaredbernard

    The truth behind either avenue is so difficult to perceive that an article like this is quite helpful. I do not doubt that traditional publishers are manipulative money-grabbers, but I’m also wary of the success of the self-publishing route. When I visit Abbott Press, I don’t recognize any of the titles, the cover art looks very cheap, and the synopses of the books reflects the caliber of the cover art, which doesn’t prompt me to want to read any of them. Admittedly, the books that are familiar in the bookstore are also often lousy and have cheap-looking cover art. The choice between the two routes is then for whom I feel the most pity, writers who’ve been the pinatas of their agents and publishers who get very little royalties, or writers who’ve paid thousands of dollars to a self-publishing press, freelance editors, and their own self-promotion.

  2. pacanime

    Having gone down the self-publishing route, I can add more to the list. Traditional Publishing involves a lot of wasted time and resources. Many publishing houses don’t bother to respond to you. They use the excuse that they have so many manuscripts to look over that they can’t respond to the ones they don’t pick. This is a hollow excuse. Anyone can email stating we aren’t interested. The other reasons not to publish traditionally is that you have to mold yourself to a house, whose tastes may not fit yours. They control everything and pay you very little unless you’re Stephanie Meyer or Stephen King. They treat most writers poorly and just say that’s how the business goes. There’s a reason these folks are beginning to go the way of the dodo.

    Self-publishing is tough at first, but you learn so much more about the publishing business. You can write what you want. You can get it edited and a printed at a fairly low cost now. You pay more up front, but you don’t have a house making poor decsissions regarding your book during the whole process. Companies that help self-publishers are polite, get back to you, and listen to your feedback and direction. You can also make audio books reasonably now and get them on the popular download sites. The same goes for e-books. Self-publishing will likely be a larger part of the market in the future. Yes some books are crappy, but then again, I’ve bought books in a bookstore and thought the same thing. Some I don’t finish. And don’t get me started on all the copycat ideas out there for books. Please!

    For traditional, you get one thing. Your name known. And even that is not a guarentee. Plus you loose most of the rights to your book. I’d suggest all writers try self-publishing at least once. If nothing else, you learn the ins and outs of the business and you don’t waste six months for a response that never comes.

  3. StuckInStoneAge

    A big argument in favor of the traditional publishers is that they do the editing, formatting, and cover art. But the downside to this is that the author has little input and no control. The work may be edited in a way that the author is not happy with the finished product. The publisher may change the title. The author may hate the cover design. Another HUGE reason that many authors are making the move to self publishing is because they have total control over the end product.

    Oh, and that “free” professional editing, formatting, and cover art? That’s not free. You’ve paid for it in the 75-94% you’re paying the publisher to get your book on the market. Where did I get those percentages from? Most royalties range from 6-25%. Though in reality, most range from 10-15%.

    A second big argument in favor of publishers is marketing. Yet many traditionally published authors are quick to say that the publisher did next to nothing to market their book. Publishers often reserve their marketing budget for their biggest selling authors, who already have a huge fan base and don’t need much marketing anyway.

    “Greater potential to publish crappy books?” Yes, provided you only do half the work it takes to get a book on the market (writing it). Editing and proofreading is an important part of any publishing process, whether you hire a freelancer to do it or whether a publisher does it.


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