The choice between traditional publishing and self publishing is not as easy as it may seem to be. Both possibilities have their advantages and disadvantages and of course I recommend to take a good look at each factor. Here is the list for Selfpublishing.
Publishing houses are businesses with an established reputation in the book market. They typically have good connections to agents, editors, designers and book stores and their credibility marks off on their published books.
If you choose a publisher with a flawless reputation your books will benefit from it. You can look at the name of the publisher on your book cover as a seal of quality. Additionally you’ll tell the reader what genre to expect, because most publishing houses concentrate on specific topics. Take Tor Books or DAW Books for example. While Tor Books is part of the Holtzbrinck group and belongs to Macmillan, DAW Books is owed by Penguin Group, but both Tor and DAW publish science fiction and fantasy only.
Usually the publishing house carries the whole risk of publishing the book. They pay for editing, designing, printing and distributing and therefore sit on the cost if the novel doesn’t sell. This is a huge advantage for us authors, because we don’t have to pay for all of the expenses and we also don’t have to fear not selling our book. Of course taking on a new author is risky for a publisher and the first novel of an author is usually a losing bargain for the publisher, which is one of the reasons it’s so hard to get onboard with them.
Established publishers have pretty solid connections and contracts with book stores, which determine the stores and the shelf the books are going to be placed. The visibility of your novel in a physical shop helps to make it known and accessible for interested readers. And the more people know of your book, the more sells will be made.
It’s quite normal for a publisher to pay advancement to the author, which is independent of the actual sales of the book. For us as authors this is valuable and important, because this is our secured income. You have no idea how well your book sells, therefore you cannot expect a regular income through it.
A publishing house is first and foremost a business with the focus to earn money. Every book they publish is an investment with high risk and they are highly interested in great work that sells. They know how important a well edited and designed book is and every respectable publisher will make sure to have optimal quality.
I guess you already know that publishers are flooded with drafts and that most of them won’t be published. Nowadays I’d recommend using an agent who acts as a mediator between you and the publisher, since they multiply your chances to be accepted. Though finding an agent isn’t much easier, unfortunately.
Time to market
Another huge disadvantage of a traditional publisher is the long time it takes for the book to actually be on the market. It’s not unusual for a book to take up to two years until it’s displayed in a store. Of course it takes time to edit, design, layout, print and distribute a book, but, like many big companies, publishers are like a slow river and take longer than expected.
Limited right to say in the matter
As I’ve mentioned before, publishers are interested in a marketable product and they therefore have people who take care of the title, cover, blurb and price. As authors we don’t have much say in the matter, which can be frustrating. Sure, your book will probably get a salable cover, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll actually like it.
Rights of use
You’ll have to give some rights of use to the publisher if you want to publish through a publishing house. And in addition, you don’t have these rights for the duration of the contract. You certainly can negotiate some rights with the publisher if you want to separately publish an audio book of your novel. Just don’t count on it.
The publisher carries the risk and invests in the publication of your book. On the other hand, your share in the sales isn’t all that shiny. The general rule is 5-8% of net sales for soft covers and 8-10% of net sales for hard covers. Your book has to sell like crazy to make a living out of it.
Yes, a publishing house will take care of publishing your book and putting it in stores, but you have to be aware that it will probably disappear rather quickly, because other books are going to take its place. If your novel sells a lot, you have better chances, otherwise you won’t have much of an advantage of having the book in a store.
Are your books a bestseller? Great! You’re still a no name? I’m sorry to say, but as I’ve mentioned before, a business wants to make money. Of course they put the majority of their advertisement on the books they know will sell. As an unknown figure we’re the ones who need to promote ourselves to our readers.
I hope this provides a quick overview of things to consider when choosing between a publisher and self publishing. Do you need any additional information? Or is there something you can add? As always, we’d love to hear from you!
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