18 Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing and Tradition Publishing To Help You Choose Your Way
There are many things to consider before publishing a book. Two important choices an author has to make is whether to traditional publish or self-publish their work. There are pros and cons for each forms that need to be considered before making a decision.
Traditional publishing has been around for centuries, and is the more “conventional” way of getting a book published. But even this sentence is less relevant, since the majority (80%+) of books on Amazon published this year is independently published.
Forms of Publishing
- Traditional publishing · with an establish publishing house, under the publishing houses name
- Semi Self-publishing (pay to publish) · with a minor or medium size publishing house, under the publishing houses name
- Self-publishing · where you control every phrase of the publishing process and the work will be published under your own name
In case of traditional publishing the author will submit their manuscript to literary agents or publishers, who will then decide if they want to publish the book. If the answer is yes, the author will usually have to sign a contract that gives away some of their rights, such as the right to publish the book in a dedicated language on certain platforms and stores.
Self-publishing has become a popular option for many authors in recent years. However, those who choose to self-publish need to be aware that they will need to do everything themselves. This includes learning the ins and outs of the publishing process, as well as promoting and marketing their book.
The hybrid method called semi self-publishing or lazy publishing isn't new at all. This is a publishing service offered by small companies, that already know the process of self-publishing. The biggest drawback of this method is that it cost a tons of money. In exchange a company will care about the publishing process on behalf of you, but these companies won't do anything plus compared to self-publishing unless you pay an extra, for example in the field of book marketing.
What does self-publishing Mean?
Advantages and Disadvantages of Traditional Publishing
01 Quality cover (Pro+)
As a traditional publisher, there is usually a team of professional designers who are dedicated to making sure you get the best possible cover for your book. These designers have their own niche, if you are writing a sci-fi your book will most likely get a sci-fi cover designer.
At the end of the they even when it isn't an award winning book cover, the design will reach an important quality threshold and will make it possible to sell on the different platform.
02 Professional editing (Pro+)
It is an overlooked task in case of self-publishing but a good editing majorly influences the reading experience.
Professional editing is a must if you want to impress avid readers. While it's possible to edit your own work, it's not advisable. A professional editor will catch errors and inconsistencies that you might miss. They will also offer suggestions for improving the overall flow of your book.
A well-edited book is 90% more likely to be successful than one that hasn't been edited at all.
On the other editing a 300 pages book costs a huge amount of money, $300-500, which is a big cost in case of self-publishing.
03 Author could focus on the writing and social media (Pro+)
In case of traditional publishing, the author could focus exclusively on the writing and his or her social media community.
While the first part of this point is obvious, the second part shocks several authors. Shall I manage my own social media? Well, in 2020s social media brand building is also the task of the author or his or her management team. Even if there are specific companies like New Leaf Literary & Media who could handle these tasks the author have an important role to produce pictures and videos to upload.
04 The publishing house could use it's own network for marketing (Pro+)
The first thing that shocks self-published authors when they finally publish their books on Amazon, that their book won't receives a single review, if they don't do a thing.
Yes, getting reviews, publicize the new book requires marketing networks. And most likely debut self-published authors won't know any of these networks, so they can only rely on marketing services providers. Let me give you a concrete example, as a self-published author you can push your book to Netgalley, where there are thousands of reviewers. But there is a community who only cares about book, that comes from big publishing houses. So even when you get “close” to reviewers
05 Royalty is lower: 5–15% per book sale (Con-)
In case of traditional publishing, royalty is lower. This is because the publisher takes a percentage of the book's sale price, so the author earns less per book sold.
However, this does not mean that authors earn less money overall. In fact, royalties from traditional publishers can add up to a significant amount of money over time.
After you are established author and you have several success titles you can even get an advance for your next book.
06 Yearly payments of royalty and you couldn't track numbers (Con-)
This is a big pain for authors. Even established publishers don't keep up to date record of their book sales. Mainly because they utilize a lot of sales channels not just Amazon. They summarize the sales figures yearly and the authors could get their first paycheck after one year.
As an author the best you can do is to ask for rough sales figures during the year, the marketing representatives of big publishing houses are of course aware if a certain book sales or not.
But there are no online systems where your will get prompt information as an author.
07 Less control over publishing rights (Con-)
When it comes to having control over the publishing rights of your book, going the traditional publishing route means you'll have less say in what happens. In traditional publishing, the author gives up a lot of control to the publishing company. The publisher then has the final say in things like cover design, book title, marketing and even selling the movie rights. This can be frustrating for authors.
Even in case of publishing your work in a foreign language could be out of your control. These aspects are all controlled in your contract with the publisher.
If you're someone who likes to be in charge of every aspect of your work, then self-publishing may be a better option for you.
08 Really hard to get in case of debut author (Con-)
It's no secret that getting published by a big publishing house is hard. In fact, it's almost impossible. But why is that?
The old days when publishing houses were looking for talents are over. Unless you have a successful online business or you have 100,000+ followers on Tiktok or Instagram, you won't be interesting for a big publishing house.
There are a few reasons. The big houses only publish a small percentage of the manuscripts they receive. They're looking for the best of the best, and unfortunately, most manuscripts just don't make the cut.
Even if your manuscript is good enough to be published by a big house, you still have to go through the slush pile. That's the pile of unsolicited manuscripts that every publisher receives. And trust me, it's not easy to stand out in a slush pile.
Than they will check your reputation and reach. Your reach is your social media presence, “active” Instagram followers, TikTok commenters etc. They are all potential buyers of your book. If the community is big enough it may influence the publishers final decision.
09 Shorter Shelf time (Con-)
Usually a traditional publisher prints 1,000-2,000 books, and only a small part will go into bookstores, the rest will be stocked to sell online using Amazon Seller Central or similar.
This is because books have a shorter shelf life nowadays, a publishing house rolls out a new title within 2! years. Every title need to be moved quickly to make way for new titles. Traditional publishers are struggling to keep up with this demand, they want to publish more success titles and sell more books within shorter period of time.
Pros and Cons of Self-publishing (KDP)
01 High royalty percentage (70% in case of Kindle if it enrolled into KDP Select) (Pro+)
In case of Kindle books your may reach 70% royalty after book sales on Amazon. But the royalty rates are much higher even in case of paperback and hardcover books, a net 20-30% usually.
02 You could learn the complete process of publishing (Pro+)
If you are interested in the publishing industry, self-publishing is a great journey. The publishing process can be long and complex, but if you are open it may teach a lot of valuable aspects about business.
03 Full control over your cover and editing (Pro+)
As a self-published author, you have complete control over the cover and editing of your book. This is one of the many benefits of self-publishing. You can choose to work with a professional designer, or designers and choose the best cover that fits.
You can make sure that your book is exactly how you want it before it goes to print.
If you decide to do it all yourself, you will certainly save money but in terms of professionalism it will fall behind the crowd.
04 Easy to make minor improvements on the book after it has been published (Pro+)
I really do love this part. After you uploaded the print ready PDF of your book to Amazon KDP and you order an author copy. You may do corrections in your book later on and re-upload the print ready manuscript.
It is that simple. No matter if we are speaking about Kindle ebook, paperback or hardcover book version in KDP. It works the same. This helps authors to incrementally improve the quality of their book and post polish it for future audiences.
05 Quicker (Pro+)
Overall the self-publishing process is quicker. Since you are focusing on one title the waiting time for certain tasks reduces. For example your cover design could be created within one month, and parallel you can outsource the editing meanwhile.
The traditional publishing process takes 10-18 months. It is a lot of time. As a self-publisher this time is around 4-8 months, if we consider your manuscript is ready to edit.
06 Full control over book rights (Pro+)
In this case all publishing rights will be in your hand. Only after you upload your book on a platform let's say into Amazon KDP, you will lend out certain rights. For example in case of KDP Select Amazon will have the sole right to sell your ebook. Of course in exchange you receive much higher percentage 70% instead of 35%.
You may sell rights or simply contract with foreign publishers individually is an option for self-publishers. These book publishing rights usually applies to territories, languages and platforms (e.g. audiobook or motion picture).
07 High marketing costs (you need to market your book, which is a big pain for authors) (Con-)
This points decides whether a newly self-published book will have even the chance to succeed. There are about one million new books on Amazon. Even with proper keywords and title, the chance that visitors may find your book in the online stores is marginal.
Self-published authors needs to spend $1,000-4,000 cleverly on their new title. This sum covers up to 10-20 services, from marketeers, professional reviewers and book ad providers.
The reality is that if you are doing all the marketing efforts as it should, there is still no guarantee that your book will be a success. The book market is oversaturated and your work should be a stand out from an aspect and should offer unique value to readers.
08 The overall quality of the book will be lower and it will reflect on book sales (Con-)
Based on my experiences the overall book cover quality is much lower in case of independently published books, but improved a lot in the recent 1-2 years. Self-publishers are learning to use advanced tools and services. And who said that professional designers are extremely expensive? Well they aren't.
09 Your book won't be present in physical book stores (Con-)
One of the drawbacks of self-publishing is that your book will not be present in physical book stores or at least the probability of this is very low. This can make difficult for local people to find and purchase your book. However, there are ways to get around this problem.
You can do local book meetups or visit book clubs to discuss your book. These personal experiences are very valuable for authors.
Final Thoughts on Self-publishing vs Traditional Publishing (Which Is Better)
There is no one answer for this question. I personally prefer self-publishing, but it is a fact that it took years to master certain parts of the process.
I was in high school, in 2000 and had just read a sci-fi, Prelude to Foundation by Asimov that had blown my mind. I was convinced that I could write something just as good, if not better. I was full of ideas and dreams.
I started my book in 2016 and spent years writing and re-writing, editing and re-editing. When it was finally finished and published in 2022. At that time I had already published several minor non-fiction books years before so I know exactly what the process and the hurdles are.
Now, looking back, I'm glad that I took the self-publishing route. It allowed me to do an almost perfect work, of course years later I will certainly re-edit it once again, just to improve it. (Since it isn't part of this article I didn't want to share it's title here.)
If you want to dig deeper and check the approximate costs of self-publishing.
My profession is online marketing and development (10+ years experience), check my latest mobile app called Upcoming or my Chrome extensions for ChatGPT. But my real passion is reading books both fiction and non-fiction. I have several favorite authors like James Redfield or Daniel Keyes. If I read a book I always want to find the best part of it, every book has it's unique value.