Wednesday Words – Self-publishing vs. Traditional Publishing: Which is better?

Wednesday Words graphic

There’s no guest today, so I’m going to talk about the debate between traditional publishing and self-publishing.

One of the more common questions I’m seeing from new authors recently is some variation of, “Should I self-publish, or should I go the traditional publishing route?”

Many of these writers probably expect a definitive answer that will tell them which direction to go. The problem is, the question isn’t as simple as it may seem. The most honest answer anyone can give is, “It depends.”

That may seem like a cop out to avoid giving a direct answer, but it’s not. What type of publishing path you choose to follow really does depend on several factors. I’ll cover some of them here, but you should do you own research into your options before making a decision.

Personality

If you’re the type of person who only wants to write and shies away from learning multiple skills you never thought you’d need, traditional publishing might be the best choice for you.

On the other hand, if you love to learn new skills, want to know all the behind-the-scenes stuff that brings books into the world, and need to have total control over your literary baby, self-publishing might be the best option.

Technological Skill

Many people don’t realize it, but if you’re afraid of computers or are technologically challenged, self-publishing may be next to impossible for you. There are a lot of skills you need to master in order to succeed, including using social media, maintaining a website, and uploading your books to retailers.

If you prefer leaving things involving technology to others, traditional publishing might be a better option.

Marketing Acumen

Marketing is one of the biggest challenges facing authors, both traditionally published and self-published. Self-publishers are responsible for 100% of the marketing, but there are a ton of resources to help you learn how to market books. Traditionally published authors are responsible for some to most of the marketing (depending on their contract and the publisher), but they do have a publisher doing at least some marketing of their books.

Money

This actually has two parts. The first is the cost of publishing. When you go the traditional publishing route, there are no up front costs for you. The publisher pays for the editing, formatting, and cover art. If you self-publish, that financial responsibility falls to you. The amount of money you will spend to publish your book varies based on several factors, including length of the book and how much of the work you’re able to do yourself. A lot of self-publishers want to save money and do everything themselves. This can be done, but you have to either already have the skills to create a professional product or you have to learn them. One thing to keep in mind is that many authors, even those who are professional editors, can’t edit their own work. They can’t see their manuscript objectively no matter how hard they try, so editing is an almost guaranteed cost to self-publishing.

The second part of the money discussion is revenue. When your book is traditionally published, you’ll receive only a percentage of what the publisher receives for each book sold. The exact percentage varies, depending on the terms of your contract. If you have an agent, they get around 15% of everything you earn. So, you may only be getting paid pennies for each book sold.

If your book is self-published, you get to keep all the revenue. So, let’s say your ebook is priced at $4.99. Amazon generally pays 70% of the sale price (there are a few exceptions based on which country the book is sold in). That means you receive about $3.50 for every book sold. Even if you only receive 35% royalties on a sale, you’ll still be paid about $1.75, which is more than you’d receive from a traditional publisher. Just remember that the increased revenue comes with increased responsibility.

So, is is better for you to self-publish or go the traditional route? It’s up to you. Do your research on both publishing methods and follow whichever path is best for you. Or, if both seem equally good, you could do both. Hybrid authors self-publish some books and have others traditionally published. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to the best publishing option for an individual. As an author group I’m in is fond of saying, there are many ways up the mountain. What works for one person may not work for another, so we all have to find our own best path to follow.

Here’s a little about one of my self-published books:

Crash Course cover artBook Description

Parties, dirt bikes, boyfriends… Angie has it all, but everything changes when her father kicks her out. Gone are the freedom and parties she thrived on. Now she has to survive a conservative mother with strict rules and a stepfather who may or may not like her. Then she meets freestyle motocross rider Brady Scott. He’s gorgeous, talented, and shows her respect at every turn. There’s only one problem — his opinions of life are opposite hers. The more time she spends with him, however, the more she’s drawn to him.

As Angie struggles to find her place in two conflicting worlds, she gets a crash course in life lessons and has to make a difficult decision — give up the partying life to hang out with Brady and his youth group friends or continue down a dangerous path that could destroy her.

~~

Crash Course is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Kobo.

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