Traditional Vs. Self-Publishing: Which Is Best For You?Aug 13, 2023
Do you remember a time before eBooks? It wasn’t that long ago where you’d only shop for books in bookstores. This is what made traditional publishing viable because publishing houses had the monopoly on bookstore distribution. The distribution channel for those publishing houses meant that those who chased a publishing deal had to already be established in their niche, have an audience, and a following so publishing houses can recoup the costs and turn a profit. Traditional publishing houses were once the gatekeepers and for many of us looking to publish a book, we would arrive at a dead end.
But damn, how times have changed. With the rise of the digital age and technology, the publishing industry has undergone significant transformations that change the way writers approach the process of bringing their book to life. Now, self publishing has been introduced into the big wide world of making an impact.
For many, self publishing was considered second rate, and an avenue to pursue once you’ve been rejected multiple times from traditional publishing houses. It was also considered labour intensive, trying to find a way to get your book out into the world on your own.
But fortunately for aspiring authors, the business model implemented by Amazon and other book sellers resulted in where we are today, where over 70% of books are purchased through online sellers. The opportunity to get your book out into the world has never been clearer. Self publishing has now become the preferred option for those looking to earn more from their royalties, and with a rise in book coaches and self publishing experts, it’s easier than ever to be guided towards book success.
So before you start writing your book, it’s a good a idea to establish with pathway you’d like to publish. Writing a book is scary enough, but the different avenues available can provide plenty of confusion if you aren’t familiar with what they are.
The Publishing Options
Self Publishing. The raw form of self publishing requires writers to do the work themselves, but for a much larger reward. The workload is what scares most aspiring authors away when making a decision to self publish. But new industry of book coaching, means that you can invest in someone to guide you through the process of writing and publishing a book. Aspiring authors can take courses, hire coaches and download software that would save time and money in the long run. The benefit as a business owner or a leader in your industry, is you already have an audience to deliver your book, so finding finding readers who trust your work will be a lot easier to market.
Traditional Publishing. These are the big traditional publishers that have advanced connections in your niche. The work required to secure a publishing deal is challenging because you will have to write your proposal and pitch to an agent who has publishing house connections. Also the amount of proposals agents receive can be overwhelming, where they set certain conditions (ie. you must have over 30,000 Instagram followers, proposals are only accepted during the month of June, you must include one chapter). The traditional publishers you may have head of are: Harper & Collins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin/Random House, Wiley etc.
Hybrid. With self publishing making its mark in the industry, Hybrid publishing is considered an in-between avenue that formulates as a side by side alternative to traditional. If you’ve ever heard of “Vanity Publishing”, hybrid publishing is often what’s occurred at these publishing houses. The upside to hybrid publishing is higher royalty rates and more flexibility with your book. But there are some horror downsides to hybrid publishing. Aspiring authors can be scammed out of publishing their book, as publishing companies require exuberant upfront fees and traps the author into a publishing contract where they may take a larger portion of the royalties. Unlike traditional publishing, it’s very rare for hybrid publishing companies to give you an advance.
How To Decide
Now you know your options, it’s time to choose. You may be leaning towards a certain route, but it can be tough to commit with the different pros and cons related. To bring greater clarity and connection to your decision, there are five options to consider before writing your nonfiction book
1. Cost of publishing
5. Your why
Cost to publish
One of the first questions we have when it comes to writing a book is “How much is this going to cost me?”. There’s no ballpark figure because it depends on your book goals.
Traditional publishing. The publisher covers the cost, which you will receive lower royalty rates. It may take months or even years for the publisher recoup what they invest, as it’s all dependent on how you market your book.
Hybrid publishing. Depending on the hybrid publisher is dependent on your upfront costs. Some publishers may charge you for the production of the book (which can range from $5,000-$20,000). Other publishers may not charge you an upfront cost, but will take a chunk of your royalties which may take you longer to recoup. Be weary when entering the hybrid publishing pathway as there are publishers out there that want your business and promise you the world in exchange for exuberant costs and low royalty rates. It’s where the term “Vanity Publishing” gets their name. Check online reviews and speak to others who have had experience in the hybrid area to truly gauge if you’re willing to invest.
Self publishing. There are four factors to consider when publishing a professional looking book, and one that you’r proud of.
Editing. There are different kinds of edits, so narrowing the right edit for you is essential
Cover design. Who will design your cover? You’ll need to find someone who understands your market
Format. How will you format your book? You’ll need to be able to retrieve the files so you can upload your book to Amazon.
Manuscript preparation. There are inexpensive ways to work through your writing goals so you can keep yourself on track.
If you’re not sure what you’re doing, publishing a book can anywhere between $10,000-$20,000. The first book I published, I spent $10,000 because I had no idea. In my follow up book, the spending more than halved, and I still could have saved without sacrificing the quality. Nowadays I understand exactly what’s required of my investment in writing and publishing. As this book is directed towards self-publishers, I go into more depth of the costings later on.
Your royalty rates can be the biggest difference in your success as an author. A traditionally published author would receive royalty rates around 6%-10% from a paperback book. Ebooks are a littler higher at ranging between 25%-50%. The hybrid royalty rates are similar, depending on the company. Your royalty rate as a self publisher (or any other avenue) requires a lot of variables. Factor in how many pages your book has, whether your book is image heavy, the cost of print, and the royalties will slide up or down. Expect anywhere between 30%-70% which is based on different formats of audiobook, ebook and print on demand.
How much time are you willing to sacrifice writing your book? This all comes back to your why and your book goals. Are you using your book as a lead magnet? Is it to create a legacy? If you’re publishing traditionally, expect the time frame to be around two to three years from start to finish. This is because it’s not only your time that you’re working on, but you’ll be working on the publishers timeframe. The length of time if traditionally published is significantly longer than the self publishing journey.
The timeframe for self publishing is up to you. You’re in the drivers seat when it comes to dedicating your time towards writing your book. It can take you five years, or it can take you three months. When I wrote Evolve Your Skills, it took me six months from start to finish - a lot less longer than my debut book The 6 Pillars Of A Rewarding Life, which took me three years. Hiring a coach helps publish your book within your time frames and provides important accountability so you can stay on track.
There are different publishing options available to you, but as always, it comes back to why you’re writing your book. Is it to make an impact? Create new leads in your business? Or is it to improve your ego?
For the 99.9% of us, self publishing makes sense. Traditionally publishers look for big names looking who have a sizeable email list (20,000+), and they must pitch their book idea the right way. I also need to mention that those who have traditionally published books are likely to have been approached by publishers to get their idea out into the word. Hybrid publishing can be effective, but also a dangerous money pit with no guarantee of publishing a high quality book. It’s why I’ll always promote self publishing. You’re in control, but you can also hire the right people at the rights costs to get your book into the world.
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