The rival sibling of self-publishing, traditional publishing, poses one of the hardest questions for a new writer to answer. Should you traditionally publish or do it on their own? If you are in this dilemma, please go read last week’s A Bit of Business because it talks about some of the pros and cons of self-publishing.
Pro: Higher Creditability
In order to become traditionally published, you must pass through the gatekeepers of the industry. If your manuscript has been accepted, then that means someone thinks that it is good enough to be a viable product for their company. This sense of validation is one of the strongest allures of traditional publishing.
Con: Fitting into a Market
A publisher does not choose to publish pieces based solely on the level of skill apparent in the prose. They are trying to run a business, so they want to purchase manuscripts that they believe will sell well in today’s economy. This can serve as barrier to an otherwise up to par manuscript. If the market has been saturated with vampire novels, and it is obvious the fad is over, it will be difficult to get your masterpiece vampire story published no matter how good the writing is.
Another major factor into traditional publishing is the possibility of an advance. The publisher will pay on average between $1000-$10000 for a debut author’s advance. All the hard work spent working on a manuscript can result in a nice little paycheck at the beginning of the publishing journey.
Con: Lower Royalties
Traditional publishers purchase manuscripts because they want to make money. In order to do this, they have to cover all of the expenses associated with your book as well as make a profit. This results in a lower percentage of earned income from each individual book sale. Generally, a self published author can look to make 60-70% of their MSRP; a traditionally published author can only expect to see between 8-15%.
Pro: Greater Reach
By utilizing the logistical support found within a traditional publisher, it is much more likely to be able find your novel in a random bookstore halfway across the country. The ability to have your novel seen in a brick-and-motor bookstores is one of the things that self-published authors envy most; the majority of self-published sales come in the form of eBooks.
Con: Lack of Control
This is perhaps the biggest downside of traditional publishing. When an author signs a contract to have their novel traditionally published, they lose much of the creative control over their book. The publishing house will decide how much the book will cost, if there are any deals for it, they even decide what artwork will adorn the cover.
Pro: Professional Services
Another major benefit from traditional publishing is the access to editors, copywriters, graphic designers, marketing and pretty much every aspect of releasing a book. All of these services are provided by the publisher for free. A note of caution, publishers still expect the author to have a hands-on approach in regards to marketing.
Con: Longer Wait Times
Once the contract has been signed, an author is still looking at around a year or two before their book is actually released. Because a traditional publisher must balance books from many different authors, they cannot publish each novel as quickly as a self-published author could. In fact, everything is slower. If you find a simple typo on page 43, then you must go through the appropriate channels to get it changed. Self-publishing can allow you to go into an online portal, make the change, hit publish, and you’re done.
As with all posts, I’m sure I have missed some major points. For brevity’s sake, I am going to cut it here and let the discussion continue in the comments. A few other topics that are important to consider are: how long a writer is bound by a contract, what rights they retain when traditionally publishing, and the differences between small presses and major publishers.