Most writers desire to be published, but deciding on the best way to publish can be a daunting task. Deciding on which publishing direction depends on your goals and expectations. Do you plan to be the next Stephen King, or do you want to have something to distribute to just friends and family?  Traditional publishing used to be the only major publishing platform, but self-publishing has provided multiple options for writers to become published. Weighing the pros and cons of both is the best way to make an educated decision on what path to take.

 Traditional Publishing

Traditional publishing has many advantages, but there are a few disadvantages. The number one advantage is compensation. Most publishers provide authors with an advance. This is money that is expected to be made from selling the book, which will most likely include royalties, once the book reaches a certain number of sales. There is a bit of a downside to this payment format.  A percentage of the book sales goes to the publisher and if you have an agent you have to pay them as well. An author basically is splitting profits with the publisher, sometimes up to 50%. This can seem like a lot, but the services a traditional publisher provides have to be paid for and they have to make a profit, as well.

Editing and marketing are other advantages of traditional publishing. Once an author is offered a contract, then his manuscript is assigned to an editing and marketing team. This can be a great experience for the author, but it can also be a nightmare. When an author hands off his manuscript he loses some control over his work. The publishers job is to shape the book to be as profitable as possible. That can sometimes take away from the vision of the author. Former acquisitions assistant manager, freelance editor and professional book reviewer, Kathie Spitz states, “as an editor, doesn’t matter whether you’re the substantive, the copy, the proof, or the final editor. You need to listen to what the author is actually saying. You need to listen to their voice.” If traditional publishing is your choice, then it is imperative that you chose a publisher that will allow you to be involved in the production of your book.

A huge disadvantage to traditional publishing is actually getting the book contract. The demand is extremely high. Spitz recounts that she, “had between 30-50 stories come across my desk every week…how do you stand out in the crowd?”


Self-publishing potentially cuts out the middle man out of the equation to provide more opportunities and profits to the author. The diagram below shows different options for self-publishing.


As you can see, a couple of the options offer 100% profits, but each option requires an author to pay to publish. Depending on the path you chose, you will pay the upfront costs for everything with no guarantee of profits. Even though you’re fronting the cost of your book, there is freedom in self-publishing. You retain all rights to your book and you control the production process.  Spitz believes that self-publishing is successful when the author already has a fan base or platform. She says, “the only way it can work, in my opinion, is if you already have more than a 1000 followers on twitter, if you already have more than 500 friends on Facebook, if you already have people following your Pinterest boards. Otherwise, nobody is ever going to hear about your story.” Marketing yourself will be the key to your success. Self-publishing in no easy feat and requires a lot of hard work. If you’re willing to devote time and money into your book, then this may be the option for you.

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