Which Route Should You Take?
The classic battle between traditional publishing versus self-publishing heats up as the Holiday season reaches its peak and those New Years’ Resolutions trickle in…by the way, if you’re waiting until January to make a resolution, read my previous article after you finish reading this one.
As writers and authors, we all have one thing in common: We want our book to reach audiences far and wide and eventually make a living off our writing.
And the great thing is it can and will happen if we put forth the effort, which bodes true in every single field of work, so I’m not blowing smoke.
When I say you can be anything you want to be, I really mean it. We can, but as Ronnie Coleman once said, “Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder, but nobody wants to lift heavy ass weight.”
In other words, we succeed because we want to lift that “heavy ass weight” and fail because we don’t.
Be the latter.
And the good news is both traditional and self-publishing can create a winner and no, it’s not a lottery despite the fact the book market is over saturated.
Because we all have a niche and all niches have an audience. By breaking the book market into such niches, it’s really all about finding the target audience, meaning anyone can become a success at this.
But, some of us might be better off looking for a traditional publisher while others might prefer self-publishing.
As for me, I was on board with finding a traditional publisher until I buckled down and researched self-publishing and went with the latter.
Not because I felt my book had to be on online store shelves or that it was too good to wait, but because I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset.
I wanted to be my own boss and hold myself accountable to my own success.
Oh, and did I mention the 70% royalties on Amazon?
In other words, I felt self-publishing is best for me because it’s like having my own business. No, it is having my own business, which I just thrive better in.
I hate being held accountable by others. Again, not because I don’t think I should or anything narcissistic; I just feel that when others hold me accountable at work, I’m the minion and they’re the true breadwinner.
For a job that I don’t plan on staying in, by all means, I’ll be the minion.
For any job, I’ll be the minion.
But for a passion, no, I want to be the proactive entrepreneur. Or in this case as some say, authorpreneur.
Pros of Self-Publishing
The first pro is simple: Your book can be uploaded within minutes on Amazon, Draft2Digital, Smashwords, or any platform you choose.
Another pro is you have total control. You control what goes in your book, its plot, your characters, everything is under your control.
You control how the cover looks, the description, back matter, everything is up to you.
You can come up with any marketing plan you choose and implement it at will.
If in the unfortunate case your book is garnering bad reviews, you can always unpublish it, change it up, re-publish under a different name and cover, and try again.
You can soft-launch, then hard-launch, and do this as many times as possible. For instance, I soft-launched Northern Knights and will do so with Swords of Destiny and probably the next two or three books after, before I actually launch the series itself.
Higher royalties, usually starting at 70%.
Cons of Self-Publishing
If you’re not business-minded, don’t go this route, as you’re responsible for your own marketing and sales.
If you can’t afford to outsource editing, proofreading, copywriting, and other necessities, you’ll have to learn to do all this.
Though you might have beta readers, it’s tough to find actual experts like editors to give you feedback to tell you if the book “works.” You’ll likely have to test it with a real audience.
Don’t plan on quitting your day job any time soon, as most self-published authors bring in a little over $100 in their first year, especially if they only have one or two books out with no name or platform.
My Take on Self-Publishing
For me, it’s the way to go, because of the control.
I want to have full control over my own product and I don’t want anyone else telling me to cut a character, or cut a scene, or do this and that with my book to the point it becomes more of the editor’s work instead of my own.
I can also rebrand my series if I plan to as well on my own time, which I will do with Northern Knights and its future works. The cover to your right won’t be like that forever as once I have five to six books out I’ll likely “brand” the series and maybe even change the titles, much like J.F. Penn did with her Arkane Series.
Again, if you have an entrepreneurial mind and like learning the business side of things, self-publishing is a route you should consider.
If you’ve dreamed of owning a business, you should consider it as well.
Pros of Traditional Publishing
All you need to worry about is writing and basic editing, as the rest is done for you. You’ll get an editor, a proofreader, a copyeditor, the whole nine yards. You’ll still have input into the work, but much of it is done for you.
You’ll get promoted by your publisher. While self-published authors are responsible for their own promotion, traditional publishers handle this for you, which helps with the launch…oh, and they’ll have that covered, too.
Your work is good enough for an audience. Publishers are paying you to publish your work, meaning they believe it’s a good fit for their audience.
You’ll have an audience ready to buy, which is every author’s dream. As mentioned above, traditional publishers have an audience and as their newest author, this becomes your audience.
Cons of Traditional Publishing
You’ll likely have to sign over your book’s rights, meaning your control over the work is going to go out the door.
While traditional publishers will help market and launch your work, most of this is left up to the author these days.
Also, once your launch is complete, it’s on to the next launch for the traditional publisher, leaving you with the task of selling your books.
Some royalties are reported to start off at 7-7.5% and climb to as high as 15%. Of course, with veteran authors, this number is higher, but as a new author, you’re paying your dues and getting charged double.
If your book fails, there are no mulligans until your contract length ends. If you signed a four-year agreement and your books has a 1-star rating on Amazon after six months, it’s going to be a long 3.5 years.
My Take on Traditional Publishing
Traditional publishing is great for those who’d rather focus on writing.
Of course, these days the traditionally published author must have a marketing plan and a platform, but at the very least traditional publishers will help you in the early run.
I’m not a fan of traditional publishing myself, again, because of the reasons I listed above and the fact the royalties are less than a fraction of what self-published royalties are.
While it’s easier to get the book noticed via traditional publishing, I can’t stress enough that many authors must market the book as if they’re self-published after the launch period.
There is really no right or wrong answer to this.
While my article leans toward self-publishing, it’s because self-publishing fits my goals and persona.
I’m also very interested in the business side of operations when it comes to publishing.
However, I’m not this way in every field.
For instance, as the New Year approaches I’m looking to get back into training, but I’d rather work in someone else’s club than start my own training business.
And just like traditional publishing, working in a club means there’s less money percentage-wise to be made, I don’t have full control, I’m on someone else’s time, and so forth.
So, take the time and think whether you’re interested in learning the business side of publishing. If the answer is yes, self-publishing might be the way to go. If not, maybe traditional publishing is better for you.