Most writers have one goal–to get their work out into the world. Okay, maybe some writers have a few more fancy goals: like getting published by a “Big 5” publishing house, getting rich by writing a best selling novel, or seeing their books on shelves alongside the works of JK Rowling, John Green, Stephen King, and Nora Roberts. Or maybe the indie authors out there hope to sell millions of books like E.L. James.
Regardless of what your ambitions are as a writer, many people probably ask themselves at one point or another, which is better? Traditional publishing or self publishing? I think the answer is…it depends.
The pros of traditional publishing:
When people think of traditional publishing, they probably imagine a novel being published by Penguin Random House, or a memoir being published by Simon and Schuster. They imagine authors getting a three book deal, complete with a side of New York City glamour. But traditional publishing can also mean getting published in a literary, consumer, or trade magazine, getting a chapbook published by a small press, or getting an article published in a reputable blog. Some benefits of traditional publishing include:
Money – This doesn’t just include money you might make from your work, like $150 for a magazine article, or a $5,000 advance you might get from a book deal. This also includes the money the company has to invest in your book, which they can use to hire editors, designers, marketing managers, accountants, lawyers, etc… Alone, you might have little or no money to invest in turning your book into a great product. Publishing companies can help you get additional resources through their budget.
Connections – Publishing companies, especially the larger, more successful ones, will have connections to all kinds of people in the industry. This means they can get your book into stores. They can reach out to well known authors to see if they’d read your book, and share their thoughts so you have a nice quote on your book jacket. I believe Nora Roberts has a book where there’s a quote from exactly one person–Stephen King. On it, it says, “Nora Roberts is cool.” Who wouldn’t want that?
An Established Brand – If a company has an established brand, it means consumers are familiar with them, and they trust the books to be good. If a book is published by Simon and Schuster, I expect to like it. A well known company will also have an established social media presence, so even if you don’t write a bestseller, you at least know your book is reaching some people.
Books as a Business – Publishing companies have one main goal– to make books that sell. Many writers may only want to think about the creative side of their art. They want to do what they love, while not necessarily thinking about business or money. Most writers today can’t avoid the responsibility of doing at least a little marketing, but they’re doing it with the guidance of their publisher. Publishing companies see your book as a product, and they’ll know how to make decisions that will sell it.
As you can see, there are many benefits to traditional publishing, but are there some cons? Maybe. Here are a few:
Time – Whether you’re submitting book proposals, articles, poems, or short stories, it can take months to here back from a publisher. Trying to get published takes an enormous amount of patience. If all you want to do is share you work with others, you may find there are faster ways to do it yourself.
Rejection – Every writer has rejection letters. Even Stephen King. Even JK Rowling. It’s unavoidable in this business that you will face rejection, often months after you have submitted something.
Books as a Business – I mentioned this earlier as a pro, but it can also be a serious con. There’s a reason celebrities and famous YouTubers can get book deals fairly easily. It’s not necessarily because these people are amazing writers (though several of them are, i.e- Hannah Hart, Allison Raskin & Gaby Dunn).
It also doesn’t mean these book deals are the greatest offers. Some publishers will give the author a ridiculously short time to write the book, and they mention it will be “heavily edited.” All of this is because publishers want to make books that will sell. This can be discouraging to writers who have spent years honing their craft. Writers who eat, sleep, and breathe words. Is it fair? Nope. But it is business.
Those are some pros and cons of traditional publishing.
How about self publishing? Self publishing can mean many things. It can mean publishing your own ebooks on Kindle or iBooks, publishing print books through CreateSpace or Lulu, starting a blog, creating a chapbook or zine, or printing your stories or poems in a booklet and handing them out to people. Are there pros and cons? Let’s examine them below.
Pros of self publishing:
Freedom – Self publishing allows you to make all creative and business decisions yourself. You get to choose your own cover design, price, book layout, and you get to make all final editing decisions. You don’t necessarily have to think about “what will sell” if you don’t want to. You can do things your own way.
Running a Business – It can be very satisfying to create your own product and to run your own small business. Even if you only make a few bucks or a few hundred dollars, it can be a nice confidence boost and it gives you a side hustle.
Time – You don’t have to wait months to here back from a publisher. You can publish your book whenever you want, and if you have a blog, sharing your work with the world is just a click away.
Those are a few pros. Here are some cons:
Money and Resources – Without the help of a publisher, it may be more difficult to have outside help in editing, designing and promoting your book. It may also be more difficult to get your book into stores.
Running a Business – For some people, running a business is fun and empowering. However, other people might not enjoy this part because all they want to do is write. They don’t want to think about creating a product, they just want to follow their passion. Some people don’t want to do it all themselves, and that’s completely fine.
Finding Readers – All writers, especially these days, have to work to promote their books. But this is especially true for self published authors. You have to be creative and find ways to connect with people and share your work, whether it’s online or in person.
So, which is better?
Like I said earlier, it depends. I think if you’re trying to publish books that traditionally “don’t sell,” like poetry books or short stories, self publishing can be a great option because you get to share your work, run a business, and have fun. If you’re trying to publish a novel or nonfiction book, I think it’s up to you. If you want to self publish, awesome! If you want to submit your query to publishers, it could be worth the effort.
You spent months or years writing the manuscript, so waiting a few months for a rejection (or acceptance!) letter isn’t so bad in the grand scheme of things. If you want to publish articles, poems, or short stories, you can always try submitting to magazines, and if that doesn’t work, you can always share it on your blog and grow your brand.
Self publishing and traditional publishing offer different paths. Both require hard work and dedication. At the end of the day, I think it’s all about sharing your work with the world and connecting with others.
Which publishing method will you choose?
Thanks for reading! ❤ I hope you enjoyed this article and found a few useful tips 🙂 I recently self published a book of short stories titled Impossible Things. It’s a book of magical realism stories that includes magic, werewolves, and mermaids! There’s also some LGBT and Black girl representation.
It’s available on Amazon for $20, and it’s available on Kindle and the Kindle App for half price. If you like short stories, check it out here: