Which Option is Better, Traditional or Self-Publishing?
The actual publishing of your novel is an exciting time. You’ve spent countless hours writing, editing, re-writing, re-editing, doubting, writing some more, feeling like you’ve written the best chapter ever, feeling like you’ve written the worst chapter ever, and on and on. But you are finally finished and are now prepared to send your novel out to the world. So what’s next?
There are really two options, traditional publishing and self-publishing. Both are good options for different reasons. I spent a lot of time looking into both and decided self-publishing was the best option for me. But it may not be for everyone. Below is an overview of what I learned so you can decide which is best for you.
This is the way things have always been done. It’s the option we all dream of. What author doesn’t want one of the Big Five publishers buying the rights to their novel and publishing it? But to publish through a Big Five publisher, you first need a literary agent because you can’t pitch your novel directly to a publishing company. This requires you to write query letters to agents, hoping for a reply requesting a partial or full manuscript. Then you wait for them to read it and let you know if they are interested in representing you and your novel. It’s a long, time-consuming process, but a process that needs to be followed if you want to be published the traditional way.
Basically, authors get 6-10% of the cover price for all books sold at the full retail price. They get very little to nothing for books sold at a discount. This is a generalization and there are some other factors, but it’s a good ballpark number.
Publishers gain full control of a novel once an author signs with them. The publisher decides how to promote it, where to promote it, how long to promote it, etc. Authors are just along for the ride, which means less work but also little to no control over how things are done.
Publishers have a well-oiled marketing machine already in place. This really is one of the big benefits to signing on with a Big Five publisher. The downside is that once sales start to drop, they shift their marketing efforts to the next novel.
The publisher designs the cover. The author may get to look at it and offer their thoughts, but the publisher makes the final decision.
From the time your literary agent sells your book to a publisher until it is actually published is usually anywhere between 1-2 years. Publishers know the best times of the year to release books and they schedule their books far in advance.
Also known as self-publishing, independent publishing is when an author publishes his/her book without the assistance of a publishing house. Independent publishers often use the help of content editors, cover designers, copy editors, and more. It’s all up to the author.
Amazon is obviously the biggest player in self-publishing. They pay out a 70% royalty on all Kindle titles priced between $2.99 to $9.99. For eBooks priced below $2.99 and above $9.99, Amazon pays a 35% royalty. There are many studies on eBook pricing, but most of them show $2.99 or $3.99 are the best options for eBooks.
The author maintains full control over everything associated with their novel. This can be overwhelming but also empowering. There are many resources available to help an author find all of the support they need including editors, cover designers, blog tour hosts, etc.
This is where independent publishing falls short of traditional publishing. How does an independently published author get the word out that their new novel has been published? The best option for marketing is to use a blog tour company. Blog tour organizations have relationships with many of the most prominent book bloggers on the internet and can work with them to do a 1-2 week PR blitz for a book. It is best for authors to work with a blog tour company that specializes in their genre. The cost is usually between $100 to $350 depending on the length of the tour.
Designing a cover can be fun, but it has to be done right. The cover of a book often reflects the quality of the story inside. Authors can design a cover on their own, but for somewhere around $500 it is possible to find an expert to help. Readers do judge a book by its cover. It is important to make sure it’s perfect.
There is no waiting for independent publishers. When the book is ready to go, it can be published that day. The challenge here is to make sure that the book truly is finished. Have all the errors been found and fixed? Is the cover flawless? What about the formatting? It’s exciting to hit the “publish” button, but independent authors need to be sure their book is truly finished and ready for the public to see.
Jeffrey Monaghan is a Silicon Valley executive with an unhealthy obsession for technology. He grew up in Southern California and currently lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and two children. Cardiac is his debut novel.