The Growing World of Self-Publishing

When you take on the role of a writer, you are often plagued with worry about the next step. When you are finishing, or have finished writing, you face a daunting decision of how to get your work to the reader. There are many factors to think about when you face the choice of self-publishing or traditional publishing.
As a writer, you may watch the trends regarding what genre of books are popular when you are ready to publish. If your book fits within a popular genre, it may be beneficial and easiest to go with traditional publishing. If the plot is geared toward a very specific audience, you may decide to self-publish. It is important to consider all factors when selecting how you are seeking to publish a manuscript. Most writers dream of succeeding and making the most profit from their book. You must consider the logistics of self-publishing versus traditional publishing.


The growth of technology, specifically eBooks and eReaders, has made it easier than ever to maintain creative control and self-publish a manuscript. Self-publishing skips the middle-men and higher ups, shortens the process, and gets your book quickly to your readers. Even children’s books have seen a rise in self-publishing. Amazon, partnered with Kindle eReaders, markets “direct- publishing.” Direct-publishing is essentially an expedited self-publishing through their company, Amazon, which claims to have your manuscript available for download in as little as a day’s time. In addition, when you utilize technology for self-publishing, your book is available around the world, not just in a few bookstores in the United States. They also offer paperback options if you want to have a hardcopy for your readers to purchase.
Self-publishing has additional benefits that are quite attractive to authors. Typically, you have say-so over how the book is priced and marketed. Since self-publishing takes out the middleman, agents and publishing houses, you will be able to set pricing. You can make your book very lost cost to potentially sell more copies than if you price it higher. Along with selecting how you price the book, you get to keep more royalties.
A higher royalty, also known as your cut of the profit, is associated with self-publishing over traditional publishing. By cutting overhead, you have the opportunity to earn more on each copy that sells. However, you only get money when the book sells. Again, eBooks are a good start when looking at self-publishing. Amazon is the leader of direct, or self-publishing, and offers up to 70 percent royalties, as seen on their pricing page. There is also a 35 percent royalty option, with many factors to include.
Is your book appropriate for self-publishing? That is the question you must ask yourself, and the answer often depends on the size and genre of your book. Amazon’s pricing page has some limitations; for instance, book size, delivery deductions and promotions. It is imperative to crunch the numbers and calculate what you need to make off the book, and what costs you may not have considered.
Createspace has a helpful royalties calculator that figures up pricing for dollars, as well as how that translates to pounds and euros if you are also selling in Europe. Additionally, pictures, colors, cover design, and book length will influence the cost of the book and need to be considered.

Traditional Publishing

If you are weary of self-publishing, or feel it isn’t the right fit for your book, then traditional publishing may be the better option. Rather than the responsibility for publishing falling primarily on you, traditional publishing has professionals who will assist you in your publishing goals.
When we hear the word traditional, we think of something familiar and repeated again and again. Thus, traditional publishing may seem like a safer way to publish your book. The truth is, it can often be a long, but rewarding process.
First, traditional publishing typically starts with finding an agent. Poets and Writers has a helpful literary agents database to help you connect with the right agent, often depending on the genre of your book. Now, it will most likely take some time to find the right agent for you and your work. Publishing with an agent has many facets, and is not always simple.
When you decide on an agent, or are looking, it is important again to factor in cost. Discuss fees or commission the agent will take, and if they are conditioned on the book being published, or simply on their role in assisting you. You will also want to consider the agents experience, prior success, and professionalism. Also, decide your expectations for your agent and communicate those clearly up front.
You also have the option to seek a publisher without an agent, but this is typically quite difficult without the connections and know-how most agents can provide. Either way, traditional publishing is much more of a process. You may wait for months or years for a publisher to pick up your book for distribution. It may never happen, no matter how hard you try. However, your agent could connect you with a publishing house and have your book in the process of distribution fairly quickly.
When a publishing house does select your book, the financial aspect of publishing is different between self-publishing and traditional publishing. Authors often are offered an advance on their book once it is selected for publishing. A nice hunk of money up front is great; however, it is taken from your future royalties. This means you won’t get paid on royalties until the profit exceeds the amount of your advance.
While you don’t have to select an advance, or may not be offered an advance, with traditional publishing, royalty rates are also predetermined. Due to the publishing house taking on upfront cost, and truly a risk if the book isn’t as successful as hoped, your royalty rates are often significantly lower than that of a self-publishing royalty rate.
You can choose to see traditional publishing rates as a positive or a negative. As a positive, the publisher is taking on upfront cost, production, and marketing. This saves you from making little decisions and potentially flopping in a self-publishing effort. Of course, a smaller percentage is less money. You are taking a smaller rate in exchange for their services.
Traditional publishing is primarily seen as the way to achieve success and acknowledgement for your book. Awards and accolades are associated with traditional publishing and a book can gain more momentum through traditional publishing. However, the publisher takes the most creative control, and will decide the cover and marketing of the book. Once you sign a contract, they are entitled to the rights of your product.

How E-books Factor in Traditional Publishing

eBooks are also a factor in traditional publishing. Paper or hardback books cost more due to ink, paper, materials, and production. If you are publishing with a publishing house, most likely your book will also be offered in eBook format. Due to cost, eBooks are typically cheaper to buy than a paper book. This will affect you concerning royalties. You must factor in and calculate the traditional publishing smaller royalty on eBooks as well as hard copies that may sell.
Self-publishing is often highly dependent on eBook sales. When considering self-publishing, many writers begin with eBooks only to gage the success and evaluate whether to publish hard copies. Technology has created another way to read and publish books for a variety of audiences. You must think of your readers and their access to this technology when factoring in the potential success of your book in electronic form.

Publishing Your Book

Publishing your book will be exciting and stressful. It is important to reflect on the best fit for you between self-publishing and traditional publishing. There are many factors to consider, primarily finances, the genre of your book, and how you view success and acknowledgement. Once you have evaluated your goals and expectations, you can decide on the best fit for publishing your book.

About the Author: Donna Amos

I believe you can achieve anything you truly want to achieve. “It might sound trite, but time and time again, I’ve seen it happen with my clients. They overcome the fear of exposing themselves to the possibility of failure to creating profitable exciting businesses. My clients do great work, and sometimes it only takes someone else believing in them to give them the confidence to step out and take the chance.”