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Should Your Self-Publish or Go the Traditional Route? Some Factors Worth Considering

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Publishing a book is no walk in the park, even for established writers. It’s a lengthy and overwhelming process that may take months or years to complete.

Many authors face a tough choice between self-publishing and traditional publishing due to several digital alternatives available today.

However, the choice need not be as complicated as the process itself.

Therefore, this blog post sheds light on various aspects of book publishing and draws a comparison between the traditional route and self-publishing methods.

1. Creative Control

This is arguably the most crucial differentiator. Without a doubt, with self-publishing, you have greater creative control during the entire process.

Creative authority over design and content is what authors desire but don’t often enjoy with traditional publishing. Many are forced to change anything from cover to title, plot, or characters in your book.

On the other hand, self-published authors can come up with a story they want with the best novel writing software.

This is maybe the last thing you want as a writer. Therefore, complete creative control is a perk enjoyed by indie authors.

2. Money

While self-publishing does require a greater upfront cost, you end up earning a handsome royalty – about 50-70% from sales. Besides, most online publishing platforms allow you to track your sales and revenue.

Not bad at all!

On the other hand, in traditional book publishing, a literary agent pays you an upfront fee, which does not usually cover the living expenses during the publishing operation.

You only earn 10-25% royalty on sales with this method.

That’s the reason many budding authors have to take up day jobs to cover their basic expenditure. If you are ready to face the upheavals of the traditional publishing route, do not shy away from it!

3. Reader Exposure

When it comes to gaining mainstream exposure, traditional publishing has been an attractive choice.

A literary agent handles everything from editing to cover design and marketing by leveraging their industry connections.

While you don’t have much of a say in that, you do feel a sense of relief if you are not someone who enjoys marketing a lot. Such promotions can give you a huge reader base.

However, it is possible to gain a loyal fanbase through self-publishing – if not a mainstream one. In fact, many authors build a personal fanbase on platforms like Amazon Kindle before they publish their book in print.

4. Critical Acclaim

The lack of acclaim is probably the biggest downside of self-publishing. Unfortunately, authors who publish traditionally have a better chance of receiving critical acclaim or prestigious literary prizes.

For instance, the New York Times does not take independently published works into consideration. Hence, there are high chances that your book won’t make it to their Best Seller list.

That said, there are other prizes for indie authors such as:

  • The Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Award
  • The Independent Publisher Book Awards
  • The Eric Hoffer Book Award

Moreover, Amazon considers self-published authors for their Best Seller list, which, has a great impact on modern readers compared to NYT.

5. Publishing Timeline

The traditional route of book publishing is painfully slow. It may take months/years to just seal the deal with a renowned publisher who will then require at least a year to get your work in bookstores.

On the other hand, you can get your book published online within 4-72 hours! That’s an incredible publishing speed.

It’s possible through various ebook publishing platforms such as Smashwords, Draft2Digital, iBooks, Kobo, and Amazon.

Besides, by publishing your creations more often, you can earn a stable income (5-6 figures in many cases) as a writer without having to take up another job to sustain yourself.

It’s similar to working as a freelance writer, meaning you can find exciting writing opportunities in new places!

6. Print Distribution

It’s a dream for budding authors to get their book published in print, which is an honor, of course!

However, people need to get rid of the stigma associated with self-publishing. You can find subpar work both in print and ebook format.

But what many people don’t know is that readers can get their book in print even with self-publishing.

For this purpose, several ebook hosting platforms such as Amazon, IngramSpark, Blurb, and BookBaby offer print on delivery (POD) services.

It generally takes 24 hours for the print format to reach the customer after the order has been placed!

7. Professional Team

Publishers and agents have an established team of marketers, formatters, designers, and editors. Their expenses are covered by the publisher – the reason why authors receive less royalty.

However, one key factor to consider is that publishers promote your book to booksellers and not directly to readers. If you don’t want to handle the post-writing process, it’s a viable choice.

With self-publishing, however, you have the feasibility of marketing your book directly to readers!

Before that, you would need to assemble a team of editors, formatters, designers, and, of course, the best book writing software.

It’s probably best to join a community like the Alliance of Independent Authors where you can meet these professionals.

8. Contract Clauses

One of the disadvantages of the traditional publishing process is that you are bound by a contract drawn out by your publisher. This affects not only the work you put out into the world but also the finances.

You must read every clause contained in it very carefully. If you do not agree with something, look for a different publisher or self-publish!

Final Thoughts

In this day and age, self-publishing has emerged to be a personally satisfying and more viable route compared to traditional publishing.

However, if you have been dreaming of getting published traditionally for a long time, you must give it a try! You should feel free to explore all your options. Besides, you can always self-publish anytime you want!

The aforementioned factors of publishing will offer more clarity and confidence regardless of the path you choose. Compare the pros and cons and rank these factors in the order of priority for each category.

It will expedite the decision-making process, thereby allowing your book to get discovered by possibly millions of readers across the world!

About the author


Tim Garrett