Got your manuscript ready to go? Now you just need to send it away to literary agents, right?
Not necessarily. Read on to learn the pros and cons of self-publishing vs traditional publishing, with some tips for how to get started with each.
Traditional publishing is the conventional means of publishing. Put simply, it involves you writing a book and then sending the manuscript over to a literary agent. Once accepted by an agent, they then submit it to various publishers, one of who will publish it.
Of course, it’s never as cut-and-dried as that. Traditional publishing requires a lot of work (and a lot of rejection). And even if your book gets accepted by a publisher, it’ll go through heavy edits before publication.
Below are a few pros and cons of traditional publishing.
- You have an experienced and professional team to help you. From literary agents and editors to marketers and designers, the people you work with will know the ins-and-outs of the publishing game. They know what works, and you’ll enjoy the benefits from the off.
- There are no upfront costs. Once you’ve written your book, everything else is paid for by the publisher. You might even get an advance payment against your royalties, pending good sales of your book.
- Easier distribution in bookstores. Many publishers have connections and contracts with major bookstores. Consequently, you’ll find it easier to get yours stocked in reputable booksellers.
- It’s a long, slow game. Writing your book might take you a year or two, even without the dreaded writer’s block. It might then optimistically take you a year to land a literary agent. Even then, it’ll take at least another year to sign a deal with a publisher, and then even longer for the editing, marketing, and design process.
- You receive lower royalties compared to self-publishing. Royalty rates for traditionally-published books are much lower than their self-published counterparts — worth knowing if you expect the dollars to start rolling in.
How to get started with traditional publishing
Swaying towards traditional publishing? Here are a few useful tips to get you started:
- Learn how to deal with rejection. You will get a lot of no’s before you get the final yes — a lot of no’s. But don’t let that get you down. The road to success is paved with rejection.
- Build an online presence. Most literary agents and publishers want to know the author behind the book. A solid social presence and website show who you are and what you’re about. This guide from writer Meg LaTorre gives you some useful pointers to get started.
Self-publishing is just what it says it is: getting your book published yourself, without relying on professional literary agents or publishers to do it for you. There are lots of ways to do this, from signing up to a self-publishing company to selling your book as a Kindle on Amazon.
Naturally, this low barrier to publishing is an attractive prospect. But it’s not without its hurdles. If you want people to read your book, you have to do the marketing yourself — no small feat.
Read on for the pros and cons of self-publishing.
100% creative control over your work. No pesky editors deleting your favorite characters or picky literary agents urging you to tone it down a notch — what you write is yours, and yours alone.
- It’s also incredibly quick and easy compared to traditional publishing. While traditional publishing takes months, even years in some cases, self-publishing can be done within weeks (this useful guide to self-publishing on Amazon manages it in just 16 steps).
- You receive higher royalties from each sale of your book. While most royalties from traditional publishing range from 7-25%, self-publishing royalties can be as high as 70% (when sold via Amazon). Of course, this means you need to sell more books to earn more than you would with traditional publishing, but it’s worth knowing.
- You need to finance it all yourself. That means everything, from your editing to your marketing, needs to be paid for out of your own pocket. Yes, you could opt for cheaper options, but when you want a professional result, you get what you pay for.
- Everything needs to be done yourself. Self-publishing is bootstrapping to the extreme. Even once you’ve written your book, you need to organize marketing, formatting, editing, and the rest. You could pay for professional help, but this costs money.
- It’s harder to get your book stocked in shops. Despite the rise of e-readers, physical books are still very much in the game. But if you want to get yours sold in-store, you need to print and provide the books yourself.
How to get started with self-publishing
Think self-publishing is right for you? Here are a few tips you need to know:
- Start teaching yourself the basics. Beyond simply writing and editing your work, you need to know about design, marketing, negotiations, and so on. Places like FutureLearn offer a variety of courses that you can do at home.
- Set realistic expectations. Don’t expect the world once your book’s been published — set realistic goals, and your hopes will remain intact.
- Go grassroots. The best way to get readers for your book? Go straight to them. Find social media groups or online forums where your target audience gather (true crime Facebook groups, for instance) and push your book there.
Hopefully, this piece has helped you decide what publishing route is right for you. Each has its pros and cons, but one thing remains the same: it requires effort and hard work. Bear that in mind, and good luck!