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Publishers vs. Self-Publishing

Updated: Jan 4, 2023

Breaking down the pros and cons of submitting to a publisher and publishing yourself.

Are you an aspiring author trying to decide how to publish your book? The publishing industry has come a long way in recent years, and now there are more options than ever for getting your work into the world. One option is traditional book publishing, where a publishing house takes on the task of editing, designing, distributing, and marketing your book. Another option is self-publishing, where you take on all of these tasks yourself or with the help of a self-publishing service.

Traditional book publishing has its pros and cons. On the plus side, working with a publishing house gives you access to their resources and expertise. They can help you polish your manuscript, design a beautiful cover, and get your book into bookstores and libraries. Additionally, traditional publishers often have relationships with literary agents and can help you secure a book deal.

However, traditional publishing can be a long and competitive process. Finding a publisher interested in your work can take years, and you may not get the deal you want. Additionally, traditional publishers often take a large percentage of the profits from book sales, leaving the author with a smaller cut of sales.

Traditional book publishing typically involves the following steps:

  1. Writing and revising a manuscript: This is the first step in the formal publishing process. As an author, you’ll need to write and edit your manuscript until it’s ready for submission.

  2. Finding a literary agent: Many traditional publishers require authors to work with a literary agent who represents the author and helps them secure a book deal. Literary agents screen manuscripts and only represent those they believe have a good chance of success.

  3. Submitting a proposal: If you have a literary agent, they will submit a proposal to publishers on your behalf. This proposal includes a summary of your book, a sample chapter, and your author bio.

  4. Receiving and negotiating a book deal: If a publisher is interested in your book, they will offer you a book deal. This deal will outline the terms of the agreement, including the advance payment, royalties, and distribution rights. You and your agent will negotiate the terms of the deal until both parties are satisfied.

  5. Editing and design: Once you have a book deal, the publisher will assign an editor to work with you on refining and polishing your manuscript. They will also work with a designer to create a cover for your book.

  6. Printing and distribution: After your book is edited and designed, it will be printed and distributed to bookstores and other retailers. The publisher will handle all distribution logistics, including marketing and promotion.

Traditional book publishing has several benefits for authors. It provides access to the resources and expertise of a publishing house, including editing, design, and distribution. It also allows authors to reach a wider audience, as traditional publishers have established relationships with bookstores, libraries, and other retailers. However, traditional publishing can be a long and competitive process, and authors may receive fewer profits from book sales.

Self-publishing, on the other hand, gives you more control over the publishing process. You can publish your book on your own timeline, choose your own cover design, and set your prices. Self-publishing also allows you to keep a more significant percentage of the profits from book sales.

However, self-publishing also has its drawbacks. Without the resources of a publishing house, you may have to invest more time and money into editing, design, distribution, and marketing. It can be challenging to get your book noticed without the backing of a traditional publisher.

Self-publishing typically involves the following steps:

  1. Writing and revising a manuscript: As with traditional publishing, the first step in self-publishing is writing and revising your manuscript. You’ll need to ensure that your book is as polished as possible before you start the publishing process.

  2. Choosing a self-publishing platform: There are many self-publishing platforms available, including Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, IngramSpark, and Lulu. Each platform has its own features and fees, so you’ll need to choose the one that best meets your needs.

  3. Editing and design: With self-publishing, you’ll need to handle the editing and design of your book yourself or hire professionals to do it for you. This can include proofreading, copyediting, and design services for the cover and interior layout.

  4. Formatting and uploading your book: After editing and designing your book, you’ll need to format it for the chosen self-publishing platform. This typically involves creating electronic files in the proper format, such as .epub or .mobi. You’ll then upload these files to the platform and set your book’s price and distribution options.

  5. Marketing and promotion: With self-publishing, you’ll be responsible for getting the word out about your book. This can include creating a website or social media presence, running ads, and reaching out to bookstores and libraries to see if they’ll stock your book.

Self-publishing gives you more control over the publishing process and allows you to publish your book on your own timeline. It also allows you to keep a larger percentage of the profits from book sales. However, self-publishing requires more time and effort on the author’s part, as you’ll need to handle the editing, design, distribution, and marketing yourself.

Ultimately, the decision between traditional publishing and self-publishing comes down to your goals as an author and what you’re willing to invest in terms of time, money, and control. Traditional publishing might be the way to go if you want to see your book in bookstores and libraries. If you want more control over the process and are willing to put in the work, self-publishing could be a good option.

About the writer, Britta Buescher Britta is a creative director, designer, and illustrator located in St. Louis. Co-conspirators with creatives who involve themselves mainly (but not limited to) in the music and comic book industry. Previously with Dark Horse Comics, Lion Forge, FUNimation, and Nickelodeon. Superpowers include being a leading voice for women illustrators, designers, and animators.

Find more at Medium Instagram: @Britta_Buescher Twitter: @Britta_Buescher



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