Self Publishing VS Traditional Publishing

Most budding writers wish to be the next J K Rowling, Stephen King, Harper Lee or even A A Milne, but how easy is it to get your work published in the 21st century?

The leading publishers such as Penguin, HarperCollins, Bloomsbury won’t accept any manuscripts as they simply don’t have the staff or time to go through them all. As a result, more and more authors are turning to self-publishing.


Self-publishing is just as it sounds, authors now have resources available to them to publish their own books without having to approach major publishers.

The advantages of self-publishing are many. The author will have bigger profits. Whenever a ‘middleman’ such as a literary agent or publisher is involved, the profits will automatically be reduced to pay for their work. Of course, unless the author buys the book direct from the printers (and even then, there’ll be costs involved!) and intends to sell to the public directly, there will always be some sort of costs such as retailers.

There’s no risk of being rejected. What if a person's life's work isn’t good enough? That can be heart-wrenching! With self-publishing you can just go for it, publish what you like. Sure, nobody could buy it, but that’s just because they don’t understand or haven’t heard about the book. A self-publisher has the control for this, and also to oversee the whole process of the book from beginning to end. There’s no pressure to stick to a particular topic, or write more books.

However, self-publishing can be very time consuming, as the document must be formatted to the correct sizes and have perfect punctuation and grammar. No matter how good a writer’s spelling is, you can get blind to the mistakes you may make. Spellcheck can be a godsend, but what if you words r spelt write but r still un correct? Or imagine if autocorrect misunderstands what your soy is. Ideally, the least a writer should do is hire a good proofreader.

If the book is only for friends and family, then self–publishing is great as you can find companies that print on demand, but if an author wishes to make a living out of it then the book needs to SELL! There are self-publishing companies out there that can help, but fees can be high, around £2,000 per book, just for the printing. If an author is lucky enough to find anywhere cheaper, they should go for it, if they can afford it.

Traditional Publishing

With traditional publishing houses, there are expectations of a certain amount of books that authors must write, and deadlines to keep to. These deadlines may be to their advantage, to give them time to write their book, or may not be long enough, or not soon enough.

Some may give an advance on royalty payments, but these are usually small and take a while to recover. Your content may not be deemed good enough for them to publish, their time spent on the book may not justify what sales they believe it will achieve.

On the plus side, they deal with everything involved with the publishing, which means the writer simply has to write. They have the resources to market and promote your book, through digital and social media, book stores etc. As they work on a commission only basis (usually around 15% of the gross sales) it is in their best interests to ensure that their clients achieve as many sales as possible, so will work harder. A self-publishing author may move in the same circles and potential readers could become stale quite early on. There’s only so many times a person can promote their own book to the same people. Traditional book publishers will have a fresh outlook, new circles, new potential readers.

Once an author chooses the self-publishing route it can be very difficult to approach traditional publishers, so they must think carefully when choosing how to publish their work. They must consider:

• Control
o Can they let go of control enough to allow the publishing company to make major decisions?
• Longevity
o Do they have enough books ‘in them’ to write to the demands of a traditional publisher?
o Can they complete works within set deadlines?
o Do they want to publish more frequently?
• Target Audience?
o Are they writing just to be a published author or do they want to earn a living from it?
• Royalties
o How much do they want to earn?
• Marketing
o How much time can they spend promoting their book?
o How much money can they spend advertising?
o Do they have enough people to market to? OR are they relying on word of mouth?

Each style of publishing is down to the individual writer, and only they can decide, but hopefully this helps to make that decision. Whatever the decision, please don’t leave those magnificent works of art in your head, in a file or boxed away in a dusty attic.