Page III: Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing

Self-publishing and conventional commercial publishers require the same 5 steps to publish a book, but differ in regard to:

  • Who takes the risk, covering the up-front costs
  • Who earns the reward, the revenues from sales
  • Who owns the rights to the book
  • Who has creative control
  • Who decides whether and when the book gets published

The Up-Front Costs: The costs of publishing a book include paying an editor, a designer, distribution costs, plus any marketing investments. In self-publishing, the author covers these costs. In traditional publishing, the publisher does.

Who Earns Revenues: In self-publishing, the author earns a much greater portion of sales revenues. In traditional publishing, the author makes a very small portion of sales revenues. In other words, whoever takes the risk by covering the up-front costs gets the rewards when the book sells. However, many self-publishing companies take a portion of sales revenues in addition to charging up-front fees.

Who owns the rights to the book: In self-publishing you retain the rights to your manuscript. If you are getting help from a self-publishing company, you typically give the company the temporary, non-exclusive right to publish your book. In traditional publishing, the publisher owns the rights.

Who has creative control: In self-publishing you retain control over the process. If you hire an editor, for example, you don’t have to accept all of their changes. In traditional publishing, the publisher can make changes to the manuscript and the title of the book, and decide what goes on the cover.

Who decides whether to publish your book: In self-publishing, you make a decision to publish your book. In traditional publishing, it is up to the publisher whether they choose to publish your book. Often, they receive thousands of manuscripts every month, and reject over 99%. This is the overwhelming reason so many people choose to self-publish.

Advantages of Self-Publishing

Disadvantages of Self-Publishing

  • High royalties
  • Creative control
  • You retain copyright
  • You get to decide whether your book is published
  • You cover the up-front costs

Advantages of Traditional Publishing

Disadvantages of Traditional Publishing

  • Publisher covers the up-front costs and helps in all aspects of publishing
  • You give up most of the sales revenues, the rights to the book, and creative control
  • Very competitive, estimated 99% rejection rate