Traditional publishing vs. self-publishing – which is best for writers?


Is it better for a writer to shop her book around to traditional publishing houses or to dive in and self-publish or use a publish on demand or POD company? Should a writer create a book proposal or hire someone to create that proposal and then find a publishing agent and trust the agent o shop the book successfully? Will a traditional house publish you?

The answers aren’t simple and money changes hands, lots of money, no matter which way a writer or author decides to go. One set of constant rules has to do with making your book the best it can be. Write your book. Read your book. Have your book professionally edited. Proof your book. Read it again. when it’s professional and perfect consider the following:

Agents are expensive. Is it worth giving them a cut of my book?

If you pay an agent, it means you made money. You pay an agent a percentage of your earnings on the book. The chances of you selling a book to a major house on your own are slim, but if you have a well-developed platform, it can be done. I’d advise looking at smaller houses who specialize in your topic if you can’t bring yourself to share revenues with an agent.

Non-fiction is easier to sell than fiction, by far. You will average royalties of $1-$2 per copy sold through a traditional publisher. You will do a lot of marketing yourself, with help and mentoring from the publisher. You will learn a lot for dealing with your next book.

Should I self publish? Isn’t is cheaper?

Self publishing has come a long way. But be sure you will want to drive around to speaking gigs, signings, appearances and so forth on your dime, with a trunk full of books to sell at the back of the room. There is no getting away from marketing. Self-pub books DO get reviews these days, if they are outstanding, professionally crafted books.

There are 190 million books published in the U.S. each year. Books that sell are often professionally edited, well-written, and marketed effectively. Do a market study to determine what books are out there LIKE yours. Decide how they are like yours and why yours fills a gap. If there are none like yours, it maybe because there is no market for them or maybe no one has put the idea together the way you have. You must know the market place.

Self publishing will cost you money. Publishing a book costs. No way around it, anyone tells you different, they’re math is wrong. Before you sign anything or spend anything, do your homework and be sure you know exactly what the contract requires of you. Consider ebook publishing as well, but again, know what you are getting into.

How do I know what’s the right thing to do?

Trust experts. Don’t throw yourself to the wolves and go running off in unexplored directions unless you have unlimited funds and more time than I do. Talk to other authors and writers about what experts they trust. Read social media sites and see what the experts are saying. Find out who edited, agented, or published a book similar to yours and research that person or entity.

If you need an expert, I’m an experienced editor, author manager, author consultant, and ghost. I work on a flat fee. My name never appears on your work. When I do an evaluation and recommendation, I evaluate for the strength of your project – for the gold in it. I don’t grind it to shreds and tell you what’s wrong with it. We will look at what’s right with it, together. Then we’ll explore the options open to you and how to make the most success of your book project.


Best writing coach and author manager I know

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5 Responses to “Traditional publishing vs. self-publishing – which is best for writers?”

  1. Try writing an eBook. I wrote one as part of my Grandma’s Little Black Book eBooks series about how to freelance write for Textbroker, based on my experience writing for them for the past two years. The sales have really surprised me in the two months since first letting the world know about the eBook. Readers have sent me wonderful complementary comments about the content. It is basically all profit, but I am offering a commission to resellers. There are no physical costs, just time to write the eBook, get it as perfect as possible and do electronic delivery as orders come in.

  2. You’re right. Ebooks are a good way to distribute your writing and will only get more popular. WordPress has free software for auto-downloads. We use it here and here


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