The 5 Major Benefits of Self-Publishing Over Traditional Publishing
In recent years, the publishing industry has undergone significant transformations. While it’s unrealistic to claim that there are no longer any gatekeepers when it comes to releasing books, the truth is that more and more books are being produced without the help of traditional imprints. Self-publishing platforms, such as Amazon KDP and IngramSpark, and flourishing professional communities, such as Reedsy, are making it incredibly easy for everyoneto realize their publishing dreams.
But is self-publishing really going to propel your author career forward? Is it actually better than going through traditional channels? The choice is ultimately yours to make, but here are five major reasons why self-publishing is probably the way to go.
First and most importantly, publishing by yourself means that you have full creative control over your book. This goes beyond keeping the rights to your creation, and here’s how:
One of the many stages of publishing a bookis editing it. When you work with a traditional publishing house, given that they accept your manuscript, you’ll be working with in-house editors. But beyond their literary expertise, editors also have considerations for the market that might lead to substantial changes in your book — changes that may or may not align with your conception of the story.
For instance, you might want to keep the relationship between your two main characters platonic, while the editor thinks that readers will enjoy a bit of romance between them. And since you’ve signed a contract with the publisher, the book is now a group project, which means you’ll be pressured to accept their suggestions.
Though you should certainly try to write with your audience in mind, you’d probably like to preserve some creative independence for the thingsyouwant in your book. And that’s where self-publishing shines — there’s no one to tell you what you can and can’t write in order to get published.
As mentioned above, with traditional publishing, you need to acquire a publishing deal. Getting to that stage may entail finding a literary agent, and it definitelyrequires copious amounts of manuscript submissions. Even with a polished manuscript and dozens of personalized letters to agents and publishers, there’s still the chance that no one will take you up on your book. If the cultural sensation that is Harry Potterhad to go to 12 publishers before it was accepted, the outlook for your book can seem rather bleak.
Now, not getting accepted by traditional publishers doesn’t mean that your book isn’t good. Sometimes, they’re already working on a project that has the same premise as yours, or they’re simply swamped for the time being. Believe it or not, publishing houses have limited resources at their disposal, so they have to be strategic with the contracts that they sign. But just because they can’t deliver, doesn’t mean that you can’t yourself.
If your goal is to get your work onto bookshelves, there’s no surer way than to take matters into your own hands. You’ll need to make some investments, most likely in editing services and aprofessionally designed cover, but with some careful planning and perseverance, you’ll no doubt pull through!
Extending from the previous point, self-publishing also saves you the timespent on querying and submitting your manuscript. Traditionally, that process involves preparing your manuscript and query letters, waiting at least 8 to 12 weeks to hear back from publishers, and then potentially doing at leastanother round of submissions.
Plus, when you eventually get that contract, your book will go through plenty of reworking and designing, and an elaborate marketing plan has to be drawn up. Typically, your book will hit the shelves 9 to 18 months after you seal the deal. Realistically speaking, if you’ve just completed your manuscript and are looking to publish traditionally, it’ll probably be years before people can buy it.
On the other hand, if you publish by yourself, you can head straight into working with your own beta readers and freelancers to edit your work. At the same time, begin researching which self-publishing platform(s) you want to use and sketch out plans to market your book. It’s best practice to prepare at least 6 months before your launch, so if you reallyknow your craft, it’s technically possible to crank out two books a year!
Obviously, you should not rush this intricate process. But even when you take it slow, self-publishing can get your book out there within a year of completing your manuscript.
In addition to the complete control over the creative aspects of your project, self-publishing means that you get to decide how to present yourself. This is important, because deciding to become an author is basically becoming a public figure; your name is now more or less a brand.
Traditional publishers will provide you with the expertise and resources to build this public image. This may seem tempting at first — after all, you’re a writer, not a marketer — but it also means you’re surrendering some personal freedoms to your publisher’s marketing team. They’ll be deciding on your target audience and the means to reach them, which includes your online presence and live events. Authors tend to entrust everything to the “experts” in that sense.
But who’s to say you don’t have a strong grasp on your audience? Aren’t you, the author, the one who most deeply connects with the readers? As the person who’s actually sharing their ideas and experiences, you should get to define your public image and your relationship with readers. And let’s not forget, you can always learn about book promotion, but marketers cannot sell books without you.
Last but not least, let’s address the elephant in the room: the royalties. The advantage is quite obvious: self-published authors often earn between 50% and 70% of the book revenue, while those going down the traditional route usually only get 5%-20%. And that’s not to mention the fact that publishers don’t pay you anything until your royalties have covered the advance payment that you received when signing the contract.
So yes, while self-publishing asks you to be more than just a writer, it also means that you get back more for all the hard work that you put in. And don’t worry that you’ll have to brave it on your own — there are plenty of resources and professional freelancers out there ready to help you. At the end of the day, if you’re determined to realize yourvision, no amount of hard work or gatekeeping will stop you.
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