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Should You Seek A Traditional Publisher?

Marie Elrich

Marie Elrich


Freelance Copywriter


Oct, 2017

Note from Steam Powerd Dreams Founder, Jeremy Collier:
Welcome to the first part of Final Draft! If you haven’t already done so, make sure you check out the introduction post to see what’s coming. Also don’t forget to check out our Second Draft series where we talk about editing, beta readers, and more!

You’ve finally put the finishing touches on your manuscript and are now looking for what to do with it. You see tons of information about self-publishing and traditional publishing, but not a simple article comparing the two. Well, search no longer! This article is just that, an easy to understand comparison of the pros and cons of traditional and self-publishing. Hopefully, these advantages and disadvantages will give you what you need to make your decision.

Is traditional publishing right for you?

It really is a personal choice, so pay special attention to the pros and cons of each.

The overall benefit of a traditional publisher is that publishing houses have more resources and experience than new authors. They have professional editors and designers who can refine a book with fancy fonts, a professional layout, and a stunning cover. When they publish a book, they distribute it to all the book publishing venues: Amazon, Google, I-Books, Barnes & Noble etc. Also, they pay many authors up front, giving them an advance, sometimes in the thousands of dollars. If your book does well, they then send it to media sources, such as the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, for book reviews. Publishers send successful authors on expenses paid book tours where they can sign copies of their books and meet fans. Lastly, if your book shows potential, they set up other marketing opportunities for authors, such as interviews for television or radio.

Yet, being published is nearly impossible. The amount of books published by big name publishers is only a small percentage of the total that is submitted, some studies say less than 1%. Most new authors must hire an agent to get noticed by a publishing company and if an author is published, they will most likely not be privy to paid book tours or interviews. New authors also have to be careful about accepting contracts with publishing houses, who take up to 95% of the profits from the author. If an author is lucky enough to get an advance they don’t gain any profits until the publishing company makes back their money, something that rarely happens for new authors. And, after that, you can expect only about 5%-10% cut, even if your book is doing exceedingly well.

“New authors also have to be careful about accepting contracts with publishing houses, who take up to 95% of the profits from the author.”

What does this mean exactly? Well, if a book is on sale for $10, the publishing company would take about $9.50 of that and give the author 50 cents per book sold, which would be split between them and any outside services they may have hired, such as an agent or illustrator. This means they might receive about 25 cents on each book they sell. Finally, some publishing firms charge for their editing services, which cuts even deeper into an author’s profit.

I know what this sounds like. The cons of traditional publishing make you wonder if self-publishing is the better option. However, before you jump on the self-publishing bandwagon, you should consider not only the pros but cons of self-publishing as well.

Which path is right for you?

Be sure to let us know in the comments.

The main disadvantage of self-publishing is that marketing and publishing are in the hands of the author, who is most likely inexperienced. Authors with little or no budget have to edit and format their own manuscripts and then upload that manuscript to all the book-selling sites themselves, costing a large amount of time and effort. Many self-published authors opt to spend a bit of money to hire an editor and formatter to give them a professional looking book, which is highly recommended.

Then, once the book is out there, or scheduled to be released, these inexperienced writers must schedule their own book tours, media appearances, book club visits, and speeches. Adding to their burden is the fact that an unknown author without the power of a publishing house behind them will not get television and media appearances easily. Lastly, unpublished authors must promote their own book through advertising. They seek out book reviews or other promotions, but often times that’s not enough and they pay for advertisements, which can cut into the author’s profits just like paying for formatting and editing.

Many authors are unintimidated by the workload of self-publishing and consider control over their book as an advantage over traditional publishing. They want to make sure the book’s format and cover are customized to their personal tastes and want to curate their own content. Another benefit of self-publishing is that the profit is much larger for indie authors, with an average of 70%. Instead of splitting the profit of a book with their agent and publisher, an indie author gets to keep all of the profit made from the book after taxes and fees from the distributing company. Lastly, authors can change marketing tactics for their book so that when one marketing tactic does not work, they can try something new and more effective.

No matter which path you take, it’s not easy. The amount of time, effort, and money that goes into publishing, whether you’re going traditional or independent, work is very discouraging for some new writers. Many of us have neither the time nor the funds to create and promote a self-published book, yet going the traditional route can take up to three years if you’re lucky enough to get picked.

Hopefully, these pros and cons helped you decide which route you wish to take for publishing your newly minted manuscript. If you have any questions, leave a comment below or hit that Contact button above and send us your question!

Until then, keep writing, and check out the rest of Steam Powered Dreams’ website for more tips.


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