Traditional vs Self-Publishing

Traditional vs Self-Publishing – The Basic Low-Down


Traditional vs Self-Publishing is something that many authors are struggling to resolve in their minds. Each has their own benefits and fall backs, but there is something to say about traditional you won’t hear from many people.

Think you can crack the hard shell to get traditionally published? Then personally, that is the way to go.

When it comes to traditional vs self-publishing, an author has to make a decision based on what they know and don’t know. Self-Publishing can be a daunting task for anyone to undertake. The upfront expense, the continue “vanity” look, and everyone who says you couldn’t make it in the real world. But those are just name sayers.

In order to really understand the reasoning behind everyone’s thought process you need to look back in history and find out a few facts.

Vanity Press

A vanity press is where you pay a company to publish your book. This is very different from Self-Publishing. A vanity press is in it for the bucks period. They offer sub-standard services in editing, layout, cover art, and distribution. Most Vanity Press companies will get you into the Ingram listings but unless you pay for it, you’re not going anywhere. Vanity press cuts corners where ever they can.

A few years ago a vanity press author approached me and asked if I would look at their work. I did and found a lot of issues that really scared them. The cover art was substandard because it was a cut and paste job. None of the images made sense with the back write up. I opened the book to see the title page and copyright were a departure from what I would expect. The text on the pages was horrendous, and at a ten degree angle from perfect.

This is before I even looked at the writing.

The author said there were three editing runs on the work prior to publishing. When I went over the first paragraph, I pointed out every sentences contained the word “was”. Normally this is not that bad, but it was the description part of the setting! People, don’t use “was” so much, especially if you are writing in past tense. It is a tense modifier and will kill your writing. Here’s the test:

Which conveys the meaning the best (keep in mind the tense used):

  • Bill was running away from the approaching mob.
  • Bill ran as fast as he could to keep away from the approaching mob.

Personally, the second one is better for it conveys what he did and why without modifying a present tense verb. Just a little trick in writing most pick up after their third or forth book (if they have a good editor). The repetition of the start of each sentence also made me shake my head.

Self-Publishing and Pay-to-Publish

Self-Publishing and Pay-to-Publish mean the same thing. You are in charge. The only difference is the pay-to-publish may be more closely related to Vanity Press. You pay for packages, where Self-Publishing you source all your own services.

I don’t think Pay-to-Publish services are that great for you are basically using a contractor to sub-contract for you. Roll the dice and you could end up with a great piece of work or you could have crap on a page. There is no going back. The reason someone my use Pay-to-Publish is they don’t want to spend the time researching the people they want to deal with.

Self-Publishing makes you the boss. Your success or failure is squarely on your shoulders. Picking the artwork for the cover and getting a good editor means you are really trying to make sure everything goes right. But your success is up to you. Advertise the crap out of it and maybe you’ll get your initial investment out of the work. If not, then your failure only points at one person – you.

Traditional Publishing

Every author looks to this for their main goal, that is, unless they have already been traditionally published and understand what is needed to succeed. Then they move to Self-Publishing.

A publisher looks at your work and decides they will invest in it. After reading it over they offer you a contract. You will only be offer advances on royalties if you are already a traditionally published author with a huge following and proven track record. If this is your first book, don’t expect any advances or amazing royalty deals. They are rolling the dice on you and hopefully you will hammer yourself out there when the book is published.

A traditional publisher foots the bill on everything from basic editing to advanced line copy. The cover art is so professional it will make you cry. Everything is perfect (to an acceptable error margin of 5% which is industry standard). There are some publishers out there (my company in particular) that will pull books if there is an error pointed out and rerun the printing. It’s a huge expense and we want return on our investment, so buckle-up and expect to see some sales.

But you better work a little as well. You will see a lack of sales if, as an author, you don’t hit the bricks to help out. It will make the publisher very upset and gun shy on picking up your next book.

I turn to one of our authors as an example:

Realizing River City – by Melissa Grunow

We put Melissa through the ringer during the edit process. And when we were completed, she asked if it was okay that she hated the work. This is normal for passing notes for rewrites of sections becomes hard to take. You think someone is nit picking even the small things. But that is how a traditional publisher is, they make the manuscript as perfect as possible.

In the end, after all the griping about changing a word here or revamping a sentence there, the book has pulled in several awards including “Best Non-Fiction of 2016 by IAN” to name just one. Melissa also used the book to launch a number of paid speaking tours and workshops. She’s made a nice tidy amount from the work and keeps cashing in on it, even though it probably is her only published work.

If you get traditionally published, smile. It is a hard nut to crack. In fact, out of all the submission my publishing company receives, only three out of one-hundred make it to the test reader phase. And there only one out of twenty are looked at for possible publishing. Heck, Love Knot Books is on their second publication after four years because we are very picky about our romance.

Summing Up

If you opt to publish your book in the traditional vs self-publishing way, I would say good for you. It is a hard road to travel, but very rewarding if you take advantage of it. Remember you will need to have a thick skin for the rejections can be lengthy, but the process is great. The chances of a contract are like winning the lottery.

A word of advice – Always follow the submission process to the letter. I can’t tell you how many authors have been rejected right away for not following the process and thinking that they are above such.

Good luck and check out our publishing company along with all their imprints:

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