Traditional, Self or Assisted-Self? Which Publishing Route Should You Take?
Updated: Sep 24
Bog #2 in Author Struggles
(All info below based on my own findings)
When I decided to do something with my writing, I had to decide which route to take; traditional publishing or self-publishing. It seemed an easy choice because I didn’t know what self-publishing really was, so traditional publishing it was going to be. Since Nexus Point was still in its early draft, I put aside thoughts of agents, publishers and whatnot in order to finish the manuscript. Up until the last draft, I was still trekking toward the traditional publishers … until someone … someone’s (ahem, all in the book industry), shook their heads at me and suggested I go the self-publishing or indie route. Not because the book wasn’t good enough for trad publishing, but for other reasons. Many, many, many other reasons.
I wasn’t completely convinced at first so I did my research. I learned about KDP, Writer’s Beware, agents, assisted self-publishers, vanity publishers, indie publishing … the research was extensive, and led me down many a rabbit hole, especially the Writer’s Beware website on www.sfwa.org .
Any new indie authors out there? You must become familiar with Writer’s Beware. It’s a comprehensive site that details the scams involved in writing, publishing, editing and contests … plus much more.
Now, this stage of publishing decisions may seem far away, or imminent, based on where you are with your manuscript, but since I’ve been through it, I suggest you start thinking about this ASAP. How do you want to publish? Traditional, self or assisted-self? There are pros and cons to all, but most importantly, they will all cost you money so I’d start saving as soon as you can. That’s why you should be at least thinking of this as you start your book, or by the time you reach the middle of your book.
Best piece of advice. Ever! No matter what, get your story professionally edited. Either copy or content (similar to developmental but not quite as in depth), even, if not especially, before you send it to a traditional publisher. The more polished it is, the better opinion they form of you. If they get a manuscript that has issues right from the first chapter or page, they will throw it out.
So, this is what I’ve learned, but some of the information may be wrong, as in, I don’t have the details but this is how it came across to me. This is complied by internet research, and talks with professional book marketers and editors.
-a sense of accomplishment and prestige
-they do all the editing, formatting and cover designs for you and don’t charge you (upfront)
-your book will look professional and be professional
-clout in the book industry
-it could take years for your book to see the light of day, even after they accept it
-they don’t charge you for anything, but the sneaky thing is that when the book is published and is making money, the publisher recoups the costs for editing, printing and designing the book (which can be in the thousands), before they start paying you. This includes any advance they may have given you- it is taken from the profits/royalties by the publisher before they start paying you. Now, this is what I’ve heard/learned, and can’t verify it. Some trad publishers may handle things differently, but overall, this seems to be normal.
-they own the rights. This may be different based on your contract, exclusive rights or not.
-at most, you many only make a small profit of each book sold, after publisher has recouped their costs and takes their royalties
-if you sign with a trad pub, and the editor thinks you should make the protag female, change the location of the story and/or add sex or something, and you don’t want to- they can end the contract and you have to pay back any and all advances they may have given you because you aren’t following their suggestions. I’ve heard there are different levels of this, some may not end a contract, but they may not want to work with you again.
-they design the cover, the about the author, and your acknowledgments- you can make small choices, but not really
-they don’t market your book like it’s the best new author out there, because you are a nobody and they don’t want to spend money on you until you’ve proved your worth. So, marketing will be your responsibility no matter how you go… which I’m learning and trying to do now.
-you have full control of all content and design
-you hold onto all your rights
-you get to decide everything
-you can publish as fast as you want- on Kindle, you can have your book available within hours once you upload, in digital and print because they do print on demand
-you can make very good money using Kindle (amazon) when you use their ‘tools’ like getting paid for every page someone reads.
-if you pay for outside services, you can have a very well edited, well formatted, professional looking book
-basic (I stress basic, because some writer’s put in more effort than others) self-published books are cheap unless you spend big coin on things that will dip into your profits and make the wholesale price of the book very high
-you have to learn how to use Kindle, AppleBooks, Kobo and whatnot- they are all independent and you’ll have to learn how to organize all the finances and whatnot of each
-the stigma attached to self-pub is bad. And for good reason. Anyone can upload to the main digital book stores and sell, there is no threshold guardian. There are no requirements for the book to be good. And readers know this, and it may deter them from buying what may be a very, very good book.
-can be expensive! If you want your book to look good. You have to pay for everything from editing (which requires more than one round), a design for your book cover, the copyright, and the printing. When places advertise you get 100% of the profits, that means after the price of printing and distribution. So if each book costs $10 to print, and you sell your book at $20, 100% of profits is off that remaining $10. Oh, and there’s distribution as well, and that comes off the price of the book before you get your 100% profit as well.
-there are many scammers out there! Beware! Be very aware! A lot of companies advertise that they will help you self-publish your book (called vanity presses), but many are scammers. There are many lists on the web to search these companies out. And if you self-pub, many of these places (with very legitimate sounding names by the way), will cold-call email you saying they would like to take your book over- for a cost. Watch out for these scamming publishers, editors and agents.
-you have to do 100% of your own marketing of the book
-it can be very overwhelming when all you want to do is write
Assisted Self-Publishing (Not to be confused with Vanity publishers)
-you retain all the rights for the book
-you get a publisher’s name on your book
-you get 100% of profits (similar to as described above), no royalties go to the publisher
-there is a higher quality to the writing with assisted self-pub companies because their name is on it, so they want substance in the books they publish
-professional looking book (I have physically compared books)
-they can take care of editing, design (so much more than just the covers), copyright and whatnot, so you don’t have to
-some do minor marketing for you, and I stress minor
-it’s like using a trad pub but paying for all the extra stuff before hand so it doesn’t come out of profits when it’s being sold
-can distribute for you, including brick and mortar and all the ebook places; they don’t sell your book for you (except on their own website bookstore), this simply means it will be in the distributors catalogues for book buyers to see
-do your finances for you
-quicker to publication than trad pub, but not nearly as fast as self-pub
*This is based on a reputable assisted self-publisher. Again, there are many scammers out there! And yes, it will confuse you if you look it up, but there is a huge difference between vanity publishers and assisted self-publishers. It’s hard to find assisted self-pubs. You get a lot of vanity pubs that come up on your google searches. Friesen Press and Tellwell are two of the biggest and most reputable… And international.
-VERY expensive, probably the most expensive if you use a reputable one. I hate to admit it, but I spent a lot of money to publish my book. Not all at once, and not all with my assisted self-publisher (I used a dev editor for a year prior to approaching Friesen Press) but overall. That said, my developmental editor (not associated with Friesen Press) said that for what I got, that was cheap! He was amazed at what Friesen Press does for their authors. And you can choose from many different ‘packages’, or a la carte. I chose a lower end package with several a la carte options because I wanted a high quality book with all the bells and whistles.
-still a lot of work learning the industry, and being overwhelmed by marketing, editing process and whatnot. Again, depending on what you pay for, your work load can be less.
-again, process is still very overwhelming when all you want to do is write
*It seems like I’m pushing the assisted self-pub, and in a way I am, but it’s biggest drawback is the price. And that’s a huge con.
So take this advice as you want … with a grain or salt or let it be your bible. Either way, it’s what I had to share.