An author who decides to self-publish basically becomes the publisher. (The author does everything.) The author must proofread the final text and provide the funds required to publish the book, as well as the camera-ready artwork. The author is responsible for marketing and distributing the book, filling orders, and running advertising campaigns. In the past, the author had to decide on the number of copies to print, sometimes resulting in stacks of unsold books gathering dust in the garage! Fortunately, the Print on Demand (POD) technology now used by some self-publishing companies means that authors can have fewer copies printed.
Fundamental differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing:
With traditional publishing, a manuscript can take years to become a book. First, an author may have to pitch the manuscript to several publishing houses before it is picked up. Considering that the bigger houses can take up to six months to work through, to get to your manuscript and that you will likely have to try several publishing houses before you get one to show interest. That’s a lot of waiting. Then, if a large book publisher does decide to take your book, the actual process of producing the book takes at least another year. Admittedly, this process applies mainly to fiction. Nonfiction books that are topical and relevant to current world events might be pushed through more quickly.
With self-publishing, depending on the company, an author can literally have a finished book—hardcover or paperback or both—in his or her hands within a few months. And, with the advent of e-books, this can be reduced to weeks, or even days. Of course, authors have to pay for this service, which raises the issue of money.
In contrast, with traditional publishing, you are paid an advance, ranging from small sums to seven-digit figures. In traditional publishing, the publishing house, with its huge resources, experience, knowledge, and contacts, vigorously promotes your book. When you self-publish, you pay for everything—design, editing, printing, advertising, distribution—to get your book into stores and ultimately into people’s hands. You’re all by yourself; self-publishing works best for people who are good at self-marketing. The major payoff for all of your payout, though, is control.
Often an author’s joy at selling a manuscript turns into despair when an over-zealous editor at a publishing house rips that manuscript into unrecognizable shreds. Publishers might refuse to publish a book because it is too controversial, doesn’t fit the house’s list, or simply because [they think] it won’t sell. With self-publishing, the author has much greater control over the contents, design, and appearance, as well as where the book is marketed and distributed.
It’s all up to you…
Having looked at traditional publishing versus self-publishing, ask yourself some tough questions about what is best for you, your intentions, and your manuscript. Are you willing to play the waiting game in order to earn a large advance from a traditional publisher? Or is control of your manuscript and a quick turnaround more important?
The good news is that the available tools—POD, the internet, and online booksellers—are leveling the playing field between traditionally published and self-published books. Authors now have more options.
Remember, a document that’s free of spelling and grammatical errors is far more likely to catch the attention of a publishing house editor—or satisfy the customers for your self-published book. Submit your draft to one of our book editors today to ensure that your document is error free. Proof it until it’s right and error free, before you print.