Self Publishing Vs Traditional Publishing: Which is Best?

For most of the 20th century, traditional publishing was the only option for many authors. While the technology existed for self-publishing, it proved prohibitively expensive for most people.

The rapid technological development since 2000 changed the game completely. Amazon now offers a stable platform for self-publishing ebooks and print editions through its KDP select program. Authors can also take advantage of print on demandtechnology for short-run printing of physical editions.

With all these changes in the industry, it begs the question: Is self-publishing or traditional publishing best? Let’s jump in and take a closer look at the two options.

Traditional Publishing

Traditional publishing typically means an author places a book with one of the Big 5 publishers:

  • Hachette
  • HarperCollins
  • Simon & Schuster
  • Penguin Random House
  • Macmillan

Of course, that makes it sound simple. It’s not.

The vast majority of titles the Big 5 publish come through author agents who champion the book with an editor. The editor then champions the book with the publisher, which offers a contract.

That means traditional publishing requires an author to secure an agent. While not as difficult as directly selling a book to a publisher, securing an agent is often a monumental task for new authors.

Traditional Publishing Benefits

If you can secure a contract with a traditional publisher, it does come with some benefits. The publisher handles a wide range of tasks.

For example, the publisher handles proofreading, formatting, distribution, and even some marketing. The author’s main job during the process is revisions based on the editor’s notes and promoting the book.

Self Publishing

Self-publishing happens when an author takes on all of the duties of the publisher. The author does face certain limits in terms of distribution. Most major bookstores won’t carry self-published titles.

That means the author must select from a small number of distribution channels, such as:

  • Amazon
  • iBooks
  • Kobo
  • BookBaby
  • Smashwords

Some authors opt for exclusive distribution of their ebooks on Amazon through its KDP Select program.

Self Publishing Benefits

Self-publishing does offer some benefits as well. For one, the author retains substantially more control. The book will only change as much as the author lets it change during editing.

The self-publishing process moves much faster. Once you finish editing the book, you can publish it almost immediately in ebook form. You can also order print editions immediately.

You might wait a year or more for a traditional publisher to print your book.

Which is Best?

The question of whether self-publishing or traditional publishing is best doesn’t offer simple answers.

Traditional publishing offers very long odds of success for new authors. It’s an energy-sapping and time-consuming process to get an agent. Even if you get an agent, it’s no promise of publication.

If you despise managing details and self-promotion, self-publishing will prove an exercise in misery. 

Self-publishing is the best route if you relish control and want a guarantee of publication.

InstantPublisher.com helps authors self publish with short-run printing of physical copies. For more information or questions about our print services, contact InstantPublisher.com today.

DIY: Your Ultimate Guide to Self Publishing a Book

You wrote a book! Congratulations!

Of course, you want other people to read the book. You can look for an agent or submit it to a publisher’s slush pile. You might get lucky.

You can also pursue the other option. That’s right, you can self publish your book.

Not sure where you should start? Keep reading and we’ll give a solid guide for self publishing a book.

Polish the Book

It’s a hard pill for many first-time authors to swallow, but your first draft is not ready for publication. It absolutely contains at least some of these problems:

  • typos
  • grammar errors
  • stilted passages
  • logical errors
  • structural problems

Assume that you’ll end up writing as many as five drafts of the book before you send it out for feedback from beta readers.

Hire a Professional Editor

No matter how well-meaning or insightful your beta readers, they aren’t a substitute for a professional editor. Odds are good that they’ll consciously or unconsciously hold back to avoid hurting your feelings.

A professional editor won’t give you a pass because they have no emotional investment in you. Giving you honest, actionable advice is a professional editor’s job. They’re also a lot more likely to catch those typos and grammar errors that your eyes just slide over.

Book Formatting and Cover Design

The debate rages on about book formatting and cover design.

On the one hand, you can get formatting templates for free. Many sites and graphic designers offer premade covers at a reasonable price.

On the other hand, the templates might not work the way you want. Premade covers vary wildly in quality. They won’t necessarily capture your book’s emotional tenor exactly the way you want, either.

When in doubt, you can also hire a professional for formatting and cover design.

Choosing an Ebook Self Publishing Channel

Amazon controls around 80% of the total ebook market, which is where self published authors tend to thrive. Kindle’s domination in the e-reader market helps account for this dominance. It makes self publishing a book on Amazon a no-brainer for most authors.

Amazon also offers the KDP Select program. KDP Select gives authors a bigger slice of the revenue in exchange for keeping your ebook exclusively on Amazon. The tradeoff here is that you give up other channels such as Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords. 

Print Editions

Much like ebooks, Amazon also provides options for creating print editions. This was the domain of Createspace, but Amazon has absorbed those functions into its KDP platform.

You can also work through a short run print company if you want physical copies. These companies can often beat the per unit cost you get from Amazon on larger orders. This is ideal if you plan on doing lots of signings and attending conventions.

Parting Thoughts on Self Publishing a Book

Self publishing a book isn’t always easy, but it’s a lot more certain than traditional publishing.

Polish your book and hire a pro editor. Consider your formatting and cover images options. Choose between Amazon ebook exclusivity and wide distribution through other sales channels.

Even if you create a physical edition through Amazon, remember you can save money with short run printing on larger orders.

InstantPublisher.com specializes in short-run printing services. For questions about our printing services, contact us today.

Family History Books

Did you know that InstantPublisher prints family history books? We’ve helped many customers self publish their family histories, genealogies and memiors over the years.

Whether your family history is humorous, sober or serious, we can print it. This is your opportunity to professionally publish family traditions, ancestors’ stories and memories you have of family members. Many customers choose to have their family history printed in a color hardback cover, but the options are endless.

Here are just a few family history books we’ve printed:

If you’re interested in publishing your family history, you can order our free self publishing guide by visiting our website or giving us a call at 800-259-2592. Our customer service reps are ready to help you every step of the way!

Book Binding Options

All of our book binding methods, except the 3-Ring and hardback/case bindings, are what are sometimes referred to as “soft covers.” The 3-Ring Padded binding is laminated card stock with a padded core, which is formed around three metal rings, similar to a school notebook. We offer several binding options (click for more information on each binding type):

Different book binding types are suitable for different applications. Instantpublisher’s free option for our books is Perfect Binding (shown below). This binding is excellent for books, corporate reports, manuals, brochures, and annual reports. One advantage of this type of binding is that if your book has 80 pages or more, we can print the title information on the spine of the binding. Sewn perfect binding is also offered for thicker color books. Sewing the perfect bound books allows the books to last much longer and is the prefered method for larger books. (InstantPublisher – a book publishing company offers many book binding options. See binding options below.)

perfect bound book book publishing saddle stitch bound
Perfect Bound Binder 3-Ring Binder Saddle Stitch Binder

double wire bound plastic wire bound Plastic Comb bound
Double Wire Binder Plastic Wire Binder Plastic Comb Binder

Hardcover/Casebound Book Blue Cloth Bound BookBlue Cloth Bound Book

Self Publishing is to your advantage

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:

Time-

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.

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.

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.

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Book Publishing Industry has steady Growth

A recent study in August 2011 shows steady growth in the modern U.S. publishing industry — capturing its size, scope, revenue and rapid strategic expansion across multiplatform content and sales distribution channels. Spanning 2008-2010, BookStats offers data and analysis of the total industry and the individual Trade, K-12 School, Higher Education, Professional and Scholarly markets. Produced jointly by the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group, its highlights include:

Overall U.S. publishing revenues are growing — Publishers’ net sales revenue has grown annually; 2010’s $27.94 Billion is a 5.6% increase over 2008.

Overall U.S. publishing unit sales are up as well — Publishers’ 2.57 Billion net units sold in 2010 represent a 4.1% increase since 2008.

Americans, young and old, are reading actively in all print and digital formats — 2010 total net sales revenue in the consumer-focused Trade market is $13.94 Billion, increasing 5.8% since 2008 (and excluding 2011’s e-book sales surge). Both Adult Fiction and Juvenile (non-fiction and fiction) have seen consistent annual gains.

Education publishing holds steady and, in some segments, shows solid growth — Higher Education’s $4.5 Billion net sales revenue for 2010 represents a significant 23.1% increase over 2008. K-12 School, the industry’s second largest category by net sales dollar volume, reached $5.5 Billion revenue in 2010.

Professional and Scholarly publishing shows gains — The Professional market’s $3.7 Billion net sales revenue was +6.3% over 2008. Scholarly publishing experienced 4.7% growth since 2008, with $191 Million net sales revenue for 2010.

“This study indicates that the publishing industry is healthy and growing during a time of unprecedented change.”

Resource and read more >>

Book Cover Designs

The cover for your book is a very important selling tool. You can have a great story to tell, but if the cover fails to draw attention, the book will not sell. All large book publishers and distributors look for an attractive cover and book title. Good designs are what make buyers reach for the product.

publishing books First Choice— (Black & White)
Instantpublisher.com book publishers have four choices to make in cover design. The first, a black and white design printed on white cover stock. This can include grayscale images on both the front and back cover. Covers are to be uploaded separately to your library. [ JPG, TIFF and PDF files may be emailed as well after placing your order with the order number.] *Cover specs are set to 1/8″ larger than your actual book size to incorporate bleeds with .5″ margins for text. Photoshop templates are available.

publishing booksSecond Choice— (Stock Full Color)
Stock full color cover designs is the second choice offered by Instantpublisher.com and can be personalized with your wording and the selected typestyles. If you chose this selection on your order, you will be given a screen during the order process to complete the information you want imprinted and the cover design you selected. Back cover text and images can be added for a flat fee of $20 for initial set up.

publishing booksThird Choice— (Customer Full-Color)
Customer full color is the third choice. You will email, upload to your library or ftp your custom cover art separately after placing your order. Customer full color photos or art designs can be printed on your front cover including bleeds. All images for the cover should be scanned and saved as EPS, TIF or PDF files at 300 dpi. For color accuracy, be sure to use CMYK colors and take the hard copy proof option. Cover specs are set to 1/8″ larger than your actual book size to incorporate bleeds with .5″ margins for text, Photoshop templates are available.

publishing books Fourth Choice— (Instant Publisher)
The fourth choice is to have an InstantPublisher designer take your concept and design your cover for you. If you want a completely custom cover design, but do not know how to complete the process, this is the option for you. Two options are offered with the service, the first being the standard custom cover design service. This service includes 1 hour of design service and 2 online proofs costing $65. The second option is the premiere design service which includes 2 hours of design time and unlimited online proofs costing $120. Most basic designs can be completed with the standard services, and more intricate designs will require the premium service.

More about book cover designs from a book publisher >>

The History of Book Printing

The history of book printing can be traced back hundreds of years ago to China,
where most scholars believe the process’ origins began. Since then, the process
of book printing has changed greatly into the advanced, high-quality service
that Instant Publisher uses today and makes available to professional and
amateur writers alike. Here, we will take a look back at a short timeline
illustrating the evolution of the all-important book printing process:

  • Woodblock Printing
    – 220 AD – The technique of woodblock printing incorporated blocks of wood that were carved with text, images or patterns and then covered with an ink or dye. Similar to stamps, the blocks were then pressed onto cloth and later on paper, to reveal the carved text or design. This technique began in East Asia and then spread to Roman Egypt and other areas of the Middle East in the 4th
    century.
  • Movable Type Printing
    – 1040 – The first ever movable type was documented in China and was created
    out of porcelain. Every word was carved into a small piece of porcelain making
    typesetting and printing itself more efficient.
  • Printing Press -1450 – The famous German inventor Johannes Gutenberg created the Gutenberg press. This machine used movable type made from sturdy metal. The sturdier type material combined with the speed of the press machine made book printing faster than ever.
  • Inkjet Printing
    1976 – Jump to the 20th century and the invention of computers and you
    will find that inkjet printing has become the popular method of book printing.
    Both fast and inexpensive, inkjet printers create images or text by propelling
    droplets of ink onto paper.
  • Digital Printing
    –1993 – Similar to inkjet printing, digital printing uses ink droplets to create
    an image gained from a digital base like a computer. Digital printer is better
    for larger job such as book printing because it can print faster and produce
    more pages than smaller at-home inkjet printers. Since images and text can be
    received digitally, this allows book publishing companies like us to produce
    high-quality work for our customers all over the world.

“Print-On-Demand” & Marketing your Book at Book Fairs

InstantPublisher specializes in Print-on-Demand. They print product manuals, employee handbooks, and training manuals, and and all other types of printing services. After placing your order and printing your book, it’s time to market this possible “best seller.” Talk to many people to help market your book. Yes, Amazon and iTunes will probably sell multiple copies of your book, but exposure at book fairs (for example), starts your new network of people.

There are many book fairs coming to help sell your new novel. “Book Expos” or fairs offer great opportunities for authors to display their content, meet fellow authors, and hear insights from industry professionals. If you are pondering about attending or displaying your book at a book fair, here is a list of up-coming fairs.

NATIONAL BOOK FESTIVAL – September 24 – 25th
NATIONAL PRESS CLUB BOOK AND AUTHORS NIGHT – November 8th
BROOKLYN BOOK FESTIVAL – September 15 – 18th
THE 60th ANNUAL JEWISH BOOK FAIR – November 2 – 13th
Miami Book Fair International– November 13 – 20th

*** View all Book Fairs in U.S.=

USA Book Fairs

Read more about print-on-demand business printing.

Edit Your Novel before Self-Publishing

Always let someone else proof your novel before you publish, and make sure your editor isn’t such a good friend that he/she won’t tell you about the problems he/she finds. Along with errant commas and missing words, your editor should look for plot holes, weak writing and unresolved situations.

{ A good editor will suggest changes that tighten up your novel and elevate it from good to great. }

Your copy editor (could be a friend who currently works at a big publishing house or a friend who’s a writer). These editors can suggest people who would be excellent editors. You may choose an experienced editor with 10+ years of experience or a newbie with 2-3 years experience. It’s also good to get 2-3 people to edit your book before self-publishing.

Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Time to fix those errors and polish your masterpiece.

Reread your novel, and as you finish each chapter, summarize the most important events that occur. Remember to focus on what happens in the novel including the character motivation and emotion that propels action and lends a human touch to the storyline.

Imagine that you’re telling your story to a group of friends. You won’t have their attention for five hours, but you will for a few minutes. So convey the essential storyline complete with tension, pacing and character emotion.

Make your synopsis complete and yet a quick read that stands on its own. The most effective synopsis provides the feeling of having read the entire book.

Of course, it’s impossible to tell from a single chapter or even the first few chapters whether an unknown writer can orchestrate the important elements of fiction — character, plot, dialogue, pacing, setting, and point of view. For this reason, editors find that fiction submissions of a plot synopsis or sample chapters aren’t enough to demonstrate, that the writer can carry through on what they promise. That’s why it’s important to write and rewrite your entire novel before submitting it for publication.