Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Publishing Options: Pros and Cons

Recently a friend asked me if I could explain the "differences" between having a book published with a traditional publishing house and self-publishing that same book.

Having done both, I thought I would offer some very basic information that might be helpful to those who have no experience with either. I apologize if this seems over-simplified. Please feel free to leave comments!

Published by Sylvan Dell Publishing

(1) You have to get a publisher to accept your manuscript. This can take years.
(2) Before acceptance, a publisher may require you to make changes to your manuscript that you are reluctant to make.
(3) After publication, the publisher keeps a percentage of the money earn on your book.
(4) If you receive an advance against royalties and your book does not earn back that amount of money, a publisher might require you to pay that money back to them.

Published by Globe Pequot Press
(1) The publishing house distributes and markets your book to a much wider audience than you could do yourself. A big publisher might also pay your way to events and arrange paid appearances for you.
(2) When your manuscript is accepted, you typically get an advance against royalties (ranging from as little as $500 to as much as $10,000 for one book).
(3) Your book benefits from professional editing provided by the publishing house.
(4) If your book requires illustrations, the publisher hires an illustrator, choosing from a huge number of qualified artists.
(5) Once your book has earned back its advance, you continue to earn royalties (usually 10% and up, depending on how many copies the book sells).
(6) Being published by a traditional publisher gets your book into libraries, schools, and other places that do not accept self-published books. There is a certain "level of respect" that comes with being traditionally published. Your book has been vetted by professionals. A publisher has put money behind it. This matters to many consumers, especially schools and libraries.


Self-Published by Scotti Cohn and Christina Wald
(1) You pay to have the book published. This can be quite expensive, especially if you also elect to hire an illustrator, editor, or proofreader.
(2) If your book requires illustrations, you either have to do them yourself or get someone else to do them. This could be expensive, depending on what you decide to do.
(3) You market and distribute the book as best you can, at your own expense. If you decide to take your book to an event, you may have to pay vendor fees and, of course, cover your own expenses.
(4) You may have trouble getting your book into libraries, schools, and other places that do not accept self-published books. This reduces your reading base, which can impact sales.

(1) You can publish your book as soon as you are ready to publish it. No submission process.
(2) You have complete control over what goes into the book and how it is presented.
(3) You get to keep most (if not all) of the proceeds from sales.

I put this together pretty quickly, but I think I covered the most important aspects of the topic. However, I welcome any thoughts and comments from blog readers!


  1. It is an interesting contrast being an illustrator. Self-publishing your own zines, especially in comics, is common and encouraged. HUGE name illustrators do it and some have gotten juicy contracts out of it. It seems as an author, it is still taboo.

    Things are changing quickly though.

    People are getting book contracts from a good Tumblr these days.

    1. I think huge name authors are also self-publishing with success because they already have a fan base. That's a different category from unknown authors. I do think things are changing, though.

  2. I agree with you Scotti, that big name authors have it made in the self publishing arena and those of us who are just small fish in the big pond do struggle to get our work noticed, especially if you don't write in the most popular categories which is, from what I can see, slice of life, chic lit, romance, cosy crime and of course errotica. However the self publishing platform has allowed good writers, whose work may not make it with a traditional publisher, a chance to be read by others. But also self publishing has allowed for some pretty dire work to appear that hasn't been copy edited or written well out into the world. ^_^

    1. I agree that genre does play a role in success whether you are trying to attract a publisher or trying to market a self-published book. It will be interesting to see how self publishing evolves over time.


So, what do you say?