Now the argument between writers of “publishing vs. self-publishing” will always be an issue of debate. From my experience in publishing with both a publishing house and self-publishing, I can say there’s good points about both, and there are drawbacks of both. But so far, I’ve enjoyed, and have gotten more out of, self-publishing.
A few pros and cons of going with a publishing house.
PRO: Marketing and customers. In my opinion, the greatest asset a publisher can offer you is their ability to market your book to a wide span of people. It doesn’t hurt to have a budget when market, and with their access to many proven outlets to market your book, this can be one of the biggest helps an author can have when looking for sales.
PRO: They take a load off. Editing, proofreading, formatting, printing, sometimes cover art designing, and many other mandatory steps, a publisher can help you with. Each publisher is different in what they provide, but most publishers help to get your manuscript from computer to paper (or epaper), taking care of some, if not all of those steps that I mentioned above. If you’re not tech, or business, or art savvy, this can be a big help.
CON: The hassle. You probably are already well aware of this, but signing a deal with a publisher is a long, and usually very stressful endeavor. It can take months to hear back from a publisher who received your manuscript, just for them to look over your first chapter and send it back (if they send it back at all). I don’t even want to know how much I’ve spent on manila envelopes and postage, when only half of the time the publishers would even bother to use my self-addressed stamped envelopes to return my couple hundred page manuscript, which alone was an arm and a leg to print. Dumping money into the off chance that a publisher will pick up your copy can be disheartening.
Next, the pros and cons of self-publishing
PRO: Royalties. These depend on who you’re self-publishing with and how much you’re pricing your book for, but generally the average profit made from a book sale will be somewhere around $2.00, a bit more if we’re talking about paperback or hardcover. When comparing this profit per book opposed to the 20 cents or less per book with a publisher, you have to sell roughly 10 times more the amount of books with publishers to make what you would when self-publishing.
PRO: No publisher contracts. You retain every right with your work. You can print it here, or there, post it on your blog, do whatever you want with it (within reason, even self-publishing has contracts, though they’re much looser). Once you sign a contract with a publisher, you’re locked in for however long you signed for, and you’re stuck fulfilling that contract on your end until the contract is up. Be very careful if you do sign one. Make sure it’s worth it. With self-publishing, you don’t have to worry about that.
PRO: Open-source. I compare going self-publishing vs. publishing house to PC vs. Mac. Sure, Mac products (publishing with a publishing houses) are flashy and impressive, like showing off your new iPhone (your badge of honor stating that your published with xyz publishing), but when it comes down to it, what should matter is which style suits you and your personality. Do you like the ability to do whatever the heck you want with your work, or do you want a publisher to tell you what’s important and what you should be doing with their product? Do you want to be able to hire a favored artist to design your cover? Most publishers have in-house designers that will work with you on cover art, and not always will they agree with you on who, or what, should go on the front of your book, even if you are a professional designer yourself.
CON: Marketing is left to you. Now, you’re part of the marketing plan even when you’re with a publisher, but with self-publishing, everything’s on you. Marketing can be like a second job that you don’t directly get paid for.
CON: You take up the costs. Cover art, ISBN, printing, editing, proofreading, not to mention all that time dumped into research for all of this stuff. This can add up to a hefty price if not done carefully. Most of these costs can be avoided if you have the right connections though.
A consideration: Pride. neither a pro or con to some I suppose (some really aren’t affected by this point), but usually you deal with this issue in some way: and that issue is the stigma of self-publishing authors are lesser authors than those who sign on with a brick and mortar publisher. We all know the merits of a writer are unique and can’t be wholly determined by this one point alone, but your family doesn’t know that, your friends don’t know that, and people who ask what you do and find out that you’re a *dramatic voice* “self-published author” don’t know that. And it can hurt the pride every now and then when one of these people jokingly jab and say, “Oh, so you’re not like…you know, a real author,” when in reality, you’ve put just as much, if not more, into getting your book published and marketed than the author who signed with a publisher.
Now, which route is best for you?
For me, I usually go with self-publishing. This isn’t to say that going with a publisher is the wrong choice. In fact, given certain circumstances (big enough publisher, publisher that goes beyond the extra mile, doing multiple contiguous series, etc.), I’d say that I might sign on with a publisher instead of going it alone. But, in most cases, I’d go with self-publishing—and here’s why.
Tech Savvy: If you know your way around the most recent word-processing programs, know how to properly format a book for print or eprint, upload documents in the appropriate file extension, and can navigate and tinker with whatever self-publishing platform you’re going to be publishing with, then you’re set to go to self-publish. If not, you’ll need to do some homework before you choose to. Ask people you know how to do these things. (You know me now. :) don’t be afraid to ask questions)
Editing/Proofreading: You can get away with having your stuff edited by a writers group, or proofread by friends and family for a while, but it’s advised you seek out a professional editor/proofreader. I own an editing/proofreading business, so I feel a bit more comfortable going through my own work and having writer friends help me out with particulars than most, but even I often consult professional editors, because nobody knows everything.
Networking: You’ll need to work on building a large network of readers. These readers can be anyone interested in what you’re writing about, whether they be other writers, friends, family, acquaintances, or, and most preferably, plain ol’ bookworms.
Time: Probably the biggest qualifier in this list. DO NOT SELF-PUBLISH IF YOU DON’T HAVE THE TIME TO. If you just write your book, throw it up online, and leave it, you’ll only end up selling a few copies. Don’t waste your time writing a book to have it fail miserably. You need to market that book once a week at least, but every day if you can. That’s how you get started. You have to find new ways to introduce your book to people who may have already been marketed to by you. There are countless ways to do this, and they’re strewn all across the web, so go look for them. (I’ll try to do another post down the road on this point in particular.)
I have all of the mentioned above, so it makes sense for me to go down the self-publishing route, pocket the extra $2.00 per book (opposed to the $0.20 I would be making with a publisher) and remain free of contracts and dealing with the headache that follows when you throw an organization in with creative works.
Again, I understand that each person is different and appreciates different things. Publishing houses work great with some authors, and there are other authors, like myself, who would rather just be on their own in this regard. To each their own it’s true, but it helps to know before you go down either path which path is right for you.