Difference between Traditional and Self Publishing



Writing is hard. Getting published is harder. A few years back, the enormous question that stood in front of every writer who had just finished writing their book was whether to query a literary agent or to approach the publishing houses directly.


These days, this question has changed. Writers are now confronted with the mind boggling task of choosing between traditional publishing and self-publishing.

Change is the constant of life, but old is gold. Like the combination of these two popular sayings, the choice between traditional and self-publishing is laced with confusion, hesitancy and doubts.


There is no simple rule that will help you make this decision. Both traditional publishing and self-publishing have their own pros and cons. The only way to decide is to weigh them both out. By doing so, you will get a better picture of both the scenarios. You will also become better acquainted with your requirements, the priorities for your book, and your expectations.


The following list outlines the differences between traditional and self-publishing:


1) Time factor - Traditional publishing is a lengthy process that is entirely dependent on patience and perseverance. If you decide to query a literary agent, then it could take anywhere between three to six months to even receive a reply. After a few rejections, if you are successful in getting a literary agent, another journey of waiting starts, as you wait for a publisher to accept your manuscript for publication.


Now, even if you decide to directly approach publishers without a literary agent, the waiting time remains the same, if not longer.


With the favor of luck, if your manuscript is picked up from the slush pile and is a winner in pleasing the editor, then you will hear back from them. If all goes well, your book will be published in the next six months to two years.


If your manuscript is not accepted, you will have to keep approaching different publishers and that itself could take months to years.


However, self-publishing is a lot quicker. If you decide to use Amazon, then the kindle version will be available in a day or two and the paperback copies will be available for purchase within a few weeks. No matter which platform or publishers you choose for self-publishing, your book will be published within six months, in most cases, sooner than that.


2) Rejections - No author has been spared from the horrors of being rejected by traditional publishers. With self publishing, there are no such looming doubts of being rejected. You do not have to prove your manuscript's worth and you do not have to go through the pain and self doubt that rejection brings; you only need your own validation and approval.


3) Creative control - Traditional publishers have a rightful control over certain aspects of your book. They can make changes to your manuscript and even ask you to tweak your characters and the plot. Self-publishing gives you complete creative control.


4) Publishing rights - Most of the traditional publishers acquire the rights to your book. The rights can include territorial and regional publishing rights, international publishing rights, translation rights and many more. With self-publishing, you own all the rights.


5) Experience - No matter the success of the self-publishing industry, no one can deny that traditional publishers have been around for decades. They know the market. They have experience, knowledge and skill. They know what works and what does not. If you self-publish, you are all on your own.


6) Professional help - Traditional publishing comes with the assurance that your book will get a professionally designed cover and that it will be professionally edited, formatted and printed. Self publishing demands that you take care of all these things on your own.

7) Price - Traditional publishers do not ask you to pay for having your book published. They take care of all the costs. In most cases, you will also receive a small advance. However, if you self publish, you will be the bearer of all costs.


8) Marketing - This differs from case to case. Although traditional publishers do market your book, the major burden of marketing still falls on the author. Though, interviews, newspaper releases, public talks and appearances are much more easier to bag if you are traditionally published. As for self-publishing, all marketing depends on the author. Remember, marketing can make or break your book.


9) Bookstore distribution - Traditionally published books will reach the shelves of almost all bookstores. Self-published books, on the other hand, are rarely seen in bookstores. To place your self-published book in a bookstore, you will have to contact the store manager in person and request shelf space, maybe even pay for it. Not many bookstores can be covered this way due to the tedious and limiting nature of the task.


10) Credibility - A few readers believe that traditionally published books are more credible and can be trusted with both their time and money. Self-published books have to struggle and repeatedly prove their worth. However, times are changing and one can never be sure of the readers' changing mindset.


These are a few basic points that you need to consider when making the choice between traditional and self-publishing. Despite the well laid out norms and rules of both the worlds, there is always a scope for change. It takes just one book to reset the trends. There are always exceptions. Your book could be the exception.


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Kulsum is the bestselling author of The Bleeding Wounds Series on Amazon Kindle. Her debut novel Love of a Stranger is globally published.


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