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Indie authors often face the question of whether it is better to self-publish or pursue a traditional publisher. How will you know which is right for you?



When indie authors finish their first book, they often face a fundamental question: whether to pursue self-publishing or try their luck with traditional publishing houses. For new authors weighing publishing options, self-publishing brings both advantages and disadvantages.

What Is Self-Publishing?

Self-publishing refers to an author completing the entire publishing process—including printing, editing, proofreading, formatting, cover design, and book marketing—on their own or with their own resources. This is done without the help of a traditional publisher or publishing company.

4 Benefits of Self-Publishing

Whether you’re writing a novel, short story collection, or nonfiction book, the self-publishing method offers you maximum creative control and the ability to pocket a greater share of the profits. Here are some of the advantages of self-publishing to consider when writing your next book:

  1. Creative control: One of the benefits of going the self-publishing route is the ability to retain full control over your own book. The traditional publishing world is full of gatekeepers who will have opinions on the content, book cover, and even the title of your book. Indie publishing allows you to have complete control over your new books. If you want to hire a certain cover designer or format your book a certain way, you won’t have someone from a traditional publishing house telling you otherwise. For people who want to have total autonomy in their writing career, the self-publishing route can be an appealing option.
  2. Higher royalty rates: In a traditional publishing deal, royalty rates usually hover between 7 and 25 percent. For independent authors, that number is closer to 70 percent. That means you can potentially make a greater amount of money than you would through the traditional publishing process if you have the same number of book sales.
  3. Less waiting: Once you’ve completed the hard work of writing your book, you’ll probably be eager to see it in bookstores and online. With self-publishing, the amount of time between the completed manuscript and the finished, sellable product can be less than a week. It can take less than six hours for your e-book to be uploaded to digital marketplaces, and print on demand (POD) services can be available in 24 hours.
  4. An opportunity to make a name for yourself: Nobody becomes a New York Times bestselling author overnight. The bottom line is if you’re a first-time writer, it will be harder for you to attract the attention of the publishing industry anyway. Putting out your book as a self-publisher can help you attract a fanbase and build up an email list while also proving to potential publishers that you know how to write a book. Many successful authors got their start in self-publishing, and producing an underground hit on your own may attract the attention of traditional book publishers in the future.
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4 Downsides of Self-Publishing

Though there are many pros to self-publishing, there are some cons as well. Here are some disadvantages to self-publishing:

  1. Less visibility: One of the biggest advantages afforded to traditional publishers is a higher author platform for their writers. There’s a certain amount of validation and prestige that comes from being associated with a major publisher. Plus, the resources and visibility afforded to big publishing houses increase the likelihood of critical acclaim, literary prizes, and your book becoming a bestseller. If your ambition is to become a household name like J.K. Rowling, it will be harder to achieve that through self-publishing.
  2. Higher costs: Traditional publishing services pay for editing, design, printing, and marketing costs for print books. With self-publishing, those upfront costs all rest on the author’s shoulders. Plus, publishing deals usually come with book deals and monetary advances. There’s no advance money for self-published authors.
  3. No support system: One of the biggest differences between traditional publishing vs. self-publishing services is that traditional publishers come with an arsenal of staff and resources who can help support your book. This means access to proofreaders, publicists, professional editing services. They can help turn your manuscripts to audiobooks or provide a detailed marketing strategy. There’s a whole team at your disposal, depending on your needs. With self-publishing, this is all work that falls to the author—or the freelancers they hire to handle things like book design and copyediting.
  4. Harder to get print distribution: Traditional publishers make their money by printing books and selling them to bookstores. Bookstores often have exclusive deals with major publishers, and it can be hard to penetrate major bookstores as a self-published author. If your definition of publishing success is to see your book in a major bookstore, that will be difficult to achieve through self-publishing.

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