Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing – Basic Overview

Someone recently asked me about my experience and research regarding publishing and everything that went with it. I wrote out what I had learned and what I had wished I had known before publishing my first book back in 2017. Since then I’ve learned a lot about publishing through research from other authors and companies. It seemed useful so I thought I would write it out for anyone else wondering what I learned and hopefully find it useful. Still I would recommend using this as a starting point to further research publishing regarding the genre you are writing for as it can vary from publisher to publisher.

The main difference between self-publishing and traditional publisher is what the final book will look like. With publishers they will want specific requirements for them to approve it for distribution. Sometimes it is not a big deal however it depends on the publisher. My friend has been trying to publish her books for a while now and her first book was rejected as the publisher told her that they were looking for stories that focused on people of color written by people of color. I don’t know if this is the same case for non-fiction books, but it is something to consider. There is no harm in seeing if a publisher will take your work and what modifications they may want for marketability.

One lesson I learned from watching Brandon Sanderson’s lectures about marketing is the misconception that publishers will do the marketing for you. Publishers are always looking to maximize profit unless they expressly state their objective is to spread knowledge and stories. Usually they don’t have a large budget for marketing and will focus that on more of the top-selling authors. It never hurts to see what the publishers will offer but so long as you maintain intellectual property rights as that is what matters most.

Self-Publishing is a bit different as you handle everything yourself. With the advent of Kindle Direct Publishing, a lot of self publishing companies have sprung up. Regardless of which self-publishing company you choose, make sure you register your own ISBN so that you can control everything regarding the book. For instance, with Amazon (KDP), if you don’t supply your own ISBN they will generate one for you and as a result you won’t be able to distribute it on any other platform. You still own intellectual property rights but are limited in terms of distribution. I don’t know if they’ve updated their terms and conditions since last time, I read them (yeah I was that paranoid) but as far as I’m aware that’s still the same case.

if you choose the self-publishing route you will potentially earn more per sale of your book and have complete freedom in terms of distribution and content. However self-publishing means you will have to take care of arranging editors, artists and setting up the final product yourself. It depends how much work you want to do but there are services out there that can help. Grammarly works as a pretty great copyediting software if you can’t get editors and you can always commission an artist or go the minimalist route and any design questions.

Either option is good, it just depends on how much control you want over your work. I know for myself that the book series I’m writing is very near and dear to me so I want that to be purely my own work. However some of the other books I’m writing I’m looking into traditional publishing as I’m a bit more flexible with it.

– Raphael

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