When I became a Certified Christian Life Coach, I knew I wanted to be a cheerleader for the cheerleaders. I wrote a pros and cons list of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing.
Grab a cup of coffee and take your time through this pro and con list. I hope this helps you make the best decision for you! It is my goal, at the end of reading the list–that you are 100% certain about which direction you want to take.
I loved both traditional and self-publishing for different reasons. Each route had something differ to offer. My favorite thing about working with a traditional publisher was working with the editors. I became a much better writer because of their involvement in the process. My favorite thing about self-publishing was owning every part of the creative process because I knew how!
She believed she could so she did!
My least favorite thing about working with a traditional publisher was having my book contract canceled after I turned in the written book before the deadline. Talk about devastated! My least favorite thing about self-publishing was having to pay for everything myself!
Disclaimer: As an author, you can work hard and feel like you have a firm grasp on traditional publishing vs self-publishing, and still not have it all figured out. I certainly don’t! This is just a list I made from what I have already learned to help you make a better-informed decision that works best for you!
Pros – Traditional Publishing:
- You don’t have to pay for a professional editor
- You don’t have to pay for book cover design
- You usually get paid up front in the form of an advance
- Your books have access to distribution channels that self-publishing often don’t have access to
- Publishers have a sales and marketing budget to share your book nationwide
- (Did I mention they have a sales and marketing budget?)
- Sometimes publishers pay you to travel to visit them, events, or author signings
- Lifelong friendships are formed
- All your hard work of building your brand, launching your platform online, collecting email addresses, and social media has paid off!
Cons – Traditional Publishing:
- You don’t always have a say in your book title, format, editing, and/or book cover design
- Publishers have the right to cancel your contract (this happen to me once with NavPress when the recession hit)
- If your book doesn’t sell well in pre-sales or within the first three months of your release, they discontinue your book
- You don’t own the rights to your book
- If you don’t sell at least 5,000 copies you probably won’t be asked back for a second book, and if you have a second book contract they might treat you like a number and not be as motivated to help you sell your second book
- You still have to do most of the marketing yourself, like hiring a publicist, making a video trailer, paying for Facebook/Instagram ads, etc
- After your advance, if your books don’t sell well–you may never see another dime on your book
- Online retailers like Amazon or Brick & Motor stores like Barnes and Noble will have returns, and sometimes they are huge. Returns hurt future royalties/paycheck (see above).
- You have to wait at least a year and a half to two years to see your book release
- You don’t have control over the date your book launches (like launching a Faithbook of Jesus, a 365 devotional in March, or Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me, a deep-thinking book, in the middle of the summer.)
- Buying copies of your books plus shipping for events can get super pricey (if your book is $14.99 and you get a 55% discount that’s $6.75 per book plus shipping and handling).
- Royalty Rates aren’t that great unless your agent negotiates this higher, and even then they’re still low (especially if you got an advance)
- Platform. Platform. Platform. Forget if you’re actually an amazing author. If you don’t have a platform or email list that is in the thousands (more like tens of thousands), it’s tough to get a publishing contract.
Pros – Self Publishing:
- If a traditional publisher considers your book a “niche” book, then you know it’s perfect for self-publishing (like my best seller, Loves Me Not, a book for singles on breakups)
- No contracts
- Release your book when you feel the timing is right
- You own the rights to your book (you can easily translate your book into another language or Bible Study as another source of income if you like)
- Buying copies of your book for events are super reasonable (A 200ish page book on CreateSpace costs about $2ish dollars per copy plus shipping)
- You collect royalties monthly
- Royalty rates are amazing (can get as high as 70% on CreateSpace and Kindle)
- You can make your book look just as good as a traditionally published book
- You can still work with a literary agent to brainstorm with on other projects
- Copies print on demand and you don’t have to buy your book in bulk
- It’s FREE to self-publish on Amazon’s CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishers as well as Barnes and Noble and other places. (For now, I choose to stay simple and self-publish only on Amazon)
- Self-publishing is no longer considered taboo or plan B
- If your self-published book does well, a traditional publisher might pick it up! (I know people who this has happened too)
- Most people buy their books on Amazon—which gives your self-published book the best option to be purchased
- You have a say in every part of the creative process of publishing your book including title, format, editing and book cover design
Cons – Self Publishing:
- You have to pay for everything (including hiring an editor, graphic designer, sales & marketing budget, etc)
- Can’t always get your book into markets or distribution channels that traditional publishers can
- Vanity publishers like Westbow, Xulon Press, and Lulu cost you a lot of money to self-publish, and they don’t offer coaching to help you write, design, or market your book (I don’t recommend going through a vanity publisher, unless of course you have the money and you feel that is the best option for you)
- If your book looks like a self-published book, this may detour others from valuing your work as you do or hiring you as a speaker (one of the reasons why I coach authors on how to self-publish)
As you can see from the pros and cons list, there aren’t many cons with self-publishing. As a dreamer, I find more freedom and creativity in self-publishing!
I know that making the decision to traditionally publish or self-publish your book can be difficult. There are reasons why people choose to write a book, and they’re usually personal. For me, getting my book traditionally published was on my bucket list since I was a teenager. I understand if it’s that important to you. I also understand if you just have to get the message out or you’ll burst. For my Life Coach, Vickie Bridges, writing a book was never something she wanted to do—until God called her to write a book.
Either way, what are your thoughts regarding traditional publishing versus self-publishing, and why? Please let me know how I can help!
For Further Reading: