Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing: Here are 5 Important Questions You Need to Ask!
Written by Writer and Author, William Ballard
I am super excited to be sharing this first post of my Becoming an Author Blog! I really hope this post answers some your questions about rather you should go the traditional route or the self-publishing route. But before we get into the nuts and bolts of this post, I wanted to explain the goal and purpose for this particular blog.
What I am hoping to do with this blog is to inspire, motivate, and encourage aspiring writers that want to become published authors, but just simply don’t know how to go about doing it. Moreover, I want to be a source of information for seasoned authors so that I can present to them current tips and inside scoops on what is going on in the industry as a whole. If you are needing tips and suggestions about building confidence in yourself and in your writing this blog is for you. If you are struggling with trying sale as many books as you can, this blog is for you. With all that said, let us now go to the content of this post. (Let’s make this an engaging community, share your thoughts and concerns in the comments below.)
When you have finished writing your first manuscript and edited it to your own satisfaction, what is your next step? You can either go the traditional route or start writing query letters to agents who may help you get a contract with a traditional publishing company. There are several questions that you can ask yourself, that can help determine whether you should submit your work to a traditional publisher, or publish it yourself through self-publishing.
1) How Long is Your Book?
Although there is no official length for books, established publishers definitely have ideas about how long it should be. These publishing standards vary per genre. For example, Science Fiction and Fantasy novels tend to be between 80,000 and 120,000 words long. Mysteries often are shorter and tend to be between 60,000 and 70,000 words.
Many books that are self-published, particularly electronically, are a lot shorter than that. Hugh Howey, the author of the bestselling e-book Wool, published the book originally in 5 separate parts, then published it as one omnibus edition. The first part is 12,000 words (60 pages). That is hardly the length of a book a publisher would accept, yet Howey managed to make his self-published series a bestselling one by building interest from the first part through to the fifth. A publisher never would have accepted the first part alone, but after Howey turned the series of novella’s into a hit, Penguin is publishing The Wool Omnibus edition in Print.
If your novels tend to be shorter and part of a series, it can be a lot easier to self-publish them online and build a fan base by offering the first one free. That’s how Howey became one of the bestselling authors self-publishing right now.
If you tend to write longer literary novels, it could be harder to self-publish it online, because it is harder to build a fan base for literary novels in the self-publishing world right now. Readers are used to spending 1.99 to 99 cents on self-published eBook purchases, so they may not be so willing to pay enough per book to justify all of your hard work.
2) How Much Control do You Want Over Your Book?
Some writers want editorial feedback. They want someone else to tell them which characters and scenes to cut or focus on. Other writers want to execute their own artistic vision. If you are in the first category you can either try to go the traditional route or hire a freelance editor to give you feedback. Freelance editors tend to vary wildly in price (I offer this service at a reasonable price. Contact me HERE so we can discuss rates), but if you can’t fine one in your price range you can always try to get a friend to give you feedback. If you fall into the second category and this is your first book, you should probably self-publish it. You will most likely be happier with the end results.
3) How Much Submitting are You Willing to Do?
16 publisher’s rejected The Diary of Anne Frank, 12 rejected the first Harry Potter book, 121 publishers rejected Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. One of the most famous authors of the Twentieth Century, C.S. Lewis’s work was turned down over 800 times before one piece was accepted for publication. This does not even take into consideration the modern publishing world that relies on agents. You have to put together a good query letter, make sure your first twenty pages are as polished as possible, and submit to at least fifteen agents, in order to get one of them, in order to get a publishing contract. That is no small amount of work, although the pay off, a major publisher releasing your work, may really be worth it.
4) How Much Promotion (or Marketing) are You Willing to Do?
When you have a traditional publishing company releasing your book, they will handle most of the promotion (or marketing). You might have to show up and sign a few books or create an author’s Facebook page, but most of the promotion is the publisher’s responsibility. They are also in charge of distributing your book, and making sure that the public has easy access to it.
When you publish your own book, you become your own publicist. If you are self-publishing in print, you also have to be in charge of distribution as well. However, the primary focus will be on making sure people know about your book. Many people self-publish these days, particularly electronically, because it’s cheaper. You have to make sure your book stands out, and you have to do everything to make it stand out, from the cover to a twitter account, to convincing friends and strangers to give positive reviews. This can be a lot of work. Nevertheless, if you have an interest in social marketing, and are willing to put some work in, you can get your writing into the hands of others. Remember that if you support other self-published authors, they are likely to help you as well.
5) How Soon do You Want Your Book to be Out in the World?
If you are the patient type, traditional publishing could be the way for you. It takes an average of two years to see your book published by an established publisher. Self-publishing, even if you are printing the books through a third party can take a few weeks at most, and sometimes even just a few hours. If you like to see immediate results, then self-publishing might be the right choice for you.
I hope that after reviewing all the questions and their explanations you have a better idea about which publishing route is the best fit for your career and your manuscript.
I highly encourage you to share your thoughts with me in the comments section below. I personally answer every question and response to every comment.
About the Author
William Ballard is the author of, “My List of 21 Things You Need to Know About Self-Publishing”, and has been writing professionally for over 10+ years and has much experience within the industry, both in publishing and in freelance writing. He has successfully self-published over 10 books and eBooks. Visit his Amazon Author Page to see list of his most recent projects.