The Great Debate: Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing, Part II

Which is better? Traditional or self-publishing? The May Savvy Writer addressed the pros and cons of traditional publishing. In this issue, we’ll tackle self-publishing.

Anyone can self-publish. There is no risk of rejection. That is both good news and bad news—first-time or unknown writers have a surefire means to get published, but many self-published books are poorly written and filled with errors. Those books taint the reputation of all self-published books.

Proponents of self-publishing emphasize the control that an author retains over the process and final product. A book can be published faster, and the author typically gets a higher percentage of sales proceeds. There is no minimum print run.

There are also several disadvantages. There are predatory self-publishing or print-on-demand (POD) companies that take advantage of authors, exploiting their desire to publish. Editing, layout, cover design, and book layout take skill and time, and cost money: in the world of self-publishing, the writer must either do the work or pay someone to do it. Authors can hire editors, cover designers, and book designers to prepare their
book, or purchase packages of services from a self-publishing company. Writers can also learn to lay out their own books—although this can be time-consuming and sometimes results in a less-than-professional final product. Writers can create book covers using templates, but these often yield a cover that looks amateurish. Many writers spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars publishing books that will never yield a profit.

Self-published books lack the objective third-party stamp of credibility that traditional publishing provides. Many mainstream media outlets will not review self-published books and most chain bookstores will not carry them. Authors must market and promote their own books. Some writers develop effective marketing plans. Others lack the knowledge or confidence to market their
work, or prefer to stay focused on writing.

Consider self-publishing if: (1) your book has a small or niche audience and likely will not be of interest to traditional publishers; (2) you cannot bear for anyone else to have a voice in the production of your book; or (3) you are willing to assume all financial risk for upfront costs and you want maximum proceeds from book sales.

If you decide to self-publish, proceed cautiously. Start by writing a good book and have it edited. (Every self-published author should hire a professional editor.) Talk to other self-published authors about their experiences, search the Internet for good and bad reviews of PODs, and scrutinize self-publishers’ websites to compare packages of services. Be sure you understand what you are purchasing, what rights you are relinquishing, and what your obligations are.

Check out Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual, Self-Publishing for Dummies, and Self-Publishing Books 101.

(An encore article from Savvy Writer, November 2013)

Dark Highways Wins More Kudos

Dark Highway: Love, Murder, and Revenge in 1930s’ Kentucky by local attorney Ann DAngelo has been honored again, this time by the Independent Publisher Book Awards. DAngelo’s true-crime book won a bronze award in the Best Regional Nonfiction, Southeast category, and is a finalist for the Foreword Indies award. Dark Highway was published by Butler Books.

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