Self Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing

Today I want to explain a little more about the role of a self-publishing ebook author. But first, let’s start by examining what traditional publishers do. This 3-part post is an extract from The Indie Author’s Guide to Publishing Ebooks.
Part 1. The Role of Traditional Publishers
If you are thinking of becoming an independent author or self-publisher then you better have a good understanding of the role of a publisher.

Some writers love to complain that publishers don’t do much for their money but that is not really true. Publishing involves a number of stages including development, acquisition, copyediting, graphic design, production, marketing and distribution. The publisher might not do every one of these activities in-house but they are usually responsible for managing each stage.

The six largest publishers worldwide are commonly referred to as “The Big Six”. The current big six are Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, MacMillan Publishers Ltd, Penguin Group, Random House, and Simon & Schuster. Each of these big publishers has multiple imprints or publishing houses under their parent “umbrella”.

It can be difficult and time consuming to land a traditional publisher for your book. Unless your work is truly exceptional you may have to endure months or even years of rejection… and you are expected to emerge from this period of rejection, somehow, with your sanity and writing confidence intact.

If your manuscript is finally accepted then you will have to endure another long wait while your book is published, printed and distributed and eventually makes its way into the hands of your readers. That might be eighteen months after you signed your contract.

To streamline the acquisition of manuscripts many major publishing houses now only accept submissions via literary agents. That means an author needs a literary agent to represent them, to market their work and to negotiate contracts with publishers. Literary agents typically take a cut of 10 to 20% of an author’s earnings.

With such a challenging process it is really no wonder that writers turn to self-publishing.

Continued… Part 2. With Self-Publishing, You Become the Publisher

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  1. Tina Moreau says:

    You are leaving out a very important part. Small to Medium sized publishers – basically everyone outside the “big six”.

    There are many out there who don’t require you to have an agent, and the time between acceptance and publication is much shorter (sometimes as little as 6 months). Plus, smaller houses are more able to take a chance on an unknown writer than a larger house and work with them on a more personal level.

    They are a very viable option for authors who want to work with someone to ensure their book is produced and distributed well so they only have to deal with writing their next book (well, and marketing since there is no escaping that no matter how you publish).

    • Hi Tina. I’m glad you have mentioned the smaller and medium-sized publishers which I didn’t discuss in the piece above. I can see too where these might be a good fit for authors who don’t want to self-publish. For example I know some writers are shocked at how many “hats” they need to wear as independent authors and would simply prefer to be able to spend more of their time writing.

  2. I know this post is from a few years ago, but it goes to show that you were definitely speaking to what seems to be the future of publishing. I came across some figures that showed how self-publishing is on a clear path to overtake sales from traditional publishing. It also seems that traditionally published authors are not making as much money from their new releases. Their backlogs are keeping the earnings stable for the Big Six.

    It’s great news for new authors, though. I’m all for it!

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