Self Publishing Versus Traditional Publishing: Who Wins Out and Why?

In an ongoing war of self publishing versus traditional publishing, misinformation and propaganda involving both platforms will confuse even the most informed person. So let’s settle the score today as to why going the self publishing route is just as good if not greater than traditional publishing.

The old mantra is this: Authors self-publish because their work isn’t good enough for traditional publishing.

That’s like saying a personal trainer has gone independent because they’re not good enough for a gym to hire them.

And as a former personal trainer, I can tell you this: The best trainers out there are independent because health clubs will screw you over time and again. I worked for one that initially paid me $25 for consultations, training sessions, and group sessions.

By the end of my first year there, the price had dropped to $10 per consultation, $15 for group sessions, and $25 for training sessions. Quite a difference!

In other words, I was indentured to the gym who hired me, and that’s why in the realm of publishing, many authors, even those who went the traditional publishing route, have opted for self-publishing.

I should’ve gone indie during my training days and I vowed I’d never make that mistake again, especially when traditional publishers might even deviate from solid works.

These days, publishers won’t even touch you if you don’t already have an author platform, which requires a strong online presence. An authority in your niche or in this case, your genre.

At this point, do you really want to go the traditional route, or would you rather just self-publish and earn what you’re worth?

Let’s compare some pros and cons of each.


Traditional Publishing Pros

You’re assigned an editor, a copywriter, and a graphic designer to ensure your work stands out above all others in your genre.

In other words, you aren’t doing any legwork here.

You can also tap into their base. For instance, if one of the Big Five or their imprints publishes your book, it’s highly likely you’re going to have an audience from the get-go and you’ll earn royalties faster.

You only need to worry about writing and selling your work while the company worries about everything else.


Cons of Traditional Publishing

Here’s where things get interesting.

For one, you have zero control. If the editor wants you to combine two characters, slash a character, and shift everything but the core story, you’re doing it.

You signed your rights over to the company, meaning they own the work and you don’t. You’re simply another number to them like an employee working in a large corporation.

You still have to have your own platform and these days, you’re presenting a marketing plan so if you have an excellent work with no platform or marketing plan, good luck getting published. There are exceptions, but they’re uncommon.

Your royalties are next to nothing if you’re just starting out, so your day job is going to be your primary income unless you just wrote the next Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.

While traditional publishing companies help with your book launches, you’re on your own about a week or two later when they moved onto the next book, literally leaving you hanging.


Pros of Self-Publishing

Your product is your own product and you can sell it anywhere. You can put it on Amazon and as long as you don’t enroll in KDP Select, you can also place it on Nook, Kobo, iBooks, and other aggregators.

Royalties are much higher if your e-book is priced at $2.99 or above. In fact, you can earn up to 70% on Amazon and even more on other sites. You can also own a blog and sell directly from your site, both e-book and paperback, which will make you 100% in royalties. This is why having a blog is so freaking important.

You own your own work. So, if you publish a book or series and it’s an absolute flop, you can delist the work, fine tune it, and try again. Best yet, you can do this for an unlimited number of times. There’s nothing holding you back here.

If you’re niche-savvy, you can build a following with a blog in your niche by utilizing SEO and mastering keyword usage, which will allow your posts to show up in Google, sometimes on the first page, and other major search engines. You can also build a following via social media in your niche.


Cons of Self-Publishing

You either need to wear a lot of hats, such as editing and copywriting, along with proficiency in SEO, or you’re going to pay someone to do this. You also need to either make or buy your book cover. In other words, you’re forking out some money.

Don’t expect massive sales unless you’ve taken time to build your platform. You can’t just upload a work and expect miracles. Self-publishing for a full-time income is exactly like owning a business and must be treated as such. In other words, you need to invest your money in paid promotion and other avenues that I’ll cover in other articles on this blog.

You’re entering a saturated market, so if you don’t know how to set yourself apart, good luck earning even $100 within a year.


About Those Cons

Thankfully, the cons of self-publishing can all be worked around, which isn’t as easily done for those traditionally published counterparts.

I can’t stress enough on increasing your exposure through blogs, as long as they’re in your niche. I have three blogs that are centered around writing, Ditch Corporate America being in the niche of how indie-authors can make a full-time income online.

I have a blog called Lord of Columbia Series, which talks about influences behind the work and the great sport of shotball, which LoC fans always seem to mention (I invented the sport as a response to the NFL becoming a soft league unlike say, the NHL), an a third simply entitled Lord of Columbia, which is geared toward one purpose: collecting emails, something I hit hard on in a previous post.

So, growth will be slow if you’re just starting off in self-publishing and have no platform, but the good news is that you can build this platform while continuing to write. While Amazon doesn’t favor older books, they will favor a series, so if you continue to write a series and build up your backlist, readers who join your email list just discovered all these cool new books.

I’m very similar in regard to many who join an email list. We don’t care how old the books are. If we like the author, we’ll like the books.

Any author I’m a fan of will have a lifelong customer in me and I don’t care if their last book was published before the advent of the internet.

The same should go for you, too. So while it’ll take time, and I mean it’ll take time to work your way to a full-time income, it’s definitely possible to do so.

As for editing, copywriting, and learning the in’s and out’s of SEO, these can be learned. In 2018, I took the Jerry Jenkins Writers’ Guild Course which hammers on ferocious self-editing. It was a lifesaver and my previous post spoke of techniques I learned straight from Jenkins, himself.

When it comes to SEO, Wealthy Affiliate was a huge boost for me, and it gave me the tools I needed such as video lectures, SiteHosting, SiteDomains, and a Keyword Search tool for a simple $49/month or $359/year, far cheaper of an investment than what it’s worth. You can also host up to 25 sites in your own domain at WA, plus another 25 in subdomain if you wish at no extra cost.


Self-Publishing Wins

Sure, traditional publishing has its place and it proves you’re a fantastic writer and storyteller. If traditional publishing companies feel your work will sell, they’ll publish it and yes, it’s a faster route to earn a full-time income writing if your book hits, but it’s a big if, and there are no do overs until your contract expires and you have an opportunity to buy your rights back.

With self-publishing, growth is slow if you don’t have an audience built in your niche, however, growth can and will speed up as you build your platform. This can take 2-4 years. Successful indie authors like Nick Stephenson and Joanna Penn toiled for almost a decade before finding success.

But at the end of the day, you run your own show, and the fruits of your success depend on how much you want to succeed. When you learn how to become visible in search engines and an authority in your niche/genre as well as some social media supplementation, you’re on your way to something big.

With a platform plus higher royalties, who wouldn’t want to earn what they’re worth?

The average self-published author makes roughly $500/year in royalties, but those are the authors who have yet to discover that self-publishing is a business and if they run their business effectively they’ll make dozens of times more money in income which will allow them to Ditch Corporate America.

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