Self-publishing vs. Traditional publishing

(video via Tim Ferriss)

I publish my books with a traditional publisher.
I have heard a lot of folks say that publishers don’t “do” anything for authors anymore (and that is unfortunately partially true when it comes to marketing, which I think is a shame) but I think there are some very important assets that traditional publishers bring to the table over self-publishing.

1. Credibility.  Anyone can self-publish a book.  It may be great, it may be awful – but there are no real filters.  The truth is, even with all our talk about how self-publishing is “the wave of the future,”  most of us still put a lot of stock into a publishers logo and seal of approval being on a book.  When is the last time you bought a truly self-published book?

2. Editing.  I am not a strong spellar.  And although I know I could hire an editor, the truth is that almost no one who self-publishes does.  It ends up being too much of a risk economically and so everyone thinks, “Let me make some money off of my first book and then I will hire help.”   But they don’t, because the book stinks.  I also just prefer the publisher to pay that bill.

3.  Coaching.  I have learned so much from my editor.  She has helped me write a better book the second time around and I believe that it will only get better.  Again, yes, I could hire a writing coach.  But how many self-publishers do?

4. Distribution.  This is the big one.  As a first time author of a little known book, I would have never gotten into some of the brick and mortar bookstores that my publisher has gotten me into.

Tim Ferriss has some great wisdom on this very subject in the video below.  He is a great example of someone who could make a ton more money per book in royalty if he self-published, but still finds value in the publisher.

6 Responses to “Self-publishing vs. Traditional publishing”

  1. Faye April 22, 2009 at 11:37 am #

    I would love to have a “real” publisher, but …

    The publisher I’m going with is the self-publishing arm of Amazon. The man who is handling my account is an excellent motivator and a great advisor. He’s placed before me all the options available and then lets me make my choice.

    As I’m tying up the final strands of this work, I began to think about the investment in my book. See, this is one that I feel that God laid on my heart to write, so I didn’t have much choice in it. Late last fall we had a dynamic preacher visit our church and talk about doing things with excellence. He talked about how we (churches, believers) tend do mimic the things (videos, music, etc) of the world, but don’t do it with excellence.

    As I looked over the options from the publisher, those words were brought to my mind. Because of that, I will have a comprehensive edit done by the publisher. They will read it, critique it, suggest this and that, and make it a better book. Then it will go past the grammar & punctuation police. (Funny, I do that for a part-time living, but doing it on one’s own work isn’t a good idea.) After that, I will have an advisor sharing with me the options and guiding me to the best ones for the look and feel of the book, inside and out, even helping to find the right cover photo/drawing.

    Doing these things will make the cost of this endeavor upwards of $2300. But I must do that. Will I be a fortunate one like William Paul Young, whose “The Shack” went to the top of the charts from a self-published item? Who knows. I may lose out on this investment, but for me, it’s an act of obedience to my Lord, so I can’t just do it halfway.

    It does mean I have to do all the marketing myself, or hire someone to do it for me, but that’s okay. I figure if God set this up, then He’s got that part covered, too. Who knows, maybe Abingdon or Zondervan will call me this week to take a look before I sign any contracts….

  2. anne jackson April 22, 2009 at 11:51 am #

    2 was hilarious

  3. Matt Kelley April 22, 2009 at 11:57 am #

    Your editor is pretty cute, too! ;)

  4. Faye April 22, 2009 at 12:40 pm #

    Oh yeah, forgot to add, Anne Jackson said I should. :)

  5. Gene April 22, 2009 at 4:46 pm #

    No doubt, traditional publishing is the way to go. I’m pursuing it myself. However, done right (i.e., good cover, editing, marketing, etc.) self-publishing is easier than ever. In fact, I’m unveiling my second self-published book next week. If you follow what’s going on in publishing today, you know that there were massive layoffs recently due to the economy. So, it’s harder than ever to get a deal and, if you get one, there won’t be anyone in the publisher’s marketing department to sell your book!

    Here’s the bottom line IMHO: Traditional publishing is like making it to the big leagues. Self-publishing is a like a minor league or farm system that can help you get into the majors.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks:

  1. Who care about contracts? - Shawn Wood Writes… - May 13, 2009

    [...] I could have and still can produce any work I want to without a publisher.  But when no one was holding a gun to my head to make me do it, I signed a contract with Abingdon Press. I willingingly signed said contract for a couple of reasons that I have posted on before. [...]

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