Traditional Publishing and Self-Publishing – The Differences

Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing

It seems the publishing waters are getting murkier and murkier.

I think the most significant difference between ‘real’ traditional publishers and services that are NOT ‘real’ traditional publishers (vanity presses, self-publishers, and others) is the cost. This is aside from ‘quality’ in many cases.

If you are submitting to a ‘real’ traditional publisher, you will NOT PAY A PENNY.

What the ‘Real’ Traditional Publishing House Will Do

Let’s suppose that the publishing house, after they’ve read your manuscript, decided to give you a contract. They’ll then take your manuscript and request revisions if needed. After that it’s on to editing and proofing. They do it all and use professional writers.

Once the manuscript is polished, or possibly while it’s in the process, the publishing house will have the illustrations, layout, design, and covers done. The publishing house will cover all expenses.

You will pay nothing.

The publishing house gets its income from the sales of your book. The publishing house wants to sell your book.

You will get a royalty from the sale of each book. And, unless you’re with a major book publisher, you won’t get an advance on royalties.

The royalties are usually somewhere around 10 percent. It may be higher for ebooks. And, you may get the royalty quarterly or less often.

So, while you don’t have to pay a penny, you likely won’t get rich from your books.

What Does Self-Publishing Services Do?

Self-publishing services will also do everything you need done to publish your book. BUT, you will pay for each service individually or in a package.

You’ll pay to have the book edited, proofed, formatted, layout, illustrations, and so on and so on and so on.

While you get most, if not all, of the money from the sale of your books, there’s no guarantee that you’ll recoup the cost of self-publishing.

These services make their money from you, the author. They have NO vested interest in you selling a single book. Again, they’ve already made their money.

Another important aspect of self-publishing a children’s picture book or chapter book is you will need illustrations. This will be an added cost.

NOTE: Picture book illustrations can be expensive and you’ll need a bare minimum of 12 – 14 interior and a cover. You might also want a back cover illustration.

Interior illustrations can run from $80 per to $500 per. It depends on the illustrator you work with. Book covers are usually double the cost of an interior illustration.

I’ve had clients who have paid upwards of $10,000 for illustrations for one book.

Usual Time Frame of ‘Real’ Publishing Houses

The other thing that’s distinctive about ‘real’ traditional publishers is it can take 16-24 months for your book to get published (available for sale) from the time you sign your contract. This is especially true for picture books.

And, keep in mind that it takes that long after you’ve gotten a contract, if you get a contract; there are no guarantees. Don’t forget to include the time it takes for researching publishers, submissions, rejections, and repeat.

Yes, you have to be patient. But, again, you pay nothing. And, you have the clout of a traditional publisher behind you.

Time Frame for Self-Publishing Services

I think this can be anywhere from a two-weeks to four months, or so, after you have a polished manuscript. The four+ months would be if children’s illustrations were involved.

It can be pretty quick!

Quality of Traditionally Published Books

I’ve self-published and I’ve traditionally published. And, I’ve read many, many, many books in my niche. ‘Real’ traditionally published books are usually of a much higher quality.

This goes from the cover illustration to the interior illustrations, to the editing, to the formatting, and so on.

A big reason for this is the quality control that goes into a book being published with a traditional publisher. The illustrators and editors are professionals and do quality work.

Quality of Self-Publishing Services

While you can have the same services done through self-publishing, you’ll pay for each of the services offered. The down-side is often the writers, editors, and illustrators working for these companies are less than qualified or professional.

This is just the way it goes. The service needs to keep its costs down.

So, be super careful when choosing a self-publishing service.

Which Is Better?

This question is a personal one.

It could be you’ve tried to get a traditional publishing contract, but it just didn’t work out. This may not mean your book isn’t good, it means the publishing industry in overwhelmed with books.

Chicken Soup for the Soul received 144 rejections before getting a contract with a small publisher.

Or, it could be you have the ‘I want it now’ publishing syndrome. The thought of having to wait even six-months or a year to get your book published is more than you can handle.

I personally think if you have the time, try traditional publishing first. Even if you’re impatient, give it six months. You just never know.

If you feel self-publishing is the way to go for you, GO for it.

While there are lots of less-than-professional services out there, there are also some good ones. You’ll have to do your homework. Research services. Review some of their books.

Below are two articles that may be helpful:
- (Sorry, couldn’t get the URL to hyperlink.)

Also, the last link from The Alliance of Independent Authors’ Advice Center links to The Watchdog Desk and Choosing the Best Self-Publishing Services for You.

No matter what publishing path you take, you want a quality published book. You want a marketable and saleable book.

You want a book you’ll be proud to be the author of.

What are your thoughts on traditionally publishing and self-publishing?

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