When you're looking to publish your book it can be difficult to tell what route is best for you. We at Book Printing UK have trawled through all the conflicting information the internet has to offer so that you don't to, in the hopes it can help you reach a decision.
In the modern world we live in today, there are even more options available to writers. From the genre, to the subject matter and the artistic direction, writers are presented with an almost overwhelming range of choice with regards to their work. Even when the job of writing is done, the choices continue in a manner you could call relentless. So you've written your manuscript, you know what your book is all about and you're ready to get this thing on the market and enjoy the papery fruits of your hard labour. You'll need to get it published then. But this poses yet more choices, which method suits you best?
In the most basic terms, traditional publishing and self-publishing are very similar, but with slight differences. For both, your manuscript will need: to be polished of spelling and grammatical errors, a title and blurb, a cover, marketing, printing and distribution. This probably seems like a lot, and allow me to clarify: it is a lot. Not much point being coy, it'll be difficult. That much is made pretty clear to you from the get-go. Getting a book from a word document to bestseller isn't an easy task, and it's even more hard work than you've already put into the actual writing of it.
However, as tedious as it sounds, it is a necessary step if you're wanting to turn your writing into a living, rather than just a hobby in which you empty yourself of creative spirit and energy for 'fun'. It's a good thing there are several options available to you, but it's impossible to be able to give one definitive answer as it often varies between people and their individual preferences and requirements. An overview of the pros and cons of both might prove helpful, so here I am. You can thank me later, you accomplished and soon-to-be published author you.
The first step is proposing your manuscript to a publishing agency where it's read by an editor and decided whether the publisher wants to endorse such a work. At this point it can be either accepted or rejected. If it's rejected, they'll send you a polite note thanking you for the offer, but they must respectfully decline, and remind you to not let the door hit you on the way out. If it's accepted, on the other hand, they'll approach you about purchasing the rights to your work. They'll review the contents, design and package the book, before advertising it and printing and distributing the predicted number of sales.
In this respect, most of the hard work discussed previously is taken care of for you. Many writers understandably prefer this; after an extensive and tiring process taking place over the course of several months or even years, which leaves you both physically and mentally drained, how much work are you in the mood for? You'll be paid an advance on your work - meaning you're in the green before any actual sales take place - and be allocated a cut of the royalties with each sale. Books published through traditional means are more likely to sell more copies and usually make more profit than self-published works.
A lot of this can be attributed to the rigorous marketing used by the publishers, because they want your work to sell as much as, if not more than, you because that's how they get their profit. They know what they're doing; with a pre-existing string of trusted contacts and significant knowledge and resources, you're in safe hands.
Traditional publishing also gives more opportunity for awards and acclaim. If you're an author plagued with low self-esteem and you need a little jolt of validation to give you confidence in your future as a writer, approaching publishers may be the way to go. Due to the pure size and visible presence of publishing companies, it's likely you'll receive more recognition through traditional means. Reviews and awards are also more easily attainable. As being published can sometimes mean an automatic nomination into renowned competitions, these will only create more publicity for your work. More publicity means more sales. See what I'm getting at? If you've ever wanted to gold-plate anything that really doesn't need it, an award wouldn't hurt your chances.
On the other hand, traditional publishing can be a very time-consuming process. As unfortunate as it is, a lot of new writers will have to approach multiple agencies before one accepts, if any do at all. Larger companies like Penguin, Ladybird and HarperCollins will facilitate more success but can take up to 6 months to process through all their entries before reaching yours. With such a large number of applicants, selection is more prestigious but the other side of this temperamental coin is that it's less likely to happen.
After being chosen, the production process can be another year of waiting, unless it's a non-fiction on a topical subject, in which case they'll want that pumped out onto the market as soon as possible. Worst case scenario, you're waiting two and a half years before it's even something in the shops.
Some publishers also have a 'do not complete' clause to take into account, meaning you're unable to publish anything under your name until the previous work is on the market, creating further delays.
The production process itself can be riddled with difficulty and complication. Many authors wrestle with their publishers over creative freedom. Publishers may choose to not publish a work because a certain section or subject matter is deemed controversial, potentially losing them sales. The content, title and marketing can be altered in a way that completely derails your original idea of genre and target audience, meaning the end result is almost unrecognisable.
You could comply completely, but there's a chance it'll transform your book into something so far removed from the intended vision it might as well be 400 pages of random word generation. If an agreement cannot be reached with your editor, the publishing house may decide to drop you to avoid further hassle. They don't have the money to not be making profits every day of the year.
And that's what it ultimately comes down to. Publishers are not charities. They are not publishing your book out of the kindness of their heart or "to help a fella' out". They don't care whether you've written a literary masterpiece or '101 ways to eat sand', they're purely interested in what sells to the unpredictable and fickle market. They are businesses who want to make as much money as they can as often as possible. You need to take that into account before going with traditional publishers. They can be brilliant but often they're more concerned with profitability rather than artistic integrity or the quality of the final product, which are likely to be your primary concerns as a writer.
One of the reasons self-publishing is becoming increasingly popular is the pure, distilled convenience and adaptability of it all. Now you can start writing a novel and literally have that same novel in finished hardback form in yours hands within six months. That's even before considering e-books. Companies like Amazon and other online bookstores can approve your book and have it on sale in a mere matter of days. Earning money. Being a real book. With words and everything. What year is it again? Because it sure feels like we're living in the 25th century or something. Sardonicism aside, this is a fairly new and relatively revolutionary advancement in the world of writing and publishing that doesn't alienate newcomers, allows for greater ease of access and is massively faster overall.
Self-publishing also removes almost all of the limitations proposed by traditional publishers. With nobody to stifle your creative freedom, you're able to make bold artistic statements and can dare to be a bit more controversial, which always gets people talking about your work. Cover art, title, marketed genre and advertisements can all be designed as originally envisaged, and last minute alterations can be made on your own terms.
This freedom will also allow you to write content that fills an otherwise ignored niche. Publishing houses need to reach a specific number of sales and profits with every book they publish in order to consider it a success. If you want to write a book on a very specific subject for a very specific group of people, self-publishing allows you to do that without hindrance, so long as your definition of success isn't as unrealistically profit-centric.
Nevertheless, we might as well talk profits while we're at it. Depending on your pricing, your books can award you a massive 50% royalty cheque per sale. That's a very considerable amount as royalties from traditional publishers usually peak at 25% (which is very rarely offered) and average at only 10%. It's fairly obvious that you won't need to sell as many copies to earn the same amount of money than with traditional publishers, and with self-publishing you're able to sell your books in any countries you so choose worldwide, increasing chances for sales.
The negatives of self-publishing...
This is great and all, but fundamentally, self-publishing is much the same as traditional methods. You'll still need to clear up any mistakes, cover art, marketing, distribution and printed copies, except this time you're doing it by yourself. Sure, you can sell the books wherever you want, but only to English speakers - unless you're fluently multi-lingual or willing to splash out on a translator.
That's another thing: you're personally funding the designing, editing, printing, and distribution unless you're willing and able to do all that yourself. Pure indie development. Maybe you're thinking the increased sales prices I mentioned earlier make this a negligible detail. Alright, so each sale will earn you more money, but sales are less likely and are largely dependent on multiple tiers of luck. Whether the industry needs more of what you're offering, whether people are interested by your title and cover enough to inquire further, whether you can translate intrigue into sales... It all adds up.
Despite the freedom you're afforded, even self-publishing has limits. Shops or online marketplaces won't sell your book if it's deemed too unfinished or imperfect. If something's particularly "out there" or niche, to the point where it appeals to a number countable on one hand, it may not be sold. Especially not on the shelves. That's actually pretty rare. If a self-published book purports to be "available" at certain retailers, the likelihood is you'll have to ask about it directly and have it ordered in especially. Most of the time, self-published books are not put in stores, narrowing down the chances of purchase.
The amount and chances for critical acclaim, prestige and validation from the industry are vastly decreased, if those things are important to you. Many competitions won't accept the works of indie writers, whether it's because there would be too many unchecked entries or because the industry is a just a little bit pretentious and holier-than-thou. While kudos from higher-ups isn't vital, it often opens up opportunities to climb for more prestigious positions in the literary world and gets your work more noticed.
Nonetheless, each day in the writing world, this stigma centred around self-publishing is continually decreasing. What was once seen as 'the easy way out' for low-quality authors, too inexperienced for traditional publishers to accept, is quickly becoming an equally respected method for talented writers to create works on their own terms. Many competitions are now accepting self-published works and contests exclusively for self-published books are springing up all the time. Even if your definition of success was centred around the opinions of other famous authors, agents and higher-ups in the industry, doors are constantly opening in the self-publishing world to accommodate this.
Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing: the Results
With significant positive aspects and negative drawbacks of both traditional and self-publishing methods, it might be difficult to tell what's best for you. Obviously this varies from person to person, but it seems like neither option is the clear winner. Neither is particularly ideal, and as clear-cut as I've made it, you may still be unsure what to pursue with regards to publishing your book as it seems there's no good balance. Luckily there are other options. With writing being such a massive and continually growing industry, publishers must adapt and accommodate advancement as well.
Publishing a book is no longer an either/or affair. There's a third option available to you: assisted self-publishing through Spiderwize. Spiderwize empowers authors by allowing them to write whatever they want without artistic restriction and however works best for them, with the ability to alter these choices with future publications to better suit those requirements. The utmost care and passion is taken at each step of the process, with a corresponding team of accomplished editors, artists, marketing experts and distributors helping you transform your manuscript into a bestseller.
Assisted self-publishing definitely isn't without its limits - mind you - but it's pretty close. Companies aren't going to publish something so overly-controversial that it lands in 'offensive' territory. These same companies also won't publish something completely unfinished or unsellable, but I think those limits are beyond reasonable and the likelihood is that they won't even apply to most writers. If they are in an unfinished state, assisted self-publishing houses will do what they can to help you get there; they're very customer-focused.
It's not as if they're just doing all the work for you though, don't forget. You're still going to have to pour your passion and put some soul into it if you want a good finished product, but that much is to be expected. You put in the work, make a draft you're happy with and, provided it's suitable and passes baseline quality control, you're awarded with the professional assistance needed to create something even more brilliant.
With multiple affordable program options depending on your requirements, budgeting is yet another issue you no longer have to deal with. Royalties are managed as seriously as they are generous, earning you a huge 50% royalty figure for every single sale. Not only that, but the retail price can be adjusted and altered to your own specifications to ensure you're making a good return on sales. Their print on demand and global distribution services makes this an even simpler process. With each sale, a brand new copy of your book is printed, pressed and then distributed to the point of purchase, absolutely anywhere worldwide, and you receive the royalties accordingly.
Seems like a no-brainer, right? Give them a look at Spiderwizeand tell 'em I sent you. They'll be more than happy to help in every way possible on the road to creating an internationally successful and professionally crafted masterpiece.