Self-publishing Versus Traditional Publishing - A Guest Post

Today's post comes to us from Lorna Riley, a self-publisher of children's books and a fantastic informational blogger for children's self-publishing topics.

You're in for a great read, enjoy!

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Why Self-publishing is Better than Traditional Publishing
by Lorna Riley

Self-publishing – the gaping wide mouth that swallows up lost and weary authors, adrift on the sea of rejection.  Like the Kraken, it wraps its tentacles around them, pulling them down and down, deep into the murky waters; never to be seen or heard of again.  Except, when the mist draws in, it is said that disembodied voices may be heard drifting across the twittersphere: come buy, come buy, my free books do try…

But, is it really all that bleak?  Is it possible to make a success of self-publishing?  I hope so!  But it doesn’t happen by magic, you have to work at it.  Do you have to work harder than a traditionally published author?  Not necessarily, but you do have to be more self-motivated and make your own opportunities. 

That’s not such a bad thing, though.  Is it?  Actually, when you really think about it, going it alone could be the best thing that ever happened to you.  But, just in case you’re not entirely convinced, here’s why…

1) Editing your Manuscript

So, you don’t have an army of professional proof-readers to go through your work and pick out all your mistakes and correct them all for you.  That means you’ll have to do it yourself.  The problem is, you never did quite get to grips with when to use a semi-colon, and the rules about when and where to use commas seem to change depending on which book you read. 

Well, you know what, now’s the perfect time to figure it out for yourself.  And the lovely fellows at the University of Bristol’s Faculty of Arts are here to help, with some fabulous exercises to straighten out your grammar and punctuation. But be warned, you will become one of those annoying, know-it-all grammar nerds that sighs at every comma splice you find.

However, once you’ve given it a good once- / twice- / thrice-over yourself, you really should get a professional to look at it, too.  Research shows that those earning the most from self-publishing are those that have gone the extra mile to make sure the product they’re offering is the best it can be.

But, when you’re in the midst of wrestling with your work-in-progress, don’t assume the traditionally published author has got it so much easier.  First of all, they will have needed to edit and polish their work to get it accepted in the first place.  It’s only then that it will be subjected to the scrutiny of lots of different pairs of eyes.

Sounds great doesn’t it?  Not necessarily.  Because, with lots of different people comes lots of different opinions, and the next thing you know your book’s got a few extra sex scenes and your main character is doing things you hadn’t originally envisaged.  Maybe they’re right and it makes your book all the better for it, but would it still feel like it was yours?

2) Marketing you Book

Fair enough, editing your own manuscript may not be such a bad thing.  But, surely, as far as promoting your book is concerned, the big publishing houses hold all the cards?  Right?  What do we mere writers know about sales and marketing? 

Well, if you’re anything like me, not a lot.  Yet.  But there are plenty of lovely people out there, in the same boat as you, who know a whole lot more and are willing to share their pearls of wisdom with you. 

Like Jenn, for example.  And, with the rise of social media, we’ve got a much better chance of engaging with our readers than ever before. 

So, go on – get out there and set up your Facebook page, your Twitter account, your blog, your website and whatever else floats your boat.  Let the world know that you and your book are ready and waiting. 

If you are willing and able to properly engage with your customers, they will develop a sense of ownership, a sense of loyalty, and start promoting your book for you.  That’s when your sales will really start to grow.

It may be a long hard slog, but it’s all on your own terms.  You get to choose how your book cover looks (but do get a professional to design it for you!), you get to choose how to pitch your book and where it fits best in the market.  You get to write the blurb on the back of your book - making sure that it entices, without giving too much away. 

On top of that, you get to choose when, how and where you’ll travel to promote your work.  Want to go to one book fair, but not another?  Fine.  Don’t want to travel at all?  Fine.  Want to take some time out to write the next one?  No problem.  The only person you’ve got to answer to is yourself.  

3) Sales Figures

Now this is where you’ve got me.  Of course the big publishing houses are going to be able to generate more sales than a single author all by themselves.  I’m not going to argue with you there.  However, do you know how much of the sales revenue actually filters down to the author themselves? 

Well, this can vary, depending on the author or whether it’s a hardback or paperback, but you’re looking at around 10% of the cover price.  Although it can be lower, particularly if you’re a picture book author splitting your royalties 50:50 with the illustrator.  eBook royalties are usually around 25%.

But, when you’re self-publishing with a print-on-demand publisher like CreateSpace, for example, you’re looking at about 25% of the list price of a paperback and 70% of the list price on an eBook.  So, whichever way you look at it, it’s a much higher percentage when you go it alone.  Roughly three times more than what you’d get through a traditional publisher. 

It can’t really be that lucrative, though, can it?  Surely, self-publishing is just vanity publishing under another name.  If the big publishing houses aren’t interested, then it’s because it’s just not going to sell, is it?  If you don’t believe me, then check out the research and see for yourself. 

It is possible to make a decent living as a self-published author.  You’ve just got to make it all happen yourself. 

Images courtesy:

About the Author

Lorna Riley was an average mother of two… until one fateful day when The Stories, mischievous little creatures that they are, crept into her brain whilst she was sleeping.  And she’s never been the same since.  Sir Nibbles, The Famouse Cupboard Raider Extraordinaire, is Lorna’s first foray into self-publishing and, with the help of the fabulous illustrator John Balsley, it should be ready later on in the Spring.

If you’d like to say hello, here’s my website and I can also be found twittering here.  Sir Nibbles is on Facebook and is due to have his own website later on in the Spring, too.