Does Traditional Publishing Guarantee Sales? Heck no!

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Does having a book traditionally published mean I’ll have more sales than a self-published book?

Many self-published authors have earned more than some of their traditionally published counterparts, and vice-versa. Most traditionally published authors never earn more than their advance and most advances are only a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars. Just because you land a traditional contract does not guarantee you’ll get an advance at all. Many new self-published authors can keep a book alive and successful for years while traditional publishers lose interest in books within just a few weeks. If your book doesn’t take off with impressive sales straight out of the gate, it’s essentially a dead book in the publisher’s eyes. They’re forever looking for their next big best-seller and that’s where they throw their promotion dollars. Mid-list authors are left hanging, and are eventually forgotten.

I had a book published by St. Martin’s Press with a large advance and I will never do that again. I’d have sold far more copies myself in the long-run but they essentially sabotaged the book with their ignorance about ebooks and Internet marketing at that time…which was what the book was about. It took them two years to get the ebook on the market and most of the book’s links were, of course, dead by then. They also tried to take control of the book’s website after the contract was signed. Of course, we refused. The entire experience was a huge let-down and many authors have also had similar bad experiences with their traditional publishers.

TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING VS. SELF-PUBLISHING

TIMING – Traditional publishers can take months or even years to get a book to market. Self-publishers can get a book to market in weeks or even days. For example, BookLocker.com usually gets a print book to market within a month.

MARKETING – Unless you’re a well-known author, don’t expect a traditional publisher to do much, if any, promotion of your book. Most send out a couple dozen review copies, and then expect the author to do the rest. The author must also pay for any fee-based promotion. If you must promote your own book anyway, why give the majority of the revenue to a traditional publisher?

$$$ – Self-published authors earn far higher royalty rates than traditionally published authors. So, you could sell fewer books but still make more money. Furthermore, traditional publishers will allow a book to die (i.e. no promotion whatsoever) while a self-published author can promote and sell their book for years, or even decades.

CONTROL – Traditional publishers will often twist and skew a book’s content despite an author’s protests. Some traditional publishers insert errors during the editing process (that happened to my book – over and over again!). Traditional publishers will maintain control of a book forever unless the author can wrestle back control from that publisher years later. A traditional publisher can even sabotage a book’s sales if the author upsets them in any way.

Unless an author is offered a 6-figure advance and a guaranteed ongoing, long-term marketing plan (with expenditures quoted!), as well as higher royalties than the insulting ones offered currently, there is little incentive to go the traditional publishing route these days.

Have a question for Angela (writing/publishing) or Richard (marketing)? Contact us here.