Is Traditional Publishing Still an Upgrade from Self-Publishing? – Karen Carver

Print Friendly

Frankly, anyone who reads WritersWeekly already knows the advantages of self-publishing. While some authors do very well on their own, and prefer to stay on their own, others have received offers from traditional publishers after proving there’s a market for their self-published book.

So you finally take the leap, research and find the publishing service that will bring your words not only to life, but to the masses. And you become one of those lucky ones, who through hard work and perseverance, manage to start producing great sales of your book. Then, surprisingly, a traditional publisher comes calling. They didn’t want you before, no matter how many times you tried. On one hand you finally feel proud and vindicated, while on the other you just want to give them that well known one fingered wave. After all, you are now making great royalties, and have another book about to come out. You feel satisfied with life so why should you bother with the traditional publisher?

In a way, you are right. It’s certainly your choice. Working for yourself, you have your own methods and time set up to do things your way, with virtually no one hounding you – except maybe your spouse. A traditional publisher will certainly not pay the same royalty percentages. Plus, if they give you an advance, count on them to be frequently hovering over your shoulder like an old teacher or a boss concerned with quotas. “More! Faster!”, they roar. You’ll be hearing from them frequently.

Some of your money will go to an agent who should ensure the traditional publisher is doing what they promised. An editor will be requesting rewriting of pages you already published independently – lots of them. Maybe even whole paragraphs or pages or, very likely, the entire book. And, unless you are well known, it’s doubtful your book will be on store shelves any more than your self-published version. You will still be expected to do almost all of the promotion yourself and you’ll be expected to pay any fees associated with that promotion, too.

Where your book and time are concerned, you will undoubtedly find a traditional publisher annoying, heartbreaking, and insufferable. So once again, you ask, why should you bother?

Traditional publishers might offer some things your independent publishing service does not. What they can offer:

  • Possible advance (many traditional publishers don’t offer unknown authors advances but some do).
  • Editing (which they will have final say over. And, don’t expect it to be perfect. It almost never is.)
  • An eye-catching cover (if you’re lucky enough to get one of their good designers – and they will have final say over this, too).
  • A new title (that they will also have final say over).
  • Possibly more distribution, but no guarantees. (Again, if you’re unknown, your book may only end up being for sale online, just like your self-published version.)
  • Possibly different language imprints (but ONLY if they can sell foreign-language rights. Most books published by U.S. firms do not end up republished in foreign languages).
  • Possibly some publicity (but you are still responsible for most, if not all, promotion unless you’re famous).
  • More sales could mean more money despite lower royalties.
  • Possible website or help making one you already have better (but they will then claim ownership of that website).
  • Audio book (but usually only if your print version is successful).

Yes, after the freedom of a good POD publishing service, working with a traditional publisher could seem annoying and frustrating. However, the perks might make up for it…or they might not. And who says you can’t keep writing and self-publishing other books while writing for the traditional publisher (unless you’ve sold them rights to your future books)? The fact is, if a traditional publisher finally notices you, don’t say no out of spite. Check out what they have to offer first. No one will force you to say yes. Never negotiate with a traditional publisher unless it’s through a literary agent. If you have real interest and a firm offer from a traditional publisher, no reputable literary agent is going to refuse to work with you and they can likely get you a MUCH better deal than the first offer.

Karen Carver is finally tackling her agoraphobia. The world has changed since 1998! And yet so much more than imagined has stayed the same! You can browse all you want online, but experiencing the world “in person” head on, is a breathtaking experience after so long…