Self publishing vs traditional publishing

Self-Publishing Versus Traditional Publishing: Which Is Best For You?

By George Cox

Navigating the publishing industry when you’re fresh on the scene can feel a lot like walking down a corridor framed by locked doors. 

Yet despite this, over 80 million business books were sold in 2021, making it the second largest adult non-fiction subject after religious texts.

Evidently, there’s a market for your expertise. But how do you get your knowledge out into the world – and into the hands of your audience? Not only that, but how do you ensure it retains your unique tone of voice and benefits your business?

What is better self publishing or traditional publishing?

One of the biggest choices you’ll be faced with on your journey to becoming a successful author is whether to self-publish your work or build a relationship with a traditional publisher. 

So, to help you make your decision, we’ve compiled a list of key considerations you might want to bear in mind when plotting your route to best-seller status

Let’s dive in.

What are the benefits of self-publishing?

  1. You’re in control!

Self-publishing allows you to have complete control over all the jigsaw pieces that come together to create your finished book. This includes:

  • Content
  • Word count
  • Chapters
  • Cover design
  • Formatting
  • Marketing 

It’s hugely empowering to know that you had full creative freedom over a project as huge as writing a book, and that it turned out so well! 

However, there are two sides to every coin. Having full freedom like this can also be overwhelming, especially when your area of expertise isn’t writing, designing, editing, proofreading, or formatting. That’s why it’s so crucial to find a team of experts whom you trust and who understand your vision.

  1. Building genuine connections with your audience

You know your ideal customer avatar inside out. Being in control of your book and the marketing around it can result in a more targeted and effective approach that reflects your personal brand and unique voice. 

It also means you can set all the objectives. Whilst a traditional publisher might have objectives like hitting a certain number of sales, the objectives you want to work towards might be more specific. As a business owner, they might sound something like this:

  • Build a stronger connection with your audience
  • Establish yourself as an expert in your industry
  • Bring more traffic to your business and boost sales (don’t forget to put specific numbers to this goal)
  • Build your business profile, using the book as a one-to-many sales and marketing tool
  1. The advantages of catering to a niche market

Self-publishing allows you to cater to specific markets that traditional publishers might overlook. Publishers have an expectation of a certain number of sales, which means they tend to be wary about niche books.

However, books that cater to a niche audience – as indeed many business books do – offer a huge amount of value. They contain actionable advice from experts who have years of experience in their industry, which means that readers receive an answer to their biggest question: what am I going to get out of this?

It’s unlikely to be beneficial for you to try and cater to people who aren’t in need of your advice. Attempting to make your book appealing to a wider audience risks diluting or confusing your message, which doesn’t serve anyone. 

  1. Laying the groundwork for future relationships 

If you’re set on the traditional publishing route, it’s still worth considering self-publishing – especially for your first book. A book isn’t just a fantastic tool for building relationships with prospects and customers, but with publishers too! 

It can be incredibly difficult to establish a relationship with a traditional publisher. Roughly speaking, only two per cent of authors manage to get their work published by a traditional publishing house.

Self-publishing your book – and, with the right marketing, getting it onto the Amazon Best Seller list – is a great way to earn the attention of traditional publishers. 

Consider world-renowned writer Andy Weir, author of The Martian, now an award-winning film. Weir first self-published his novel, believing that traditional publishers would reject it. Very quickly, he made #1 Amazon Best Seller status – an achievement that many Write Business Results clients can also claim! After this, the novel was picked up and republished by Crown Publishing, an imprint of Penguin Random House (in a very lucrative deal, we might add!).

  1. A faster and more flexible process

The journey to getting your work published with a traditional publisher is often incredibly slow. When you’re self-publishing, you’re in control of how fast or slow the process is. This approach offers much more flexibility for busy business owners. But be warned: without guidance and commitment, you might find that writing your book keeps getting pushed down your priority list. 

It’s also worth noting that traditional publishers are juggling a lot of other books. If you’re keen to get your book out into the world and into the hands of your readers as quickly as possible, self-publishing is the fastest route. 

Top tip: be mindful of prioritising speed over quality! Working with a team of experts to help you write and market your book is a great way to achieve both.

  1. Full ownership of royalties and rights

In short, a royalty is the amount that a publisher pays an author in exchange for the rights to publish their book.

In general, the standard royalty rates for authors published by a traditional publishing house are under 10 per cent. This means that for a hardback book advertised at £15.99, the author will receive around £1.60 for each copy sold. 

With self-publishing, royalty rates average at around 70 per cent. To put that into perspective, if your book sells for £5.99, you’ll receive just under £4.20 from each sale! 

As the publisher of your own book, you will retain 100 per cent of all rights. This typically refers to:

  • Primary publication rights (the publishing of the book)
  • Subsidiary rights (reformatting it into audiobooks or film)
  • Foreign rights

This means you can sell by any means in a global market, because you own all the rights. Take your book international! 

When you retain all rights to your work, you can keep repurposing the content from your book without worrying about breaching any legal agreements. You can turn that content into marketing material, courses, training programs, downloads or audiobooks to your heart’s content!

What are the benefits of traditional publishing?

  1. Prestige and mainstream exposure

There’s an essence of validation that comes from working with a traditional publisher – a seal of approval for your name and your book. This can help to boost your brand even further and cement you as a go-to expert in your industry. 

Publishers have built-in connections with high-profile bookstores, critics, and media outlets. This means your book is more likely to get into traditional bookstores (as they tend to favour traditionally published books), reach a wider audience (remember though that wider is not always better), and receive more reviews in traditional media outlets.

  1. Reassurance for the nervous writer

There are so many things to think about when it comes to writing, publishing, and marketing a book, and each sector is a profession in its own right. If your area of expertise isn’t in any of these industries, it can be incredibly overwhelming to know where to start.

Working with a traditional publisher means you’ll have a team of experts whose job it is to sell as many copies of your book as possible. They’ll be able to handle everything from publication to distribution – but there are gaps that need to be covered. Bear in mind that you will still be expected to produce a manuscript and keep your book working as an ongoing marketing tool. But fear not! There are third-party experts who can help you to produce a manuscript that meets traditional publishing standards, and market your book afterwards.

  1. Money upfront

If you are fortunate enough to secure a deal, you will receive an advance prior to publishing. For many business owners, this can feel like a less risky investment. 

Top tip: remember – an advance is not a gift! It’s a loan that must be repaid through royalties once the book is published. Only after this time will you receive royalties as a return on your investment of time and effort. 

  1. More connections and an advanced distribution network

There are some incredibly valuable connections to be made in the world of traditional publishing. Whilst it might appear as though the two cross over only when a business book is published, the publishing world and the business world have an ongoing mutualistic relationship. According to Sales & Marketing Executives International, people who read at least seven business books per year earn 2.3 times more than people who read only one book per year. 

The book inside you offers a great opportunity for traditional publishers, whose main objective is to sell as many high-quality books as possible. This is a superpower you can leverage to your advantage.

Working with a traditional publisher may present opportunities to attend events and panel discussions to further boost your brand awareness and build business relationships outside of your already established network as well.

So, what will be your path to best-seller success?

Every decision you make will impact the final end product: your book, a hugely profitable one-to-many sales and marketing tool. To ensure you’re making the right decisions, why not hop on a free clarity call with our team of experts? We can help you plot your path to becoming a successful author, ensuring you feel confident and in control every step of the way.

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