Self-Publish or Traditional?

I’ve heard some writers say that they really don’t care if their book is published. I believe that’s just an expression of their insecurity, a fear that they won’t be “good enough” to be published. When you invest the time, energy, and money to write a book, your hope (expectation?) is that it will be published. Otherwise, it’s like having a child and keeping it locked away in the cellar.

Currently, there are two major approaches to publishing—the traditional path and self-publishing. Based on the from-the-heart comments I’ve heard from many of today’s bestselling writers, the world of traditional publishing is far different from what it was. There are only six major publishing houses today. They appear to support only their A-list writers. All others are physically and financially responsible for marketing and promoting their own books. Just like self-published writers.

The royalties on ebooks published through the traditional houses are 12% to 15 % of sales revenue—and you have to pay your agent’s commission out of that. If your book sold at $9.99 (high for an unknown), you’d realize $1.50 per book. That becomes about $1.25 after your agent’s commission. If your self-published book sold for $3.99 (more appealing to readers), at a typical 70% royalty (Amazon) you’d earn $2.80, AND with no agent involved. PLUS, in either event, you’ll have to do your own promoting and marketing. Intuitively, it seems the number of books sold is probably the same.

No less a bestselling author than Lee Child has advocated going the traditional route. But he also admits that the business has changed substantially since he started. He even expressed his concerns whether he would be successful if he was starting out today. Conversely, another major bestselling author, Hugh Howey, who has published both ways, strongly suggested going the self-publishing path over the traditional one.

My own observation from studying my fellow writers is that the majority of them want to be traditionally published. That’s because they haven’t yet realized that the royalties are less and the demands of marketing successfully are the same either way. I believe it’s mere egoism, the desire to say, “I’m traditionally published.” But the chances that you’ll get a top-notch agent who can connect you with a Big-6 publisher are on a par with picking the winning Powerball number. Even then, if you’re not an A-lister, you’ll have to carry the burden for generating sales of your book.

There are hundreds of small publishing houses, of course. But they have neither the resources nor the industry connections to offer you anymore than you will accomplish by self-publishing. If a writer absolutely must be able to say that he or she is traditionally published, let me offer a good faith suggestion. Set up your own LLC and publish through it rather than in your own name. You’ll have the best of both worlds, as things currently stand in the industry.

© John Wayne Falbey 2017 All Rights Reserved