Traditional Publishing vs Self-Publishing: Dispelling three big myths

Traditional Publishing vs Self-Publishing

Traditional Publishing vs Self-Publishing – It’s an ongoing debate and there are a lot of myths involved. I talk about it in this first episode of the “Write, Publish, Succeed” podcast.

Hi! And welcome to the inaugural episode of Write, Publish, Succeed, the podcast that will give you the inside track on writing, publishing, marketing, and online platform-building. 

I’m Sara Whitford, the independently published author of the bestselling Adam Fletcher Adventures, which is a young adult historical fiction series set in colonial North Carolina. 

I already have six published titles under my belt and a seventh on the way. 

I also just happen to have 25 years of experience in website development, and many of those were also spent as a magazine editor and creative director, so if you have a question about anything related to what it takes to succeed as an independent author-publisher, I’m here for you!

In today’s episode, I want to talk about the WHY of independent publishing. 

First of all, you’ll notice I typically say “independent publishing.”

I don’t even like the term “self-publishing.” 

It just reminds me of those old vanity press days from a couple of decades ago when someone had written a book and they’d have to pay an exorbitant sum to some vanity publisher to ge the book out into the world. 

And THEN they’d only ever wind up being able to sell hardcopies to friends and family, and if they got really lucky, maybe, just maybe some other folks would buy it. 

I have nothing but love for the writers who were willing to shell out their hard-earned money to have their book published. I believe in the principle of the writer deciding whether or not their book gets published. I also believe that the cream rises to the top and if you’re a solid writer, you’re going to succeed because people are going to love what you have to say!

Why should you have to wait around and get permission from the publishing industry gatekeepers before you can bring your book idea to readers? Especially today when platforms like Kindle Direct Publishing, iBooks, NookPress, and Google Play make it so easy for writers to publish their own books — and at virtually no cost!

Some writers will still argue that they want a traditional publishing contract. 

Their arguments almost always, without exception, come down to one or more of these three things:

  1. They believe they’ll get paid more.
  2. They believe it will cost them less.
  3. They believe they need the validation.

Let’s talk about each of those, ok?

A writer believes they’ll get paid more if they get a traditional publishing contract. 

This is unfortunate. Many writers assume that if they get signed for a book deal, they’ll be rolling in the dough. In reality, you might get a small advance, but the publisher is going to make sure they recoup that by giving you a pittance royalty for your book sales. They’ll be keeping the lion’s share of everything that comes in on your books, pretty much forever. That doesn’t mean an author who is on the top of every bestseller list isn’t going to make some decent money. They will, but those are few and far between AND the publishing companies are still making a higher royalty percentage than the authors. Those authors really start to profit when they wind up with movie deals, or TV deals, or something that goes beyond the scope of what the publisher is doing.

I have a whole booklet I’ve written that includes statistics on what writers with traditional publishing contracts actually get paid in royalties compared to independently published authors. You’ll be amazed.

A writer believes having a traditional publishing contract will mean it costs them less to have their book published.

This is another common misconception. You, dear writer, are still paying for all of the things that have to do with publishing your book if you are traditionally published. The only difference is, the publishing company is paying for it out of what would have been your royalties if you were independently published. In other words, that tiny percentage royalty you get from the publishing company is because they’re taking a bigger cut than you from the net book sales so that they can pay everyone at the publishing company who helped design your cover, did the interior layout, handled the copyediting, and wrote the contracts to get you on board in the first place. 

They are not going to do all of those things to get your book ready for market just because they think you’re a nice person. No! They’re in the business to make money. And as long as they at least break even or make a little bit off of your book, they’re going to be content. If you don’t make a decent chunk of change for them, however, you can kiss goodbye the idea of getting signed for more books. 

A writer believes having a traditional publishing contract will give them much-needed validation.

Now this one is just nonsense. If you have a story to tell, and you know it’s a great story, it doesn’t matter if anyone at a publishing company agrees with you or not. The readers will be the ones who decide. They’ll be the ones who let you know you’re on the right track. You need to be confident in yourself, and in your own story. If you don’t love your own story, how can you expect other readers to love it? No publisher can change that! There have been plenty of independently published authors who have become massive bestsellers. Many continued publishing independently, others wound up with MASSIVE 6-figure contracts from major publishing companies in addition to selling movie rights. Hugh Howey and Michael J. Sullivan come to mind. 

And did you know that Beatrix Potter was independently published, way back in the day? It’s completely true! And even without the benefit of Kindle Direct Publishing. 

So all of this is to say that I’m passionate about telling you, writer, that you don’t need anybody else’s permission to publish your book. It’s not up to some industry gatekeeper to decide whether or not you get to be a published author. 

And, in fact, now, it’s easier than ever to put your written words out there for all the world to see. Stick with this podcast. I’ll be talking about everything under the sun related to independent writing, publishing, marketing, the whole nine-yards. 

Also, I hope you’ll check out my blog. I have several articles there covering many of these same topics. You can also connect with me there. I’d love to hear from you. So send me an email. Let me know what you thought about this episode. Tell me what you’d like to hear me talk about. Do you have any questions? Concerns? Fears? Let’s talk about it!

In the meantime, thank you so much for listening. Until next time. 

Happy Writing!

Write, Publish, Succeed podcast theme song composed and recorded by Isaac Macias.

Traditional Publishing vs Self-Publishing – What are your thoughts? Leave them in the comments below!