TIME WAS, WHEN ABOUT the only way to get your book published was by what we today call a “traditional” publisher. For some authors, this is still a viable and even preferable option.

In traditional publishing, you wrote your manuscript, submitted it to the publisher of your choice, then waited . . . and usually, waited some more. Sometimes months. Sometimes even a year or more. Finally, you’d hear back from the publisher with either the awesome good news that your book had been accepted for publication—or instead, that it had been declined, a euphemism for “rejected.”

If accepted, you’d wait another several months or a year or so, as the publisher went about editing your manuscript, preparing a cover, choosing a title, then printing and binding the book. Finally, the books would be shipped to bookstores, marketed and advertised.

After the first year of sales, the publisher would send you a royalty check—your reward for your hard work, hours invested, and patience.

The pros and cons of traditional publishing are pretty much the “flip side” of self-publishing.

The pros include:

  • You don’t have to put any money “up front.” Unless, that is, you need to pay someone to type your manuscript into a computer, and the small cost of printing out copies to send publishers and postage to send it to them. Some publishers will take emailed copies, but even in this digital age, most of them want a “hard copy” printout, as well.
  • You don’t have to pay to have your manuscript edited, to have the pages laid out, or a cover designed—all this is done by the publishing house on their dime.
  • Once printed and bound, you don’t have to clear out your garage to store the hundreds or thousands of books the printer will ship you.
  • And finally, you don’t have to advertise or market your book—this too is cared for by the publisher. 

The cons include:

  • You typically have a long wait for a decision by the publisher to publish or not. Another long wait follows if they accept your book, as they edit and produce it. Finally, you wait again for a full selling season (typically a year) before you get your first royalty check.
  • And speaking of royalties, what you make per book is FAR less than what you make when self-publishing—or when using a publisher such as Amazon’s CreateSpace or Kindle. Most publishers calculate their royalties on the wholesale price, which is the price they sell their published books to bookstores. This often ranges from 40 percent to 55 percent off the retail price. So let’s say your book sells for $20. The publisher sells it to a bookstore at a 40 percent discount, or $12. Your royalty may be around 14 percent of this $12, leaving you $1.68 per book that retails for $20. Now, let’s say your publisher sells 4000 books. That gives you $6,720.
  • But if you self-publish, you don’t settle for a small royalty per book. You retail ALL of your selling price. If the book sells for $20, your gross profit is $20! Of course, you have to deduct all your expenses from that: editing, page layout, cover design, marketing and advertising. So your NET profit may be more like $5 to $10 per book. Still, that beats the $1.68 you made with traditional for-royalty publishing!

So what’s the best option for you? If you have enough resources, self-publishing represents your best chance to realize the largest income on your investment of time and money. But traditional publishing costs you virtually nothing in time or money. 

The third option? Choosing an editor to do your editing, page layout, and book cover (at their usual fees), then cutting your costs on the other end—putting out nothing for the printing and binding. This is the option we suggest offers the best of both worlds, and we love to help authors make it happen.