Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing

Today, there are two ways to take your work from manuscript to book:

  1. Find a publisher.
  2. Become a publisher. (Much easier than it used to be.)

Traditional Publishing

There are perks to having your book published the old-fashioned way. If you’re working with a traditional publisher, professionals will do all the work for you: editing, production, design and cover. And books produced by conventional publishing houses are more likely to find a place in brick-and-mortar bookstores. But the chances of landing a conventional publisher are low, with or without an agent.

Perhaps the most well-known self-published author, Hugh Howey[1], collects data on the self-publishing industry. He recently wrote that 98% of manuscripts submitted to agents never get published[2] at all.

Even if you land a major publisher, the royalties and advances aren’t as lucrative as they used to be, the process can take one to two years and you may be asked to make significant revisions (many of which you won’t agree with). Once your masterpiece is released, the publishing house will do some marketing and promotion for you, but they’ll still expect you to participate in that as the face of your book. And they’ll put constraints on what you can do to promote your book in terms of marketing, pricing, limited-time promotions and giveaways.

For all this effort, few published writers make enough from their writing to make it their life. 

The Guardian[3] recently reported on a UK survey that found only 11.5% of professional authors earned a living solely from writing, a number that was especially discouraging when compared to the 2005 percentage, 40%.

In July 2014, an Author Earnings report[4] found that “self-published authors earn more in royalties than Big 5 [publishing house] authors combined.”


Self-publishing means wearing more hats–not only as a writer, but also as distributor and marketer of your work. And it doesn’t come with the luxury of a professional editor and production staff. But that increased responsibility translates into more control over your manuscript, as well as the ability to connect directly to your readership.

Platforms like Kindle Direct Publishing, Smashwords, Kobo, CreateSpace and IngramSpark now enable individual authors to publish their books independently, without the blessing of traditional gatekeepers like agents and publishers, or even the need for intermediary author services companies to help them navigate the process.

These ebook and print-on-demand venues let you distribute your book and reach a large niche audience for little to no up-front cost (except for the time it takes you to write the book).

You get to publish your book, just as you want it. And the time to publication can be days, not years.

You can also make changes easily, own your audience and communicate directly with your readers.

Furthermore, as a self-publisher, you set your own price, garner much higher per-book royalties and enjoy complete flexibility in how you market your book — from free giveaways, to promotional discounts and other strategies.

Becoming Your Own Publisher

The rest of this publication is for those who want to self-publish.

The good news is: If you want to take the reins and get your work out to readers now, that’s easy, instantaneous and virtually free.

New platforms (including Pressbooks!) enable today’s writers to instantly convert their book to the right file types for publication in print in online bookstores such as Amazon (using print-on-demand) and ebook stores (such as Kindle), removing the expenses that used to be associated with self-publishing. In addition to bypassing agents and publishers, you no longer need to hire a programmer or graphic designer to format your ebook and print book.

In fact, it’s now possible to publish your book in all the major ebookstores and in print for as little as $99.

This guide to self-publishing will demystify that process, so you can create your own book and publish it quickly, easily and affordably.

We will cover:

  • The publishing process
  • Writing and editing
  • Book files and terminology
  • Producing your book files for ebook and print-on-demand outputs
  • Sourcing your cover files
  • Testing your book files
  • Other things you will need to get your book into stores
  • Distribution
  • Pricing and royalties
  • Book marketing strategies

We’ll also talk about:

  • How much all this costs
  • How Pressbooks can help


Let’s make a book!

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The Pressbooks Guide to Self-Publishing, 2nd Edition Copyright © 2015 by Pressbooks. All Rights Reserved.


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