Self Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing

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Yesterday I talked about the fallibility of our “current news” business complex. Although I love books, publishing them is a business as well. So today, I’m going to reproduce and embellish my email that outlines the benefits and shortcomings of publishing a certain way. I hope this, like yesterday’s post, highlights the incentives inherent in the industry.



Traditional Publishing (Pros)

  1. Distribution already made
  2.  Build relationships that facilitate future publications
  3. (if book advance given) financial independence to fully concentrate on writing
  4. (if good publishing house) good editing of manuscript
  5. (if book advance given) they have a vested interest in seeing the book succeed, so they might finance some crazy marketing ploys.

Traditional Publishing (Cons)

  1. They don’t market for you
  2. You need to pitch. and pitch. and pitch.
  3. They can be really lazy in negotiations (i.e. selling your foreign rights to the book at a discount bc it’s not worth hashing out)
  4. F*cking up a book and not earning back the cash advance could ruin your relationship with the publishing house
  5. HUGE delay between finalizing manuscript and rolling out to book stores (approx. 1 year)
  6. Profit sharing with publication house

Self-Publishing (Pros)

  1. Double your royalty percentage
  2. Write on a faster publication timeline, with more flexibility
  3. Content control
  4. Design control

Self-Publishing (Cons)

  1. Have to find your own editing staff
  2. No hedge against failure (you keep a book advance regardless of how the book performs)
  3. You have to have your own distribution center (uhhh Amazon :P)
  4. Nobody will stop you from publishing the world’s shittiest book
  5. Higher volume of self-published books to compete with (so if fiction, it usually has to be priced lower)


  1. Bestsellers can be bought for a week or two. Great books stay on the list (i.e. Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell)
  2. Ebook, self-publishing is probably best for a “business card” type of book publication. I would outsource a lot of the work, and pay top dollar to quality third parties (within reason of course).
  3. A book is a lot like a kid. You can abort it and few will know, but the minute you birth it into the world it will be a reflection of you. Write a fantastic book and a lot of the aforementioned problems simply won’t occur.

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