Traditional Publishing vs Indie Publishing, which is for you?

So you have written a book, now what? You want to get published, but what route do you take, traditional publishing or indie/ self publishing?

Let’s begin with traditional publishing. A lot has changed in the traditional publishing realm and yet there is much that has stayed the same.

It is true, getting published by the traditional route is notoriously difficult, publishers are inundated with manuscripts and in many cases, will not even look at manuscripts if the author is not represented by a book agent.

The first step is to sell yourself and be picked up by an agent. This is not a simple process of picking an agent and letting them manage the rest, you need to apply to many different agents and only if they see the potential in the manuscript will they agree to represent you. Often for a nice and tidy sum of approximately 15% of your earnings.

They will then distribute your manuscript to the editors of the publishing houses that they feel may be interested in your manuscript, and if one of them (or more if you are very lucky) are interested, the agent will negotiate further with regards to publishing rights, advances, royalties etc.

Nowadays, agents may also look at your social media following before deciding on whether or not to take you on as an author. If you have an established author platform from which to market yourself, you become far more appealing in the grand scheme of things because you will already have a prospective buyer base before your manuscript even hits the shelves.

What also needs to be mentioned, is that through traditional publishing, as the author, you may only get between 6% and 8% in royalties, but if the publishing house markets for you and if your agent can negotiate multiple deals for you (for example, foreign publishing rights) it may add up in the long run if your book sells.

On the other hand, there is indie/ self publishing. To some people, this is a far easier route with fewer hoops to jump through, however, there is a lot more work that needs to be put in by you as the author.

First off, you will not get an advance. Your income will rely solely on your sales.

You will need to have the the initial capital to pay for an editor (unless you are able to edit for yourself). Editing in South Africa for novels ranges from R0.20 to R2.00 per word (approximately 0.014 to 0.14 Dollars per word or 0.011 to 0.11 Pounds per word) so for a manuscript of 100k words, you are looking at an average of between R20 000 and R200 000 in total. Some editors charge at an hourly rate or per page rather than per word. Independent editors vary greatly as opposed to editing companies as they dictate their own rates.

It is expensive and many people generally learn how to edit themselves to offset these costs.

Once the book has been edited, the formatting comes into play. Amazon Kindle have relatively strict guidelines on how they want their books formatted before they can be uploaded and released. Luckily there are templates that can be followed, which does make it easier for first time authors.

You can then upload it to Amazon (you will need an Amazon account), load the cover and cover page, fill out the questions they ask regarding the content, keywords, locations you want the book to be available etc and finally hit upload. The book will usually be live within 24 to 48 hours thereafter.

With indie/self publishing, you have to, have to, have to market yourself. You cannot just upload your book and hope people will find it just because it is online. There are thousands of books online and you have to build a following and actively maintain the following if you have any hope of selling your books.

My father, Dave Macfie, an author in his own right, went the self publishing route.

He tried the traditional publishing method for ages, but in the end, he decided that it was not worth the headache and he instead learnt how to do the editing, formatting and loading himself.

I was fortunate enough to be picked up by a local publisher, Sera Blue Publishing. A New Age publisher who specialize in fantasy, sci-fi, horror, paranormal romance and graphic novels, which has been a wonderful experience. They are a great house to be with.

I do most of my own marketing, which is a lot of hard work and building a following is, to be honest, one of the most difficult things about it. Just don’t stop trying. Read about how to market yourself, do courses on how to build yourself as a brand. You are a product and you need to sell yourself as well as your books.

At the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference.

If you want to stick with traditional publishing, you need to be prepared for the long haul.

Indie/ self publishing is becoming a far more popular method of getting books out there, it is a lot faster, but there is the downside of not having the backing of a publishing house.

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