Traditional Publishing v/s Self-Publishing

One of the first big decisions one takes when they decide to publish a book is whether to go down the traditional publishing route or the self-publishing route. Below are the broad differences between the two:

The traditional route is where you, as the author enter into a contract with a publishing house. You write your manuscript and send it to the publishers and a team of experts including editors, cover designers and formatters will work with you to refine your work till it is sent to the printers. Then marketing and distribution teams will work to get your book into all the bookstores and into the hands of readers. The publishers will make all the monetary investment and reap a substantial share of the profits and they will pay you a royalty (on an average it is about 7-15% of the sales, net of discounts, returns and other marketing costs). 


The clear advantage of going down this route are no upfront cost and an immediate access to industry professionals and huge distribution channels, leaving you to worry solely about writing your best manuscript. 


On the other hand, if you decide to self-publish your book, you will have complete ownership over the entire process including the design, price, distribution, marketing and publicity (whether you decide to do it all yourself or employ the services of an expert). You will make all the investment, you will bear all the risk and you will reap all the profits. While this seems like an extremely daunting scenario for a newbie author, the self-publishing industry has grown tremendously over the past two decades and today’s self-published author has access to a lot of industry services like editing, designing, publicity, warehousing and distribution (for a price of course).

Below are the reasons why I decided to self-publish Big Apple Kid:


First, I knew that the process of finding a publisher could take several months to even a year and I just didn’t want to wait that long. I would have to first find a literary agent by sending in queries to agents and waiting for their responses. After several months (and a few rejections) I would hopefully find an agent to back me. After that, we would start the work to get my manuscript ready for submission to publishers. After several more months (and more rejections), a publisher would hopefully decide to bring my book to life. Knowing the way I work, if I had to wait that long, I would probably end up moving on to some other creative endeavor instead and the book would become a pipe dream. I had already spent 6 years with the book in my head and I was ready to get it out there.


Secondly, I was very clear about what I wanted in my book. I wasn’t yet sure if I wanted to make a career as an author-illustrator or if this was just a one time personal project. If this was to be the only book I would ever end up publishing in my life, I wanted to have complete ownership on everything - it’s contents, design and look, right down to it’s paper quality. I wanted no one forcing me to do things I didn’t want to. 

And finally, I was reasonably confident about my ability to create a 'decent' children's picture book. I have bought and read hundreds of picture books for my children and I knew what attracted me to a good picture book when my children were very young (short and cute rhyming text and vibrant and attractive artwork) and I was sure that there were enough people out there who probably had tastes similar to mine.

You could say that I had a fool’s confidence. But that was what worked for me. By August 2017 I was bursting with a huge creative urge to bring the book to life and I did not want anything to stall or postpone the project. By January 2018, my final text and illustrations had been submitted to the printers and by mid-February the books were in my hand! And within six more months, I had sold half of the original print run. There is still a long way for me to go and a lot for me to learn, especially on the marketing side, but I believe that I couldn’t have done it any other way. If I had taken the traditional publishing route, there is a chance that today I would still be waiting to hear back from a publisher.

Go back to reading about How I self-published my book.