Understanding Publishing Part 4 – self vs. conventional

I get a lot of questions about the differences between self-publishing and conventional publishing, and it’s a tough choice for some authors.

First, let’s look at some numbers. I’ve posted these a lot, but they’re important for context. There are between 500,000 and 1 million books published each year. And most books sell around 3000 copies.
That’s where we’re starting from.

You have to taper your expectations in general. The New York Times bestseller lists, and all the others, represent a very, very small fraction of books published.

I say all that to let you know what kind of sales and finances you are staring at.

I’ve already gone over all the services a conventional publisher should provide. That and the publishers distribution list are, essentially, what you are going for in traditional publishing. In addition, a publisher has lots of staff who know the book industry very well and have worked in it for years.

If you go for a conventional publisher, you are going for an established network, an established brand and an educated staff. And, not inconsequentially, they are paying for everything up front.

That’s what you get with a conventional publisher. Since they do a lot of the work for you and allow you the use of their brand, you make less from your sales. That’s the trade.

Now, self-published books can sell to the 3000 copy mark and even beyond. A book isn’t bad just because it is self-published.

If you choose that route, basically what you are weighing is how much work you want to do.

In self-publishing, you get to keep all your profits. And that has a great ring to it, but you need to consider the amount of work you will have to do for it and whether it’s worth it to you.

You will have to handle your own editing, design, title, marketing, publicity and you will have to go to all the booksellers and present it to them.

So, for me, it comes down to an easy dichotomy: do you want to do the work yourself and keep the money or do you want to pay someone else with industry knowledge to do it.

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