How to Publish a Book: Traditional vs. Indie Publishing



Writing a book takes imagination and skill, and with patience, dedication, and perseverance you can translate your ideas into a manuscript. However, knowing how to actually publish a book is an entirely different matter.


Publishing a book is complex. You need to choose between traditional publishing and indie publishing, taking into account the different expenses, sales returns, and creative freedoms of each publishing model. You also have many other tasks to do, from finding agents and writing query letters to hiring editorial services and marketing your book. Depending on the publishing model you choose, you’ll have to deal with all or only some of these tasks.


So, how do you decide which path to pursue? First, you need to understand the pros and cons of each publishing model. After all, it’s your manuscript, and it’s up to you to decide how you publish your book.


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Traditional publishing

Traditional publishing used to be the only way to bring a book to market. In this setup, the author makes a contract with a publisher, who buys the right to publish the manuscript, remunerating the author through royalties from sales.


How do you publish a book traditionally? You usually need an agent to represent you. Finding a suitable agent entails significant research: first, determine the genre your book and then look for agents within that niche. To save time and effort, you can have professionals compile a list of agents likely to be interested in your work.


Once you’ve narrowed down the list to suitable agents, it’s time to submit your query letter. Keep the letter succinct: describe your target audience, and write a brief synopsis of your book and a short description of yourself. If you want to ensure an effective text, you can hire professionals to compose a query letter for you.


Indie publishing

How do you self-publish your book? You have several options.


One route is print-on-demand (POD) publishing. As long as you’re willing to pay, you can publish a book through POD. In the POD model, books are printed individually when orders are made, so the operation fits consumer demand perfectly, and you don’t have to store unsold books. The author is typically paid through royalties.


Another option is vanity publishing. Again, anyone can publish their book through a vanity publisher as long as they’re willing to pay for it. These publishers don’t offer additional services like marketing or editing, but the author retains all rights and keeps all money from book sales.


Subsidy publishing is almost the same as vanity publishing, but these publishers offer some degree of editing, marketing, storage, and distribution services. In this setup, the book is owned by the publisher, and the author earns royalties.


How do indie publishing and traditional publishing differ?

When you publish your book the traditional way, the publisher handles all marketing and distribution for you. You incur no expenses: you essentially sell the rights to the manuscript to the publisher, who rewards you through royalties.


In contrast, when you self-publish your book, you pay for and handle the bulk of the marketing work yourself. However, you usually retain the rights to your book and are in control of where the book is published.


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Which publishing model should I choose?

It depends on your specific goals and situation. If publishing a book is simply a personal goal, vanity publishing is often the best option.


Is your book extremely niche? If you’re expecting only a small sales volume and don’t want your book stocked at bookstores, print-on-demand is probably your best bet. Since the books are printed as needed, you don’t need storage space for unsold copies.


If you’re skilled in marketing, printing your book in bulk may be a sensible option. Publishing a book this way is recommended if you already have an established fan base via a website or Facebook fan page or if you’re already known within your genre or field.


Since traditional publishers can take as long as 18 months to actually put your book on the market, self-publishing is often the only option for time-sensitive material. However, if you want to sell your book in brick-and-mortar bookstores and don’t want to do the marketing yourself, traditional publishing may be your best choice. If you dislike social media, this model is definitely the option for you.


No matter the model you choose, publishing your book is difficult and time-consuming. However, if you choose to publish traditionally, the publisher will handle editing, marketing, and distribution, and you can reduce your own workload by hiring professionals to write your query letter. Regardless of the route you take, publishing a book is a rewarding process that you can always be proud of.


Get your query letter now.

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