I’m writing this as a follow up to my blog post in February 2021 about my experience of traditional, hybrid and self-publishing. Back then, I hadn’t yet set up my own publishing imprint as a sole trader; in other words I hadn’t yet started my Indie publishing journey, with the exception of a couple of poetry chapbooks that I had printed myself to sell at open mic events. Much has changed since then, including my opinion. In this updated post, I want to compare all three options in terms of costs versus royalties so that aspiring writers can make a decision about what might be best for their own career.
Which option has had the least start-up costs for me?
Traditional publishing. For those unsure of what this is, the publisher pays all upfront costs towards producing the book. Being traditionally published has not cost me anything, other than time in submitting my work, and a small amount of money to buy author copies – money which I subsequently recouped through selling my books at literary events. Three of my books have been traditionally published.
Which option has had the most start-up costs for me?
Hybrid publishing. For those unsure of what this is, this is where an author contributes some money towards book production costs and the publisher covers the rest. In my case, I paid £385 towards artwork, an editor, typesetting, ISBN, etc. and the publisher paid for publishing costs and distribution. I haven’t yet recouped my costs through royalties over three years later. That being said, I don’t regret the decision to try hybrid, as at that period in my life, I hadn’t yet acquired the necessary skills, or had the means to hire freelancers to do it myself, as I am able to now. I have learned a lot from the experience.
Which option has generated the most royalties?
Self-publishing by far. The Buddha’s Bone, The Blue Man and The Fairy Lights have all surpassed by far my traditionally published and hybrid published books, both in terms of numbers sold and royalties received.
Which is the easiest to pursue?
Traditional publishing. It involves a long waiting time as you email or post a cover letter, synopsis and samples of your book and wait for a response, but the hardest part is researching publishers that are open for unsolicited submissions in the first place. Hybrid is similar to traditional in that you also need to submit work for consideration. Self-publishing is the hardest to pursue as you need to do everything yourself, so it definitely has the steepest learning curve. You will have to organise an editor, proofreader, cover artist/graphic designer by yourself, in addition to typesetting your book or hiring a freelancer and organising a distributor. You’ll also need to buy your ISBNs (if you are also using your own imprint instead of using Amazon’s free ISBN).
Which do I recommend?
The answer depends on what you want to gain from publishing. If you want to make the most money and have the least costs, traditional publishing is best. If you want your book published relatively soon, but want someone else to handle the editing side and provide cover artwork and you have several hundred, or even thousand pounds at your disposal, go with hybrid publishing. If you want to have full control of the process, and (possibly, depending on your marketing skills) the most sales, then go Indie. As for me? I’ve already said it in a recent post, but for now, Indie is working well for me, though I haven’t ruled out traditional publishing again in the future. However, now that I have a team of freelancers (editor, proofreaders, beta readers, ARC readers) and I’m equipped to handle the marketing side myself, I wouldn’t choose hybrid as an option ever again as the money would be sunk costs. What worked back then is no longer needed at this point in my writing career. At this point in time, I am much too impatient for either submitting to a traditional publisher, or waiting for a response; I also feel that I need to have full control over the process. So, my answer for now on which I recommend is self-publishing. Going Indie, provided you know what you’re doing, is the most satisfying and reaps the most rewards, in my opinion.