Traditional publishing: Pros and Cons



COPYRIGHT: The author retains copyright but signs away publishing and subsidiary rights (for a limited period or perpetuity). (See glossary.)

DISTRIBUTION: Publisher will use established channels for distribution, wholesale and retail.

ISBN AND CIP: For publishers this is standard procedure. (See Glossary).

LITERARY PRIZES: Nominations from a reputable publishers are better received. Critical acclaim and sales of translation rights are also more likely.

MARKETING: Traditional publishers' books often sell by association with the brand.

NO UPFRONT COSTS: The author has no upfront costs. All expenses (design, editing, printing and marketing) will be met by the publisher, but the author loses much creative control.

PRESTIGE AND VALIDATION: Many authors, consider this as most important for becoming a brand-name author. (Not true.)

PROFESSIONAL BACKING: Traditional publishers will have a professional team to assure the quality of the finished product.

PUBLISHING TECHNOLOGY: The author does not have to be concerned with any of this.

ROYALTIES: The author will be paid around 8% to 12% of the selling price (RRP) of each book as royalty.

SUBSIDIARY RIGHTS: Although authors surrender all rights (including ebooks) to the publisher, they do get a share of proceeds from any sell-on. Anyway, traditional publishers are in a much better position to exploit subsidiary rights than individual authors.


SLOW PROCESS: It could take years, and many rejections, before a manuscript is accepted, and much more time after that for the book to be published.

REJECTIONS: The traditional publisher may not accept a manuscript for any number of reasons.

CREATIVE CONTROL: The author loses almost all creative control of content.

ROYALTY: One of the loudest complaints one hears is about the low royalty rates are compared to self-publishing. But, publishers do take all the risks. Big self-publishing companies don't pay much more.

MARKETING: Increasingly, authors have to promote their own book even in traditional publishing.

AUTHOR COPIES: The author will receive a few free copies, but is allowed to buy more at a discount.


Photo: Old manuscript, medieval English.(Image from Pixabay.)