Despite what you may think, I would never say that traditional publishing is inherently superior to self-publishing.
What I do say is that I personally prefer traditional publishing to self-publishing both as an author and a reader for several reasons.
First, when a book is published by a mainstream publishing house, it has been vetted.
That means in most cases, at least one entity—a publishing house—thought it was good enough to pay money for it. Not so for self-published books.
Second, traditional publishing is more selective.
A book published by a mainstream publisher has been approved by a committee or board of experienced book editors and marketers.
With self-publishing, there is zero selectivity: anyone on the planet can self-publish whatever they want, whenever they want.
Third, traditionally published books have been edited by professional editors.
Editing is quality control for written communications.
The vast majority of self-published books have not had an editor (separate from the author), and it is apparent in the lack of quality.
Tip: If you are going to self-publish your book, hire a freelance editor. You can find one at the Editorial Freelancers Association.
Fourth, traditionally published books have the edge in marketing, PR, and sales.
I have met many book reviewers for newspapers who will only review books by ‘real’ publishers and dismiss out of hand self-published books—wrongly, in my opinion, but that’s what they do.
The major publishers have sales reps that get books into bookstores vs. the self-publisher has no such sales force.
Traditional publishers admittedly do little marketing for the majority of the titles they put out, but the overwhelming majority of self-publishers have marketing budgets approaching zero.
There have been many self-publishing success stories throughout the years, but they provide only anecdotal proof that self-publishers can succeed.
I suspect—though I cannot prove—that there are thousands of Kindle e-books on Amazon produced by their authors that have sold less than 100 copies each.
Fifth, in traditional publishing, authors have traditionally been paid an advance of four or five figures before they have even written the book.
And we get a royalty on every book sold after the advance is paid back through book sales.
In self-publishing a paperbound book, authors traditionally plunked down thousands of dollars to print a couple of thousand copies of a book that might not sell five copies.
Admittedly, some of this is changing: Thanks to print-on-demand (POD), your self-published paperback can be printed one copy at a time, eliminating a large cash outlay up front.
As for advances, most mainstream publishers still pay them, but they are shrinking. And a small but growing number of traditional publishers are morphing into semi-vanity presses.
Some pay a flat fee and no royalty. Others require authors to buy 5,000 copies of their own book, essentially funding the venture out of their own pockets.
But, while it still exists even in a bastardized form, for me, I want my books published by a real publisher.
Yes, I’m prejudiced in favor of the traditional book publishing model, which is rapidly eroding. But it’s what I grew up with in my book writing career and it’s what I will stick with in my old age until it—and I—fade away.
Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.