All About Traditional Publishing

Jan 26, 2019

On our page ‘What is publishing’, we identified Traditional Publishing as one of the main types of publishing. It is also known as commercial or legacy publishing. It was the only way for writers to get their work into print. How does it work?

In traditional publishing, you or your agent send your completed manuscript off to a publishing house in the hope that it will be accepted for publishing. If the response is positive, the publisher will buy the rights to your manuscript and pay you an upfront advance of future royalties. The writing project will be taken off your hands and everything else will be handled for you. 

Let us now examine the advantages and disadvantages of this type of publishing.

Advantages of Traditional Publishing

1. Considered the Most Valid Publishing Option: This type of publishing is often considered the most valid publishing option for would-be authors. It feels extremely validating to get a book contract with a book publisher that knows a lot about books, and feels that your book is good and that people will want to read it and you will make money. It makes a writer to finally feel like a proper author. With them, your book is in the bookstore and you have an established team to help you promote your book and give you the very best it deserves. You can even win a prize and become world known.

2. No Upfront Costs:  Writers who use the traditional method to publish their works don’t have to pay upfront cost. Instead, the company pays the author.

3. Advance Payments:  This is the signing bonus after a book deal. This advance payment is regardless of how well your book sells after it has been published. This means that even if even if your book does not sell after publishing it, you won’t have to repay the publisher the advance payment.

4. Literary Agents Behind You:  Your literary agents are there for you all the way.  They will fight to help you get the most of your writing and traditional writing experience. Your agent will negotiate book deals for youand get your contract and subsidiary contracts. They will ensure your advanced payments are made.  They will ensure you earn your royalties and help you business related issues.

5. You Benefit from a Team of Dedicated Professionals:  After you have a book deal with a traditional publisher, your book is assigned a team of dedicated professionals to ensure your book is up to standard. These professionals edit, proofread, format, do cover designs and ensure your final product arrive its destination.

6. Greater Reach and Visibility: Your book has the opportunity  to be stocked in major book-stores across the globe. You are also booked  to travel and participate during book-author events. You become an internationally renowned author.

7. You Have More Time to Write and Grow as a Writer:  When a book deal has been reached , much work is taken off your desk. This means you do not have to worry about editing, proofreading etc. You relax and concentrate on your next project.

8.The Opportunity to Win a Literary Prize: A book deal with a traditional publisher gives you the opportunity to be easily shortlisted  for a literature prize and other book awards. You also have the opportunity to earn stared reviews and become a bestseller.

You can now understand why some writers only want to publish  with a traditional publisher or using the traditional publishing method.

Disadvantages of Traditional Publishing

Despite its many advantages, traditional publishing also has some disadvantages. Here are some of the disadvantages.

1. Loss of Ownership and Control: When you publish with a traditional publisher, you lose ownership and control of your own masterpiece. Experts revise your work. They change titles. They proofread and edit and take out chunks of writing they they think should be taken out and add some other things. They have different ideas about the book cover, about back cover blurbs etc. They think they know best, but really, their priorities are different from yours. At the end of the day, the book you put  in so much to complete is not really yours anymore.

2. It is a Very Slow Process: It is a very long publishing process.  It might take a year to find  and agree with an agent. It can take another year to get a book deal and even another for you to launch your book. You may feel disappointed and give up, if you are not patient.

3. Hard Barrier to Entry: It is very difficult to break through into this market. Be ready to get dozens of rejection. Sometimes, it’s not because your manuscript is not great. Some of the world’s best books were rejected before publishing. So, in this business, no one is guaranteed a book deal.

4. Lower Royalty Rates: When you get a deal with a publisher, you have an advance payment. This advance payment would be taken from your royalties when your book starts selling.  In most cases, publishers don’t give you a dime until that advance payment has been repaid from your royalties. In addition to that, you have infrequent pay days. Royalties are normally paid twice a year. This means that sometimes you get royalties. Other times you don’t. All these can complicate a writer’s financial life.

5. Complicated Contracts: It’s not just about signing a contract with a publisher- it’s also signing a good contract that will protect you and your ‘brain-child’.  But getting a good contract  is not always easy. Your agent  will fight for you to obtain a good one, be she can only go as far as she can.

6. Publishing is a Shifting Industry: You are never guaranteed a publisher will be there as long as necessary to  take care of you. Some go out of business. Others merge  with others.  Workers who work on your project are fired and more.

As you can see, the challenges with traditional publishing are very real and should be taken seriously.

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