Once upon a time, there weren't a lot of options for those who wanted to publish. Now? Thanks to the internet, the possibilities are nearly endless. I could:
1. Find an agent.
2. Find a fake scam artist agent online and pay them lots of money to do nothing.
3. Submit directly to traditional publishers (those that allow this).
4. Submit directly to e-Publishers.
5. Self-publish e-books.
6. Self-publish hardcopies.
Let's assume you decide to bypass #2 (Thanks to sites like Predators and Editors, the Absolute Write Water Cooler, and the Association of Author's Representatives). But, still: traditional vs. self-publishing?
I did a significant amount of research on this, including talking to people that do self-publishing and reading about 1,000 blogs on both. Let's look at some of the pros and cons of each.
- I get a professional who can help guide me through the process.
- I have someone on my side, working with me to make this happen.
- I do not pay anything up-front.
- Once published, more exposure.
- With the right marketing, I'm likely to sell more copies than self-published book.
- Paying someone else to promote me, despite still having to do significant amounts of work myself.
- Less control: editors have final say over things like title and cover.
- Royalties paid only twice yearly by many publishers.
- It's impossible to find an agent/editor. (It's not, but I understand that it sometimes feels that way, especially before you start.)
- I get complete control over the creative process.
- It takes significantly less time. Book can be published within a couple of weeks of completion.
- It's guaranteed. No rejection.
- Payments received monthly from some e-publishers.
- Fewer eyes on the book and less revisions could mean a less polished finished product.
- I have zero marketing experience, no editorial contacts, and do not have the slightest idea what I'm doing.
- I have to pay all upfront fees/costs. When I first started looking, that would have been about $5,000. Depending on what you're looking for an how long your book is, hiring an editor alone can cost nearly that much.
There are some valid reasons here to choose either traditional or self-publishing (some are more valid than others). Ultimately, I decided that I wanted a professional's help. Yes, I could self-publish. I could also cut my own hair, but I have no idea what I'm doing, so I go to a salon. For me, this is the same idea. My goal is to surround myself with people who will help me succeed. I don't need to do everything myself. Other people may prefer to maintain that level of control over their work, and that's okay, to.
Do what works for you, and don't let anyone tell you that one option is more "valid" or better than the other. It's your path, your career, and you have to be comfortable with it. And no matter what you choose: Good luck!