Advantages and Disadvantages of Self-Publishing/Co-Publishing Books

Wanting to be published is one of the most common goals among writers. There are many people who prefer to write just for the fun of it, but many of us love to have readers who enjoy our stories.

Nowadays it is much easier to publish a book than it was years ago. In the past, it could only be done through the big publishers that select a few authors from among the hundreds, if not thousands, of manuscripts they receive. Those editorials still exist, but the chances of being selected by one are low. Although it is not impossible to achieve and it is always good to try them, exceptional writing talent (especially for a first book) is rare. Many of us improve over time, which could mean not being able to get our first works published by large, internationally renowned editorials.

Fortunately, there are now many small editorial houses, focused on new authors whose first works might be rejected by larger ones. I have released two works with such publishers (in Spain) and I thought it was worthwhile to write about the advantages and disadvantages of doing so.

Difference between Publish, Self-publish and Co-publish

First, I want to briefly explain the difference between the three terms. These definitions come from what I have learned over the years. There may be variations in the details, but the general idea is the same.

Publishing is what we all know from movies or series. The author sends the manuscript to an editorial, it is accepted, they sign a publishing contract, an editor is assigned, and the publisher takes care of the whole process. The author receives a percentage of each sale of the book according to the signed contract. The publisher puts the book on sale with all the stores, bookstores and services in their network, which is normally very extended.

Self-publishing means that the author is in charge of the entire publication process and costs. The author edits the manuscript, typesets it (layout and formatting for printing and digital version), makes the cover, handles distribution, etc. Certain services can be contracted with third parties, such as proofreading, layout and cover design, which the author must find themselves. There are platforms such as Amazon or Wattpad, where a writer can self-publish their book and take advantage of the distribution networks of such services.

Co-publishing is an intermediate term between publishing and self-publishing. Manuscripts are sent to editorials with this mode of operation and are almost always accepted, as long as they are in the literary style of the publisher and are complete works. The author pays a portion for the publication of the book, which is generally the equivalent of buying a number of copies in advance (50 copies is the most common number). With the author’s payment, the publisher takes care of the layout, the cover design (under the author’s ideas and approval) and all the distribution for both physical and digital version with partner companies. Currently almost all of them include Amazon both in print and digital format. The author receives a percentage of each book sold according to the agreement in the contract, in the periodicity determined in such contract.

Advantages of Self-Publishing

  • + There is no way for a manuscript to be rejected, unless the work violates guidelines or laws.
  • + The author is in control of every step of the publishing process, including the length of the work, the size of the printed copy, if they want color illustrations, if they decide to have special designs on each page, etc.
  • + Services such as layout and cover design can be chosen with the suppliers the author wants, finding the ones that best fit their style and budget.
  • + The author has a detailed view of the sales of each copy, according to the reports from the distributors. They know exactly how many books were sold and how many royalties they are entitled to according to the publishing agreement of the chosen platform.

Disadvantages of Self-Publishing

  • + All costs and responsibilities fall on the author, including the registration of copyrights in their name.
  • + The author is on their own to find the suppliers they need. If external services, such as proofreading, are not paid for, the work may have spelling errors, bad formatting and so on.
  • + As the distribution and promotion falls in the hands of the author, it is more complicated to have agreements with bookstores or stores to sell their work, limiting themselves only to the initial platform such as Amazon. It is not common for bookstores to sell works by authors who are not linked to a publisher or distributor, although there are some that do.

Advantages of Co-publishing

  • + The cost paid for publishing is converted into physical copies, which the author can use to promote, sell on their own, give as gifts, giveaways, raffles, book presentations, etc.
  • + The editorial is in charge of the whole process of layout and cover. Nothing can be published without the author’s authorization. The publisher corrects formatting errors.
  • + The publisher is in charge of registering the rights of the work in the author’s name.
  • + Most of these publishers have distributors who offer the book for sale in various stores, bookstores and online sites. However, the author may seek additional means of distribution on his own to complement the promotion.
  • + Many times, they have agreements with reviewers (such as bookstagrammers), and the publisher can send a free copy for them to review and post on their social media. This is not always the case, but most of these publishers support their authors by donating physical or digital copies at no cost to the author.

Disadvantages of Co-publishing

  • + Publishers generally manage a standard size, design and format for the books, to which the author must adhere. Depending on the editorial, the process of publishing the work may take some time because they do it in the order in which the books arrive.
  • + The costs for publishing are fixed and only change depending on the size of the work.
  • + Few co-publishing editorials make style, spelling and wording corrections. They typeset/layout the manuscript as it is sent by the author, after correcting formatting issues (lines of dialogue, spacing). Some have a proofreading service, but it is an additional cost to the publication fee.
  • + Normally it is not possible to know how many copies of the book have been sold until the period of time in which the editorial pays the royalties has passed. Most publishers have royalties paying terms ranging from 6 months to 1 year. Between that time range there is no way of knowing how many people have bought the book.

I know that many of the advantages and disadvantages depend on the editorial, but I think with this you can get a general idea to decide if you want to self-publish or co-publish. The important thing is to understand how each publisher works, don’t be afraid to ask all the details to know that you are choosing the right service or publisher. I hope you like this entry.

Feel free to contact me for questions or additional comments at:

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