Each has it’s pro’s and con’s. With self-publishing: you pay for it all, the set up, the printing, the distribution, the marketing & promotion, you buy all your copies to sell or give away. If you have a non-fiction platform, then self-publishing is probably a good way to go. You can control the content, it’s printed faster than traditional publishing (which can take 18-24 months), and you already have a built in audience.
For fiction, I’m torn. Personally, I prefer traditional publishing. They pay you, you don’t pay them. But to get national or world-wide distribution you need an agent to get into the big publishing houses. That’s easier said than done. Another option, is to use smaller publishers that don’t require agents. The advance is smaller, but they do the printing and distribution. You still have to market and promote regardless if it is fiction or non-fiction, small publisher or large, self published or traditional.
Here is what I experienced when my first novel was ready to sell. I couldn’t find an agent for FEISTY FAMILY VALUES after exhaustive attempts. So, I went with a smaller publisher. My advance was small but they put together a wonderful product and distributed it to all the big booksellers (Barnes and Noble, Borders, Amazon). They also shared the book with big reviewers like Publishers Weekly and Kirkus, etc. Unfortunately, my novel wasn’t reviewed by the biggies, but I did get several good reviews from the smaller reviewers they notified. If you self-publish you have to do the digging for reviewers yourself and pay for the books you send them. My publisher gave me a dozen books free just for that purpose.
Another option would be e-publishing, like Kindle and Nook, etc. If you have a contract with a publisher and they have the electronic rights, they’ll get your e-pub book done for you. My contract was for print only, so I did my own e-publishing, through Kindle and Nook. It’s not hard and I don’t have to share as much of the profits as I would with a traditional publisher. That’s another thing. Self-publishing is on your dime, but all the profits are yours. With a traditional publisher you share with everyone and their dog, getting as little as 8-10% of the retail list.
If you self publish, the editing is also on you (you can always pay a freelance editor), whereas a traditional publisher will have editors who will review it multiple times to make it the cleanest, best product it can be for no additional cost to the author.
MY ADVICE: Do your homework before you make a decision on whether to self-publish or traditionally publish. Your skill level, available time and budget are key.
To read more about B.D. Tharp, her novel and other writing, visit http://bdtharp.com.