Contemporary Publishing vs. Self-publishing

Publication is the act of disseminating information to the public. While the term now extends towards all forms of information including digital and broadcasted content, it traditionally referred to written and printed works such as books, newspapers, magazines, posters, etc. Publication is the final step an author takes in order to complete his/her wok; it is also one of the most critical and sensitive steps to consider as far as written works are concerned.

Publishers work with authors to ensure that written works reach the target audience. The job entails proofreading, revision, production of appropriate artwork, advertising, and marketing. While many mainstream presses exist, they are usually only contacted via literary agents who critique the author’s work before it can be passed on to the actual publisher; a costly process, especially when the agent rejects the manuscript or proposal. In the off-chance that an author is able to contact the publishing company directly – thus saving time and money – the odds of having a work published without the approval of a literary agent are often against the author.

The system does have its purpose: A traditional contract between an author and a publisher usually agrees on paying the former a percentage of whatever sales are made. Therefore, in order to cut losses, the publisher would not sign contracts involving manuscripts or book proposals that they didn’t think would sell well. Unfortunately for authors, this usually means that the mainstream press is unwilling to take on new works if the opinion of one critic is against it.

Several authors however, have found ways to publish their work outside of traditional means. The act of publishing a book without the help of a publishing company and/or literary agent is known as self-publishing, or “indie publishing.”

Indie publishing comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. For example, contemporary publishing companies will often purchase from the author certain rights such as editing, appearance of the book, and pricing and distribution. Self-published authors on the other hand, take control of every aspect of the book’s publishing process; they essentially take on the job the publishing company would have done.

Another difference is the time it takes to publish works. Publishing companies can take years to disseminate work among the target audience. This is primarily due to the number of authors that want their name associated with a successful printing house. In contrast, self-published authors can reduce the time it takes to reach the audience to mere months or weeks. The downside of indie publishing being, most self-published authors need to be prepared to spend much more money and effort than what would have been required had they signed a contract with a publisher, due to having to micromanage every aspect of the publishing process; without this investment, an author becomes vulnerable to a host of threats that most publishing companies are able to avoid.

Because of the cost often associated with self-publishing, many writers are more inclined to invest time waiting for a contemporary press to publish their work. However, for those who remain undaunted by the disadvantages and obstacles authors face in indie publishing, and for those who have resulted to indie publishing as a last resort, what follows is a guide to self-publishing written works.