Traditional vs. Self-Publishing: Diversity in Publishing

This last week has highlighted yet more ways in which publishing is changing and how traditional publishing and self-publishing differ. Here are some conclusions, which might state the obvious to some but are frequently overlooked by many.

  1. Just as traditional publishing can have both bestsellers and doorstops, so can self-publishing. A case in point is a computer programming manual I edited last summer. It is a bestseller within its niche; congratulations to its author/publisher!
  2. The self-publishing author takes full responsibility for the publication. So, for example, the decision to self-publish a book with or without an index is the author’s. The self-publishing author is responsible for fact-checking, hiring an editor, paying the editor, and much more. In contrast, when a traditional publisher signs a contract to publish an author’s manuscript, the traditional publisher and author have different responsibilities: for example, the publisher directs the edit toward publication. (And authors who are early in the development of a manuscript and considering hiring a freelancer, must know their options. More on that in another blog…)
  3. As ever, the publishing industry is not homogenous. Publishers (both traditional and self-publishers) publish a huge variety of publications and not only the darling that many of us think of first: literary novels. The big, big, BIG world of publishing includes:

The list goes on. The point of this final reminder is that what is true for one area of publishing may not apply in another. In some ways, this diversity makes the world of publishing seem daunting and unfathomable, but in other ways, it is an incredibly diverse and constantly evolving ecosystem. Think of the rainforest!

© Laura Edlund 2010