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The Difference Between Self-publishing and Traditional Publishing

Comparing costs, advantages, disadvantages, and author's earnings.

Self-publishing gives you the ability to be the publisher of your work (book, ebook, audiobook, magazine, et.c.).

The advantage of self-publishing is that you have the total control of your publication and do not share the sales income with your publisher. However, you bear the cost of production (design, formatting, editing, printing, and distribution). Putting together all of these costs, a self-publisher takes up to 20% - 30% of the retail price of the book in the best case.

If you decide to publish your book with a publisher, the royalties would be approximately 10-15% of the retail price or a percentage (around 30%-40% at the most) of the net publisher’s receipt. For bestselling authors, or in cases of good sales in the past, the publishers may pay advance royalties to the author. In other cases, the publisher may start paying royalties after an agreed amount of sold items (e.g. over 1,000 items). This means that the author does not receive any royalties until the 1,001st sale. All of these details are included in the publishing agreement.

A self-publisher should pre-pay publishing services such as design, editing, etc. Next, he must decide between offset printing or print-on-demand service. The cost per printed item with an offset printer is usually more cost-effective than a print-on-demand service. However, offset printing is worth its weight if you place a huge order (e.g., over 500 or 1,000 items). Then, another cost arises: stock and distribution.

Stergiou aims to converge the advantages of self-publishing with the quality, standards and the consultations of traditional publishing at affordable prices.

Comparing costs

The cost per printed item is higher with print-on-demand services. On the other hand, you do not need to retain a stock or deal with the distribution to retailers and the delivery of your book to your customers.

Here is an example of a cost breakdown for a self-publisher who intends to publish a paperback book of 180 pages, full color, white photo paper, and size 6.14x9.21 inches.

  1. Production (design, formatting): £200
  2. Cover page (custom design): £150
  3. Editing (assume 81,1000 words): £220

Subtotal: £570

Example: printing and delivery costs 

Printing alternatives for 300 items

  • Offset: £2,493 (unit price: £8.50)
  • Print-on-demand (high-quality paper): £3,067.25 (unit price: £10.21)

Delivery cost: £56 to £400 (depending on destination). The example assumes deliveries to Europe and the US.

Thus, the unit cost ranges between £10.40 and £13.46. This cost does not include the cost of a warehouse for the stock and marketing cost.

Author's earnings

If the retail price is £15, the net income for the author will be £4.6 to £1.54 (44.23% to 10.27%) per sold item.

Print-on-demand and distribution/delivery costs result in the difference between a margin of 44% and 10%. Now, if we take into account other costs such as marketing, the profit of 10% (print-on-demand) may disappear. The same for the margin of 44%. If we take into consideration marketing, warehouse and distribution (logistics) costs, this profit may reduce by 50% or more.

Image: / Ramdlon

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