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The Publishing Process: Comparing Traditional & Self-Publishing

As publishing evolves, so must authors, and with the likes of urban fantasy juggernauts such as Ilona Andrews and Jeaniene Frost choosing to self publish and traditionally publish, becoming a hybrid author is now an option. But how does the editing process compare between self and traditional publishing? 

I was lucky enough to experience both sides of the fence when Bloomsbury Spark, an imprint of Bloomsbury, picked up my urban fantasy novel, City of Fae. I’d previously self-published the Veil series, so I was curious as to how traditional publishing differed. Now, of course, self publishing sounds like an easy option, an author can upload a manuscript with the click of a button, but the market is more sophisticated than ever before, which means to rise above the thousands of books published every week, there are some basic steps authors considering self publishing should take:

• Either pay for or create a professionally designed book cover

• Employ an editor (for at least a proofread, ideally a copyedit too)

These are the two most fundamental pieces of advice I can offer. Many self published authors skip these steps, usually due to lack of funds, but the importance of an editor shouldn't be overlooked. Authors are often so close to their manuscripts, that they can’t see the wood for the trees. Editors are wonderful people who will call authors out on their faults, and help improve them. Editorial support is where traditional publishing comes into its own.

Traditional publishing usually consists of the following editorial process. Each step can take several rounds, meaning the manuscript passes back and forth between the editor and author: 

• Developmental editing (where the editor helps hone wider plot issues, plus clarity and flow)

• Copyedit (style, grammar)

• Proofread (typos etc)

With a traditional publisher, the above is an organic process between author and editor. Each round of edits may take several weeks. The publisher’s editorial team are there to help the author make the book shine. It takes as long as it takes. And when it comes to it, you, as an author, aren't out of pocket with every round of edits. This thorough process differs in a fundamental way when it comes to self publishing. You, as an author, must source an editor yourself; how do you know who’s good and who isn't? Do you need a developmental edit? Maybe you believe you've polished your manuscript to within an inch of its life, so you don’t need a copyedit. Typos? What typos? You've read it and it looks fine, so why not publish it straight away? Should you use a British editor, or an American one? If you employ an editor at every stage, developmental, copyedit, proofread, and have multiple rounds, this could easily cost a small fortune. You must decide how best to proceed, and you don’t have a team of professionals to back you up. Get it wrong, and your readers will soon complain about typos, or plot inconsistencies, and your book will likely flounder. The difference here is, when self publishing, every step is on you, and every step will cost money. As a self published author, you need to consider if your book will make a good enough return to cover those costs, which could amount to several thousand pounds, and there are no guarantees in publishing. 

I have a huge amount of respect for successful self-published authors. Publishing alone isn't easy. Succeeding at publishing alone is even more difficult. If you want to succeed as a self-published author and make a profit you will need to first write the book, then prepare it for publishing, either with editors, or without. You’ll need to research your genre/market, find out who your readers are and emulate similar books that sell well, find a cover designer (prices range from £40 for basic pre-made covers to £700+ for custom designed covers) or design your own, if you have the skills. In short, you need to be an author, a business person, a marketeer, a graphic designer, and a sales person. It can be done, and personally I enjoy the business aspect of self-publishing, but it was a relief during the process with Bloomsbury, to focus on being an author, and have no other distractions. Having that editorial support, from a team who want the book to succeed as much as you do, is vital, and you simply do not get that with self-publishing, no matter what freelance editor you employ. When they've edited the manuscript, their work is done. Whereas a good traditional publisher will continue to strive to ensure your book sells.

Of course, being a hybrid author encompasses the best of both worlds, especially with Bloomsbury, who support active authors. 

Red Adept Editing (US based) 



PIPPA DACOSTA was born in Tonbridge, Kent in 1979. Pippa's family moved to the South West of England where she grew up among the dramatic moorland and sweeping coastlands of Devon and Cornwall. With a family history brimming with intrigue, complete with Gypsy angst on one side and Jewish survivors on the other, she draws from a patchwork of ancestry and uses it as the inspiration for her writing. Happily married and the mother of two little girls, she resides on the Devon and Cornwall border. 

W: www.pippadacosta.com / www.cityoffae.com T: @PippaDaCosta  #CityofFae F: Pippa Dacosta

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