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The Realities of Traditional Publishing

This article on the pros and cons of traditional publishing was posted on a Facebook group by the page The Busy Writer’s Friend. You can see the original post on their Facebook page by clicking the image below. Please check out their page and support their content.

For many aspiring authors, landing a publishing deal with one of the Big 5 publishers – the largest and most renowned publishing houses – may seem like the ultimate dream. It’s often associated with visions of immense wealth and widespread fame. However, it’s important to recognize that the reality of the publishing industry may not always align with these lofty expectations. In this post, we’ll explore why securing a Big 5 publisher may not guarantee the financial windfall or overnight fame that authors often envision.

5 Thinks to Consider

  • Advances and Royalties
  • Marketing and Promotion
  • Competitive Market and Shelf Life
  • Author Responsibility and Platform
  • Changing Publishing Landscape

Advances and Royalties:

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While Big 5 publishers typically offer advances – upfront payments given to authors before the book is released – these advances are often subject to various factors. Advances vary widely depending on the author’s track record, marketability, and genre. It’s crucial to understand that advances are not pure profit but an advance against future royalties. These royalties are typically a percentage of book sales and may take time to accrue substantial earnings. Additionally, royalties are subject to deductions, such as agent fees, marketing expenses, and advances that need to be recouped.

Marketing and Promotion:

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Contrary to popular belief, even with a Big 5 publisher, extensive marketing and promotion efforts may not be guaranteed. Publishing houses have limited resources and tend to focus their efforts on a select number of high-profile authors or books expected to be major hits. Lesser-known authors or mid-list authors may receive less attention and support. Authors must often take an active role in marketing and promoting their books, regardless of their publishing deal, to maximise their visibility and sales.

Competitive Market & Shelf Life:

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The publishing industry is highly competitive, and books face stiff competition for readers’ attention. A Big 5 publisher may provide greater distribution and access to physical bookstores, but shelf space is limited, and books must compete for visibility. Additionally, books have a relatively short shelf life in bookstores, making it crucial for authors to capture readers’ interest within a narrow timeframe. Without consistent marketing efforts and reader engagement, books can quickly fade into obscurity.

Author Responsibility and Platform:

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Authors, regardless of their publishing route, bear significant responsibility for their success. Building an author platform, engaging with readers, and cultivating a dedicated following are vital for long-term career growth. A Big 5 publisher may provide initial exposure, but authors must sustain their own momentum by consistently connecting with readers, utilising social media, attending events, and actively participating in their book’s promotion.

Changing Publishing Landscape:

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The publishing landscape is constantly evolving, with self-publishing and alternative publishing avenues gaining prominence. Authors now have more control over their publishing journey and can potentially achieve financial success and fame through non-traditional routes. The rise of digital platforms and social media has allowed self-published authors to reach large audiences, secure lucrative book deals, and build dedicated fan bases without the backing of a Big 5 publisher.


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While securing a publishing deal with a Big 5 publisher remains a significant accomplishment, authors should approach the endeavour with realistic expectations. Financial success and fame are not guaranteed solely by a traditional publishing deal. Authors must actively participate in marketing, engage with readers, and adapt to the ever-changing publishing landscape. By understanding the realities of the industry and taking charge of their own careers, authors can forge their paths to success and create lasting impact through their writing, regardless of the publishing route they choose.

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