Traditional vs. Self-Publishing: The Benefits of Amazon KDP

Self-publishing your book, especially through platforms like Amazon KDP, has become a breeze. Which is better for you, traditional or self-publishing?

If you are a writer, becoming published or self-publishing is most likely somewhere on that checklist of goals you keep stashed in the back of your procrastination notebook. And as a writer myself, I can assure you… every notebook is a procrastination notebook.

30 years ago, having your first book published, be it novel, poetry, or business, was a daunting journey paved with picky publishing houses and costly marketing strategies. In the last 30 years (and more notably, the last 10) giving your words a public stage has become easy enough to do from your living room. 

For many indie authors, choosing between a traditional publishing house or self-publishing is a matter of the ideal vs. the realistic. We all want to be the next J.K. Rowling – in fact, that’s precisely what makes it so difficult for anyone to become the next J.K. Rowling.

Instead of focusing on making it big, it may be wise to simply focus on making it.

Traditional Publishing

Before we can talk about the way it is, we have to talk about the way it was.

More often than not, if an indie author was interested in publishing their first book, they would need to enlist the resources of a traditional publisher. Think HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Penguin Random House.

Publishing houses wants a low risk venture and guaranteed sales

There are some incredible benefits to publishing your book through a publishing company.

  • You are paid a (sometimes large) advance – prior to publishing
  • Much greater chance of reaching a wider audience (bookstore placement, media coverage, etc.)
  • A professional team of editors, designers, and marketers on your team
  • Higher potential for prestige

For professional or established authors, this may very well be the route to go. But, most of us aren’t professional authors. As much as you may want to score an official publishing deal, remember, most of us just do not have the means.

To “make it” with a traditional publishing company you must:

  1. Have an agent to represent your work at various publishing houses
  2. Write a book proposal (pitch)
  3. Secure an offer from a publishing house
  4. Negotiate the terms of the offer
  5. Ensure your creative voice does not get pulverized among a potentially aggressive editing process

Keep in mind, most publishing houses will not offer you a deal unless you can prove you have an existing audience. Their goal is a low risk venture and guaranteed sales. Now, that may sound like your goal as an aspiring author. However, for most writers these guarantees simply do not exist.

Downsides of traditional publishing

  • You do not own the rights to your book
  • Very difficult to land a deal
  • Limited creative freedom and control
  • Not much room for niche stories
  • Takes significantly longer to come to fruition

Self-Publishing

When you become a self-published author, you are in charge of every aspect of your book, from writing to production to selling. It’s best to think of self-publishing as an investment. There is a learning curve to tackle but you maintain control, pace, and direction of the entire process. 

Carlos Alvarez is an Amazon community leader who has been using his 20+ years of selling experience to help entrepreneurs get the most out of Amazon. This includes his own success with self-publishing e-books on Amazon.

Carlos explains how self-publishing your book opens up all kinds of marketing opportunities you would not have the freedom to pursue with a traditional publisher:

“I can pay my mortgage each month with the royalties I make from electing to have my books “sold” for FREE! Yup, this is correct. I make my books on Kindle available for FREE. Amazon benefits from this by attracting even more readers to Kindle and their platform as who is not interested in free. In addition, when trying to build a name for yourself, test, cash flow, it is significantly easier to get somebody that has never heard of you to take a chance on your book when it is FREE. 

The way the author benefits from this is that Amazon will pay you based on numerous factors including download and pages viewed. 

Other marketing benefits I have used Kindle for are external linking, Manychat Ref URLs, getting video views (and retargeting using a tool like VooPlayer), and marketing my other books.”

Is Self-Publishing Right for Me?

For many writers, being able to realize their dream of making their work tangible is priceless. Stellar poet and self-published author Alana Freitas shares her experience:

“I chose the route of self-publishing over traditional publishing because I was impatient to hold a book I created in my hands. … [self-publishing] stretches the understanding of what it means to be independent.”

Platforms like Amazon KDP have made it easier than ever to give your e-book the stage it deserves. Take advantage of the Kindle e-book ecosystem, collect your own royalties, reach a worldwide audience with fast distribution. The tools to succeed as a writer are all here, it’s just up to you to grab them and use them.

Benefits of Self-Publishing on Amazon KDP

  • You are your own boss
  • You own the full rights and royalties to your book
  • 100% creative control
  • Higher potential for profit
  • Recent platforms have made it extremely quick and easy to get started

Seems pretty great, doesn’t it? Yes, self-publishing through Amazon KDP essentially gives you the freedom to control the direction of your book.

However, that also doesn’t mean you can’t hit “publish”, sit back, and wait with open arms for the royalties to come flooding in. Many authors make the mistake of viewing self-publishing as “easy-publishing.”

Carlos Alvarez cites some of the most common mistakes he sees authors commit who self-publish their work without putting in much work at all:

  • Poor or unclear title
  • No keyword research beforehand
  • Horrible hero image/cover art
  • Book is not as described
  • Little to no external marketing and e-commerce tactics off of Amazon

He explains, “They believe their work ends upon uploading the book. While it is MUCH easier to get sales and make royalties with books than physical products on amazon marketplace there IS a strategy.”

Marketing a self-published book on Amazon KDP takes patience, trial, and error. 

As long as you’re able to maintain the responsibility of creating quality content and taking marketing efforts into your own hands, self-publishing is by far the best way to get your writing out there with limited resources.

A quick note from one writer to another:

To write is to uncover. To uncover the stories that live within us all, uncover the trauma that we have been neglecting to face. To uncover something we think is worth sharing. 

Writing means something slightly different for everyone, however it also requires from everyone that single, terrifying component: vulnerability. 

You may think of a pencil, keystroke, or word as nothing more than a tool, but it is so much more – it is the exposed nerve through which we make an unexplainable emotion… explainable.

Your writing is worth sharing. Don’t ever forget it.

Perhaps Alana puts it best:

“I’m glad I did it [self-published] because sometimes we wait too long for the right avenue.”

Writers are often perfectionists. It’s hard to write something we aren’t completely in love with. Likewise, it’s hard to commit to a decision that doesn’t meet 100% of what we think the perfect criteria is. 

What makes “the right avenue” the right avenue? 

I’d argue as long as you take action to pursue your goals, there is no wrong avenue. Stop waiting for publishing to “happen” to you.

Open your laptop and do it.


For a closer look at marketing, check out PART TWO to this blog: Marketing a Self-Published Book on Amazon!

Brian Wisniach

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