The Difference between Traditional and Indie Publishing

In today’s publishing world there is a revolution of sorts happening between traditional publishing and indie publishing. More and more authors are turning to indie publishing as a way of getting their work out into the market place and into the hands of their audiences. A question I get asked frequently is; what exactly is the difference? Let’s start with defining which each type of publishing is.

Traditional Publishing
Publishing companies produce and widely distribute to bookstores, online stores, and massive chain stores such as Wal-mart or Target. They also provide a set of tools to craft the book such as editing, graphic design, and marketing. These efforts and connections are done in-house, but the author is still expected to sell books via signings and book expos as well.
Indie Publishing
An Indie Publisher is a self-publisher; usually an author or a small group of people. Those who walk into the world of indie publishing will wear many hats. Not only do they do the writing, but they have to oversee and manage the publishing of their own books. They have to hire the editors, graphic designer to layout the book cover, a book designer to layout the interior and they have to set up the distribution. Most importantly they have to do extensive marketing of the book.
NOTE: The children’s book market is highly specific. Though the actual steps of publishing are the same for both types of publishing, you must know what is the road you want to travel.
Contracts: Traditional Publishing Contracts
In traditional publishing, an author grants a set of rights to the publisher, such as which country and languages the book will be published in. This also includes points such as electronic rights and merchandising rights. Depending on the rights granted, the publisher will “advance” the author a set sum of money. Please be warned that nobody is giving away (or getting) “free” money. This advance will have to be paid back in full via book sales before the author sees a dime of royalties. Also in the payment distribution will be the production cost of the book i.e. editors, graphic design, distribution set up, and marketing. The “advance” is sort of like a loan except that if the book doesn’t sell well the author doesn’t have to pay back the advance. They don’t need to “pay back” their advance, however, they won’t make any royalties. The advance is solely a payment for granting the publishing rights.
Once the rights are granted to the publisher, the publisher, in turn, takes the financial risk of investing in the book instead of the author. But don’t be mistaken in thinking that, if you take less of an advance, you will make profits sooner. The author is granting rights and there is a certain payment for those rights. If the rights become too extensive without payment then it is the author who is taking the risk and not the publisher. Remember it’s the publisher who takes the financial hit if the book doesn’t do well not the author.
Indie Publishing Specifics
As an indie publisher, you retain all of the rights to your book and will benefit from those rewards once the book is published. It’s true you won’t get the “advance” at the front in but you will get your reward. On the flip side, as the publisher, you will also take the risk if the book fails. You will also take on all of the production costs such as editing, artwork, graphic design work, distribution set-up, and marketing. As an indie publisher, you have a two-fold investment: Time and Money.
In traditional publishing, it is hoped that the advance will pay you for your writing and production time. In indie publishing, we have to look at the amount of time it takes  to write the book , assign an hourly wage, and then total it to discover how many books we need to sell to make our writing/production time back.
The other aspect of money comes in the production of the book. I always hire professional editors, as well as cover and interior designers. The marketing and distribution I do myself along with a few hired assistants.
At the end of the day, an indie publisher retains all of their rights and have creative control of their project as well as taking all of the risks. But with risks also comes rewards. Though I may hire certain people to help me with my book projects, I retain all of my rights and pay a fee for their services. My goal is to recover these expenses with my future book sales.
Pros and Cons
At this point, indie publishers have an advantage over traditional publishing. An indie publisher has a bigger audience to sell to and a larger window to do it from. Traditional publishers depend on bookstore shelf space which is highly limited both in space and time. A new book as an expiration date and then it will be removed to make room for the new releases.
The traditional publisher needs to make their profits quickly.  An indie publisher may have a hard time getting into bookstores, but they have unlimited online bookshelf space.
An indie book can take as long as they need to make their profits back. Some books sell better 5 years out then they did at the time of their release. The indie publisher usually knows their audience personally and using social media, blogs, and communities on sites such as Google+ and Sulia can grow their audiences personally. Through this audience, they can easily grow into best sellers on such places as Amazon and Barnes & Nobles.
Getting Paid:
Royalties are done in very specific ways. In Traditional publishing, you will not make any royalties until the advance and production cost has been repaid. Depending on the book this is usually around 9000 copies sold. Traditional publishers also do not pay out except for every 6 to 18 months, making it nearly impossible to write books for a living.
In indie publishing, once the distribution costs are taken out at the point of sale, the profits are yours. No one to pay back but yourself and any support staff you have brought on the project.
In Conclusion
By bringing a combination of your talents to the table, you will be able to set up a successful indie publishing house while holding onto your rights and creative control.
So these are the differences between Traditional and Indie Publishing. There are more but for our first look into the world of publishing, I think this is enough to get started with.
Indie Publishing\
Write on!

\Valarie Budayr is the founder of the independent publishing house Audrey Press and co-author of The Ultimate Guide to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Fox Diaries: The Year the Foxes Came to our Garden. She is also the co-founder of Multicultural Children\’s Book Day. Valarie is passionate about making kid’s books come alive and bringing back the joy of reading to young and old alike. You can find her doing that on her popular blog and website, Jump into a Book.


Noreen Wenjen\Noreen Wenjen has spent the last two decades of her successful career recognizing the importance of creating a nurturing environment for music students. With two filled-to-capacity piano instruction studios to her credit and a vast knowledge of marketing gleaned from working at two Fortune 500 companies, Wenjen is sharing her proven business tactics with other music teachers who are committed to establishing a successful music studio with longevity.

In her new book, Two-Year Waitlist: An Entrepreneurial Guide for Music Teachers, Wenjen shares her proven\ method of using marketing, technology, and business know-how to grow a two-year wait list for a successful independent music studio. From identifying the value of a music teacher and connecting with students to taxes, fees and running a music school like a business, she shares knowledge and experience to educate other professional music teachers on how they can create an empire that will have students lining up for their expertise.

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Learn more about the book and author HERE.

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