Being at a writer’s meeting a few weeks ago and hearing that one of the writers had snared a contract with a “real” book publisher made me wonder. They were congratulating her on the contract and in my mind, I was thinking about dollars. Traditional book publishers pay royalties of less than 15% and then only pay them every six months after any returns from bookstores are received and deducted from the royalties and paid on the “net” price after distributor discounts. Distributor discounts are normally 55%. Self published works can earn 70% royalties from eBooks on the list price if they are within a certain price point and POD (print on demand) can still earn 15% or more. And you get to make the decision on where to set the price.
Since the publishing business has been revolutionized by eBooks, no matter who publishes your book, you will have to be the one to promote it. When you publish with a traditional publisher, they will still expect you to promote it yourself and often won’t even talk to you unless you have a certain amount of Facebook fans and Twitter contacts. Still, they will make many of the decisions for you.
It used to be that people who self published were said to have big egos since they would pay to see their work in print. Now, it seems to me that if you still want to publish traditionally, it really is more about ego, being able to say that a publisher picked up your work and not so much about sound business sense. Be informed, research your options, put a pencil to paper on the numbers and then make your decision.