Traditional publishing means you will need to submit your work and have it selected for publication. There is no fee associated with this form of publishing.

  • Publishers may take unsolicited manuscripts from authors, but often find books via literary agents. Publishing houses pay for the editing, marketing and production of a book, and will sometimes give an advance to the author upon signing the book deal. Authors receive a royalty (10-30% of cover price for emerging authors), based on the book sales.
  • Because publishers are taking a financial risk before the book earns any sales, they only take on select books that they feel will be successful in the marketplace. Most publishing houses are inundated with unsolicited manuscripts on a regular basis, so becoming a successfully published writer takes a lot of determination, research, luck, and tenacity.
  • Self-publishing means you pay to have your work published and may manage some or all of other parts of the book publishing process such as editing, cover design, marketing and production. If you pay a fee to have your work published, your work is considered self-published.

  • In today’s market, authors have more options than ever in terms of deciding how to pursue their publishing goals. What do you want to get from the publishing experience and what does “being published” mean to you?
  • If you think self-publishing is the best choice for you, be prepared to act as your own agent, editor, book designer, publicist, distributor, and marketing expert – or to pay for each of these services in order to produce a professional book that finds success in sales.
  • Understand that any avenue to get your work published is an arduous path that requires research, tenacity, and patience. Professionals of any sort – from athletes and musicians, to those in science, medicine, or law – don’t achieve success easily. Nor do writers.
  • Dedication to your craft is only one part in the business of your written work. Be prepared to work for success regardless of which publishing route you decide to take.
  • Send your manuscript to the right publisher – ones that publish in your genre.
  • Do your research. Determine who publishes material that is similar to yours by visiting bookstores, and researching similar work in your genre. If you can’t find anything like yours to compare it to, you haven’t looked hard enough. Know your own work.

An International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a numeric code used to uniquely identify a book, right down to the language, publisher, edition – and whether it is an ebook, paperback or hardcover. It makes life easier for booksellers, libraries, schools, book distributors, and anyone searching for a book to find it.

Copyright protection is automatic under South African and international law from the moment of creation of work, provided that the work meets these three criteria:

1) The work must be original.
2) It must be fixed in a somewhat permanent material form.
3) The author must meet the qualified person requirements set out in the Copyright Act.

Registration is not required for protection in South Africa, however, the Copyright Act provides that a certificate of registration of copyright is evidence that copyright exists and that the person registered is the owner of the copyright. Having your work on the Register of Copyrights may also help those wishing to see permission to use the work.

Is mailing myself a copy of my work the same as copyright registration?

Mailing a copy to yourself is not the same as copyright registration and is not a form of copyright registration, nor is it a reliable form of evidence of copyright ownership because there are several ways with which registered mail can be tampered with (for example, mailing yourself an unsealed envelope and entering contents at a later date).

There is no harm in mailing yourself your own work, but it will likely not be given serious consideration in the event of a legal dispute.

One thing you can do to help support a claim of copyright is saving the different versions of your work on your computer, beginning with the earliest, and maintain back up files. Of course, if the other individual has computer files with original content predating yours, you will not win a lawsuit unless you have compelling evidence of copyright infringement.

Benefits of self-publishing:

  • You get to make all the decisions; you don’t need to gather input from anyone
  • If you’ve done some market research and found a niche- you could create a demand for your book and sell a lot of copies; no need to share revenues- just with book seller so you will make more money
  • You can arrange print on demand as well as publish when you want- no need to adhere to a Publisher’s schedule
  • You can distribute your book on your own- e.g., through Amazon
  • You can decide where to spend, e.g., cover design, promotions, distribution, professional edit- etc. you can pay for some or all of these services and you decide the cost.

Benefits of going with a publisher:

  • You will have support and expert advice when you make decisions
  • You will share revenues with the Publisher- but you may also actually sell more copies because the Publisher knows how to promote, distribute and sell – it’s what they do.
  • You can do other things, e.g., work your full time job- while writing/getting published because the Publisher takes care of a lot of the planning, strategy, editing etc.
  • Publisher’s usually have wider distribution channels than self-publishers
  • You can control upfront costs- just be sure to research different publishers, ask questions, and don’t sign anything until you review with a trusted advisor.