September 22, 2023
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Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing: What Is Right For You?

Studies show that about 500,000 to one million books are traditionally published annually. Together with self-published books, this number increases to 4 million. The book-reading culture is not deteriorating but, in fact, prospering.

But what is the difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing? When an author self-publishes, they use their resources to publish their book without the involvement of a publisher. In contrast, traditional publishing involves a publisher who publishes an author’s book. Authors do not use their resources for traditional publishing.

Both self-publishing and traditional publishing have their advantages, disadvantages, and uses. In this blog post, we will discuss the pros and cons of both types of publishing as well as the most suitable method of publication for you, offering examples of authors who succeed in both.

Traditional Publishing

In traditional publishing, authors collaborate with a publisher or publication house that owns all the rights to the author’s book. After receiving the manuscript, the publisher is responsible for printing, book distribution, and book marketing.

Benefits Of Traditional Publishing

If you aim to publish your manuscript through the traditional method, you will get the following benefits:

  • No Financial Cost For You:

In traditional publishing, you do not have to pay anyone for anything. The publication house bears all the expenses for a manuscript’s publishing and distribution processes.

  • A Team Of Professionals Works For Your Manuscript Publication:

Authors usually want to write and publish their books. But publishing is a long process with unlimited book edits, a printing process, cover design, title ideas, and book sales.

With traditional publishing, you avoid the above headaches and can better work on your manuscript. Publication houses work with professional editors, graphic designers, and marketers who can do everything for your manuscript.

  • More Chances Of Winning Literary Prizes

Most literary contests are not open to self-published authors. So if you wish to win a literary prize or get critical acclaim, traditional publishing is a better option.

  • Earning an Advance For Your Book:

With traditional publishing, you do not give any money or resources to the publisher. However, the publisher gives you an advance for publishing your book and getting its rights. Thus, you start earning money even before your book is published.

Drawbacks Of Traditional Publishing

Although traditional publishing has its list of benefits, it also has some drawbacks, which are as follows:

  • Books Are Published Slowly:

Traditional publishing takes a lot of work. If you want to publish your book using the traditional method, you should know that the book publishing process takes anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. The average time for a book to get published is 12 to 18 months.

  • Authors Get No Rights:

While traditional publishing does give an author an advance, the author has no choice in deciding the cover, editing, book selling price, or book marketing, which means that the author was just a writer for that book. All the rights belong to the publishers, who can do anything with the book.

  • Authors Are Paid Less:

In traditional publishing, authors are paid royalties. This means that they will get a percentage of the net sales price of their book. This percentage is between 7% and 25%, with an average of 15%. Thus, authors are paid significantly less than the profit the publishing houses make.

Traditional Publishing Process

If you want to publish your book through the traditional publishing method, you should follow the steps below:

Writing A Proposal Letter

Once you have completed your book’s manuscript, you must write a proposal letter. The proposal letter should contain the following things:


  • A short synopsis of the book
  • A detailed summary, if necessary.
  • Breakdown of chapters.
  • A sample chapter for the editor to read.
  • Book details.
  • Author’s biography and details
  • The targeted audience for the book

Submitting The Proposal Letter

After writing the proposal letter, you have to submit it to a publishing house. The editor of that publication house will read the proposal letter and decide if they want to publish the book or reject it.

Most authors send their proposal letter to a literary agent, who decides whether to present their manuscript to an editor. The chances of publishing a manuscript increase if a literary agent advocates for it. You can use Publishers Marketplace to collaborate with a literary agent, editor, or publisher.

Signing The Contract

Once a publishing house contacts you, they will send you a contract for publishing the manuscript. You must read all the terms and conditions of the agreement before signing.

The contract binds the author and the publication house in an agreement by which the publication house attains all the rights to your manuscript, its editing, title, cover, and future sales and distribution.


In self-publishing, the author is responsible for the publication of their manuscript. They retain all the rights to their book but must use their resources for publication.

Benefits Of Self-Publishing

The benefits of self-publishing are as follows:

  • Author Retains All Rights:

In self-publishing, the author has all the rights to their book. They can decide the title of their book, the cover, the editing process, the publication process, the book price, and book marketing. They do not have to get anyone’s approval before publishing their book.

  • Books Are Published Faster:

Compared to traditional publishing, self-published books are published faster. This is because there are many books to be published by publishing houses, and every book takes its fair share of time to get published. While self-publishing, the author can publish their book as fast as they want.

  • More Creative Control:

With self-publishing, you have all the creative control over your book’s publication process. You can hire a team of professionals to design your book cover according to your preferences. You can work with your preferred editor, who will keep the tone and formatting of your book the same. Collaborating with a marketer can help you market your book using your desired methods. Hence, you have the final decision regarding your book’s publishing.

  1. You can hire professionals for your book’s publication process using Fiverr.
  2. You can also design your book cover using a free design tool called Canva.
  3. For editing your book, you can use Grammarly or ProWritingAid.
  4. For the marketing of your book, you can become an Amazon Associate. With Amazon Associates, you can earn a commission when promoting an Amazon product, which in this case is your book. So you get a commission for promoting your book, and then you get money when someone buys it. It’s a win-win situation for you!
  • Higher Royalty Rates:

Self-published authors earn higher royalty rates. We are talking about 70% royalty compared to a maximum of 25% in traditional publishing. This means that you can make more money by self-publishing your book as compared to traditional publishing.

Check these websites to Help you in your Journey:



Grammarly is an online writing tool that uses advanced algorithms to provide grammar, spelling, and style suggestions. It is available as a browser extension, desktop or mobile app and used worldwide.


Auto Crit

Auto Crit is an online writing tool that analyzes manuscripts for common writing issues and offers improvement suggestions to help writers refine their work.


Pro Writing Aid

Pro Writing Aid is an online writing tool that helps writers enhance the quality of their written content. It offers features such as grammar and spelling checks, style suggestions, contextual thesaurus, and a plagiarism checker.



A marketplace of publishing professionals, including literary agents, that offer resources for writers on how to find and work with agents.



Fiverr is a global online marketplace for freelance services. Fiverr’s platform connects freelancers to people or businesses looking to hire.
It’s a good place to find a literary agent or someone that can do all the research for you regarding that matter.



Upwork allows clients to interview, hire and work with freelancers and freelance agencies through the company’s platform.
It’s a good place to find a literary agent or someone that can do all the research for you regarding that matter.

Drawbacks Of Self-Publishing

While self-publishing has several benefits, it also has some disadvantages, which are as follows:

  • Upfront Costs:

While traditional publishers give an upfront amount to the authors, self-publishing demands that the author pay an upfront amount for publishing their book. This amount is used for editing, designing, formatting, proofreading, marketing, and publishing.

  • Harder Print Distribution:

Most bookstores have exclusive deals with publishers. The bookstores retain spaces for books published by specific publishing houses. Thus, it is challenging for a self-published book to enter a major bookstore. Therefore, self-published books are difficult to distribute in print form.

  • Less Visibility:

Making your name in the book industry as a self-published author is challenging. Self-published books are mostly not allowed for literary contests and critical acclaim. You can not become a New York Times best-selling Author by self-publishing your book. Similarly, people give a certain amount of validation to traditionally published books.

How To Self-Publish Your Book

You can self-publish your book using the following steps:

  • Write Your Book and Edit It Using The Feedback Given By Beta readers.

Beta readers are professionals who read your book with your target audience. They tell you what the readers will like more and how you can make your book more likable. With feedback from beta readers, you can edit your text to make it your readers’ favorite.

For editing, you can also hire a professional editor using Reedsy.

  • Make A Book Cover:

After editing your book, you have to make a book cover or a book cover idea you think will resonate with your book. You can hire professional graphic designers for your book cover design. You can also design your book cover yourself.

  • Manuscript Formatting:

It would be best if you formatted your manuscript for print and ebook. You can hire professionals to format your manuscript for different files. You can also format your book yourself. The other formats used nowadays are audiobooks, ebooks, pdf, epub, and zip.

  • Choose A Self-Publishing Platform:

After the editing, book cover design, and formatting of your book, an essential step is publishing it.

For self-publishing, various platforms are developed that provide authors with access to publish their books. These platforms include IngramSpark, Draft2Digital, and Kobo Writing Life.

You can choose any platform according to your preferences. After selecting the platform, you can self-publish your book.

  • Marketing Your Book:

After publishing your book, you can market it using Amazon Associates, online advertising, price promotion, and automated mailing lists. You can also market your book by hiring a professional using Reedsy or Fiverr.

Traditional vs. self-Publishing

Publishing can be scary, whether you are a new writer or a writer who has written many books. For writers and authors, we have compared all the essential details you should keep in mind for the publication of your book.

Costs Involved In Publishing

In traditional publishing, the author does not have to pay any money or fees. This is because the publishing house spends all the money on publishing the author’s book. The publishers pay for anything from the editing, designing, and formatting to the book’s marketing.

While self-publishing, the author has to spend money on everything related to book publishing. They have to hire professionals to edit, proofread, format, design, and market their books. The average self-publishing cost can be between $200 and $2500.

Timeline Differences

If you want to use traditional publishing services, your book will take a long time to get into readers’ hands. This is because traditional publishing houses have production schedules that they follow for book publishing. A book takes anywhere from 6 months to 2 years to get published.

With self-publishing, you can publish your book as quickly as you want. You can start publishing your book as soon as the cover, title, and formatting have been done.

Publication Process Control

In traditional publishing, authors usually have few rights to say anything related to their book. They have no say in the book’s formatting, cover design, editing, or price. They do not have control over the marketing tactics or the period during which their book will be published. After signing the contract with the publishing house, authors give the publishers all their book rights. So publishers make all the decisions regarding the author’s book.

In self-publishing, the author has all the rights to their book. They decide the timeline, retail price, format, design, marketing tactics, and everything related to their book. Thus, self-publishing gives authors a lot of creative freedom and control over the publication process.

Marketing Considerations

In traditional publishing, your book is marketed using the publication house’s methods. Publishers put the author’s book in their catalogs. Publishers also mail their catalogs to libraries, bookstores, and other relevant centers. Publishers send an advance reader’s copy for reviews using websites like Kirkus Reviews. They provide a “sneak peek” of the author’s book on their websites. If the publishing house has a social media presence, they market the book there too. They host giveaways for the book.

In self-publishing, the author does all the marketing themselves. They can hire a professional marketer. The author uses those marketing methods they think will provide the maximum sales.

Royalties And Earning Potential

In traditional publishing, the authors are given an advance of anywhere from $2000 to $10,000. After that, they get royalties ranging from 7% to 25%, with an average of 15%. Thus, earning potential is significantly lower in traditional publishing.

In self-publishing, authors do not get any advance but pay upfront costs for book publication. But they get higher royalty rates of up to 70%. Thus, self-publishing authors earn more.

It is said that a self-published author earns $24,000 more than a traditionally published author for the same number of books sold.

ParametersTraditional PublishingSelf-Publishing
Costs InvolvedNo costs are involved.$200-$2500
Timeline6 months to 2 yearsLess than 6 months
Publication Process ControlNo controlFreedom for everything
MarketingBy PublishersBy Author
Royalty RatesUp to 25%Up to 70%

Which Option Is Right For You?

While deciding how you want to publish your book, you should consider the benefits and drawbacks of both publication methods. It would be best to consider your budget, writing niche, timeline, etc.

Factors To Consider When Deciding Between Traditional And Self-Publishing

You should consider the following factors when deciding between traditional and self-publishing:

  • Budget:

Your budget dramatically influences how you want to publish your book. At the same time, traditional publishing is advantageous if you do not have the resources to self-publish. But your earning potential is a lot lower if you are a new author.

With self-publishing, you have to use your resources for book publishing. You have to bear all the costs of self-publishing, including hiring professionals. But with self-publishing, you

can earn a lot more than traditionally publishing your book. So self-publishing is just like a business, where you invest first to bear fruitful results.

  • Freedom And Creativity:

Traditionally published authors do not have any freedom to decide about anything related to their book. After signing the contract, publishers get all the rights to the author’s book. Publishers can heavily edit the manuscript, and the author can not do anything. Thus, traditional publishing takes away the author’s creativity and freedom.

Luckily, self-publishing allows the author all the freedom and creativity they want with their book. You can write whatever you want, and no one can say anything.

So if you crave freedom and creativity in your writing and publishing journey, go for self-publishing. But if your only goal is to publish a book under your name, go for traditional publishing.

  • Writing Niche:

Publishers shy away from niches that are relatively new and have a smaller audience. Publication houses focus on books that they think will be successful. So if you are writing about a vampire murder mystery, chances are your book will not get published by traditional publishers. This is because your vampire murder mystery revolves around two genres: the supernatural and the thriller.

Self-published authors can publish their books in any genre or blend of genres under the sun. They can even create a book with a unique genre, and no one can reject it.

So if your book is in a new genre category, you can self-publish it.

Making An Informed Decision

With the rise of authors, getting a deal with a publishing house is tough. A

A study showed that less than 1% of books get an agreement from the publishers. The rest? Rejected.

Nevertheless, traditionally, publishing your book is a long and arduous journey, and multiple publishers may reject it numerous times.

The solution to that Self-publishing. Although self-publishing is not easy, no one can reject your book based on societal standards. You can get all the desired freedom, rights, and earnings from self-publishing your book.

You can follow Jane Friedman’s Blog to educate yourself on the advantages and disadvantages of both traditional and self-publishing.

Real-Life Examples Of Authors

Both self-publishing and traditional publishing have pros and cons, and many writers have succeeded in publishing through their preferred method.

Some of the examples of successful authors are as follows:

Robert Kiyosaki

You’ve probably heard of the book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”. In 1997, after multiple publishers rejected Kisoki’s book, he decided to self-publish. Kiyosaki had a lot of success, as his book has sold over 40,000,000 copies in 109 countries in over 50 countries.

El James

Fifty Shades Of Gray, the famous movie adapted from the book of the same name, was self-published by El James. After being rejected by several publication houses, El James self-published. Within one year, she received a deal from a publishing house. Her series became one of the fastest-selling paperbacks in history, selling over 100,000,000 copies.

J.K. Rowling

The writer of the famous Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling, was rejected 12 times before Bloomsbury accepted her series for publication. The Harry Potter series was a huge success, and J.K. Rowling became the first billionaire author on planet Earth.


Becoming an author is hard, and publishing a book is even harder. No matter which method of publishing you choose, you are not less than others, and you do not need any validation from others regarding your publishing method. It is a choice you have that can give you excitement over your publishing journey.

If you have no budget restrictions, want freedom, book rights, higher earnings, and book royalties, and want your book published as soon as possible, go for self-publishing.

If you have budget restrictions, are flexible with rights, and want to work with a prestigious publishing house, go with a traditional publishing house.

It is essential to be informed of all the pros and cons of both publication methods to make a valuable, Informed decision.

You can make your decision about your preferred method of publishing by learning about all the aspects of both traditional and self-publishing. You can gather information from websites like Writer’s Digest Shop, Poets & Writers, The Writers’ Workshop, The Creative Penn, Writers Weekly, The Independent Publishing Magazine, and The Alliance Of Independent Authors.

We wish you the best of luck on your writing and publishing journey and are proud of you, no matter your publishing route.

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