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        Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing: 2024 Guide

        • calenderJan 11, 2024
        • calender 6 min read

        If you’re reading this, chances are you already have a book in the works. You’re almost done with the writing but still can’t decide between traditional publishing and self-publishing, so you wish to compare the pros and cons of both. So, self-publishing vs. traditional publishing: which is better?

        Which method earns the most revenue for the author and which method secures your marketing interests? When you compare traditional publishing vs. self-publishing, there are plenty of variables to consider: book rights, creative control, author earnings, time investment, industry trends, and so on.

        Let’s dive deeper into the pros and cons of self-publishing vs. traditional publishing and help you select which is better for you.

        Start your publishing journey now!

        What is self-publishing?

        Self-publishing is the act of independently publishing a book, story, or other written content directly by the author, without the involvement of a traditional publishing house. Authors who choose to self-publish take on the roles of both writer and publisher, meaning they are responsible for every aspect of the book’s production, marketing, distribution, and sales. This includes tasks like editing, cover design, formatting, pricing, and promoting the book.

        In self-publishing, the writer handles everything. You either learn the skills required to publish a book or hire professionals to manage the services you can’t combat alone. This can include anything from editing and proofreading the manuscript to getting an ISBN or a copyright page. Aside from what you pay these service providers, all the profits from sales belong to you alone. You also retain all publishing rights to the book. Ultimately, you own your book.

        Some popular self-publishing companies are Amazon KDP, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble Press, Rakuten Kobo, and Draft2Digital.

        What is traditional publishing?

        Traditional publishing refers to the conventional method of getting a book published where an author partners with an established publishing house. When it comes to traditional publishing vs. self-publishing, the more popular or widely known way of publishing is traditional publishing. In this process, the publisher takes care of the various stages of producing, distributing, and marketing the book. Typically, the author submits a manuscript or proposal to the publisher, who then decides whether to accept it based on its potential for commercial success.

        In traditional publishing, the publisher handles all publishing-related activities. In exchange for these services, you sell them the publishing rights to your book. Along with this, the publisher also owns all the profits from the book sales. Basically, the publisher owns the book.

        Some popular traditional book publishing companies are Penguin Random House, Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster, Macmillan Publishers, and Hachette Book Group.

        After understanding what traditional vs. self-publishing is, we need to know what is the difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing.

        What is the difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing?

        Getting to know self-publishing vs. traditional publishing pros and cons makes learning about their difference easier for us. 

        Pros of self-publishing

        1. Creative control: 

        You determine the look and style of your book. You aren’t answerable to anyone and need not make any unnecessary sacrifices. It is easier to appeal to niche audiences and build a readership for your aesthetic.

        2. Rights and royalties:

         You own all publishing rights and most of your earnings.

        3. Marketing Control: 

        You can create blogs, be active on Goodreads, and establish an author brand to market the book effectively. You’re free to market according to your convenience: offer discounts, partner with other businesses, or promote your own.

        4. Profits: 

        The long-term earnings of self-published authors are more than those of the traditionally published ones. This is because as a self-published writer, you own your book and all your royalties.

        5. Fast to publish: 

        Since no gatekeepers are involved, books dealing in niche areas and first-time writers find it much easier to get published this way. It takes only a few days or weeks for you to self-publish a book!

        Cons of self-publishing

        1. Personal investment: 

        It’s a lot of work to self-publish, even if you hire professional help. The writer is personally involved every step of the way since you have to make sure that the book is perfect.

        2. Time investment:

         It can take some time for a writer to master all the different skills that self-publishing requires. Some authors like being self-sufficient and enjoy the challenge this process presents, but it’s not for everyone.

        3. Cost: 

        Professional help is required at some stage or the other if only to ensure that the book reads well and looks great. Depending on how much you outsource, this can cost anything between $100-$5000. You can either invest a lot of time into doing everything yourself or you can hire experienced service providers who will achieve the same goal.

        Pros of traditional publishing

        1. Prestige: 

        A deal with a reputed publisher means well for your status in the publishing world. It sends a signal of quality to readers and guarantees the value of your book. This also means attention from mainstream media outlets, which works wonders for your author’s brand.

        2. Hassle-free: 

        The publisher covers all professional services, so you don’t have to lift a finger. Professionals with industry experience handle everything and you are free to, well, write.

        3. Advance: 

        You get paid before the book gets published. This is an added plus in case the book doesn’t sell well enough, since you don’t have to pay anything back!

        4. Bookstore placement: 

        Traditional publishers have a strong distribution network. They make sure to place your book in physical bookstores, which increases your chances of selling your book.

        Cons of traditional publishing

        1. Hard to get a deal: 

        Publishers and agents are flooded with book proposals daily, so they reach out to very few writers. New writers especially find nothing in traditional publishing but a string of rejections.

        2. No creative control: 

        Once the contract is signed, the publishers have full rights to edit and market the book as they wish. You get a very limited say in how your book is designed, promoted, and sold in the market.

        3. No marketing control: 

        All publishers today rely on writers to market and sell their books, but don’t allow them to decide on book marketing strategies.

        4. No ownership: 

        In giving up the publishing rights of the book, you’re also giving up your intellectual property. In case the book becomes popular in another venture like movies or video games, you won’t be able to earn from it.

        5. Low earnings: 

        The low royalty rates of 7-10% do not measure up to the profits earned from the 50–70% royalty rates in self-publishing.

        6. Time investment: 

        On top of the time spent trying to get selected by agents and publishers, traditional publishing typically takes a year or two to publish a book. In an age where Amazon can publish the same book in a matter of hours and you can start earning in 60 days, this is a big drawback for traditional publishing.

        7. Complicated contracts: 

        Publishing contracts are complicated documents that almost always favor the publisher. You need to go through these carefully and get help from lawyers to retain as many of the book’s rights as you can.

        Now that we’ve seen the pros and cons of self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, the differences between them are evident. Now the question that arises is what will work for you, self-publishing or traditional publishing?

        Now that we’ve seen the pros and cons of self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, the differences between them are evident. Now the question that arises is what will work for you, self-publishing or traditional publishing?

        Traditional publishing vs. self-publishing: which method should I go for?

        At the end of the day, the answer to this depends on what is more important to you, traditional vs. self-publishing. Do you, as a writer, value creative control and ownership, or is status more important to you? Traditional publishing and self-publishing both have different and valuable things to offer.

        We’ve prepared a table that may help make things easy:

        We hope that you are clear about what is self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, and ready to make your choice! 

        As expert providers of self-publishing services, we love to curate publishing resources for you. In case you want to read a bit more before making your decision, you can check out the following articles: 

        Frequently Asked Questions

        Found this article helpful?


        Tanvi Linkedin

        With a foundation in Life Sciences, Tanvi enjoys curating technical writing tips tailored for ESL students. When she's not translating complex concepts into bite-sized nuggets, she can be found playing with dogs or painting landscapes.

        2 comments on “Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing: 2024 Guide

        1. Peter George Gross MD PhD says:

          Informative and easy to read.
          Thank you.
          Dr. G.

        2. Seyoum Yilma says:

          I liked the way you explained it so easily – thanks.

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