Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing

Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing


Having self-published my first book, and now being on the path of acquiring an agent and submitting to conventional publishers with my second book, I often get asked to explain the difference between both methods. After I explain the difference, people often ask me which is better. And my answer is always… it depends.

It depends on what your purpose for publishing a book is, and it depends on what you have more of; time or money.

Self-publishing has taken off in the last 5 years on a large scale. It is losing some of the negative connotation it once had, especially in the world of non-fiction. And though traditional publishing has maintained its clout, the introduction of self-publishing and lost sales through electronic books has forced a change in the traditional publishing industry.

With self-publishing, you spend more money for less time to publication

  • You pay to have your book made available in print or eBook format (Including paying for content editing, paying for line editing, paying for formatting, paying for cover art, paying for marketing and promotion)
  • You choose when to publish it, and it’s up within 24 hours of hitting the publish button. (that is after it’s been written, edited and formatted)
  • There are no rejection letters from agents or publishers.
  • There are done-for-you services or do-it-yourself: think of it like a kitchen renovation. You can hire a general contractor to redo your kitchen and he hires all the sub-contractors vs. finding each individual contractor yourself.
  • You keep 50-70% of the proceeds from books sold

With traditional publishing, you spend much less money for a lot more time to print

  • You almost always need an agent (who charges 15% of what you earn as their payment)
  • For fiction, you need a completed manuscript and a synopsis. For non-fiction, you need a book proposal and one chapter (please pay to have this edited before you submit it!)
  • You get an advance of $5,000 to $50,000 as a first-time author. Once that advance has been earned out you make about 10% royalties on book sales
  • You will still be doing most of your own marketing and promotion
  • The traditional publishing timeline takes about a year and a half to two years from concept to holding your book.

Every option has its pros and cons, it all depends on what your long-term goals are and what your Big Why is. The good news is that you can start writing before you decide which road you want to explore. The better news is that if you are apprehensive or confused about which to choose, I am available as a writing coach to help you go from an idea to holding your own book in your hands, just drop me an email.