How To Publish Your Book – Traditional vs Self

self publishing vs traditional publishing

First, I want to congratulate you on accomplishing the first step to becoming a great author- finishing your book or novel.

Only the bravest and the most determined writers finish the trying task of pouring their all into more than 50,000 words of an edited and revised manuscript.

But the journey doesn’t end there and in fact, many experienced writers may have told you that after writing your book that’s when the real work begins-getting your book out there and being rewarded for your blood, sweat and tears.

You may have done your research on how to publish your book but are still confused about which publishing method to use.

So where do you go next?

This guide will offer you essential details to help you make up your mind.

Traditional Publishing

In this option, you get to work with a publishing company that assumes all the risks involved in publishing your manuscript.

They pay for everything including editing and proofreading, typesetting, printing, binding, cover design, advertising and promotion, billing, shipping, warehousing and compensating writer royalties.

It sounds appealing, right? The traditional publisher takes care of everything as you lay back and wait for your writer’s cheque. Hold your horses as traditional publishing comes with its price.

The current era we’re in is the busiest and loudest in publishing history and though it’s easier to get printed, it’s never been more difficult to be traditionally published.

It’s hard to find a credible publisher to publish your book. Given the fact that traditional publishers get thousands of proposals every day from writers who are dying to get their books published, standing out from the rest is the tricky bit.

This should not dishearten you though. Traditional publishers often accept submissions from agents (if you decide to hire one) or you could get recommended by one of their current authors. Therefore, if you have an author friend or a colleague who works with the publisher, this could be a plus for you.

Remember getting a publisher or an agent to take a chance on your book doesn’t happen overnight. It needs persistence, dedication and focus.

Also, consider the following factors before submitting your proposal to the publisher:

What is your book’s genre? The genre helps to determine your target audience, the agent you hire and the traditional publisher you approach.

Do you have a following? This is often one of the first questions an agent or publisher will ask you. With the wide variety of social media platforms and blogging channels at your disposal today, it has never been easier to create a platform of people who are interested in what you do.

Which is your target audience and where will you sell your book? As tempting as it may be to create a book for ‘everyone’, you can never please all readers. You have to define who your target reader is i.e. their age, social status, demographics and even gender.

The Benefits of Traditional Publishing

  • You don’t incur expenses.
  • You get more market exposure.
  • Your book is edited, proofread and designed by a group of professionals.
  • The marketing team promotes your book.
  • You get advance royalties- advance payment regardless of the sales output.

The Drawbacks of Traditional Publishing

  • I won’t mince words- landing a traditional book publishing deal is erratic.
  • You may lack control over the creative input of your book. Of course, the traditional publisher ensures that the writer is kept happy but they often make the major decisions including the book’s cover, style, promotion and pricing because they take all the financial risks.
  • It can be a tortoise-pace process. It takes from nine months to more than two years from the time you sign your book deal up to when it gets to the bookstore shelves.
  • You may get the short end of the stick in terms of potential earning. Thousands of traditionally published books don’t make up the royalty advance; therefore they never hit the multi-million dollar bestseller mark.


In this option, you assume the role of the publisher, financier and decision-maker on everything concerning your book. In return, you earn all the profits as opposed to settling for a 15% royalty of the sales by a traditional publisher.

However, don’t underestimate the cost of self-publishing. In most cases, the “profit” earned per book sold equals the amount of traditional royalty.

Moreover, self-publishing has its own set of shortcomings. First, you have way less proficiency in editing and proofreading, advertising, billing, promoting, selling and delivering compared to the traditional publishers.

Second, self-publishing is a full-time job in itself, which may rob you of the time to get started on another book.

That said, the following are the sole reasons why you could opt for self-publishing:

  • You weren’t able to land a traditional book publishing deal under all efforts. This doesn’t mean your book is second-class.
  • Your book’s potential audience is hundreds as opposed to thousands.
  • You are a tutor or in a similar occupation whereby your publishing is not for commercial interest.

Let’s face it! The publishing industry is saturated and the best way to distinguish yourself is by hiring an expert editor. And by this, I don’t mean your relative who is an English professor. 

Many self-publishing writers make the mistake of focusing more on design and marketing than on expert editing and proofreading.

Writing value is what sequestrates you in an overly permeated marketplace.

You may have come across publishing companies that refer to themselves as “hybrid publishers.” Hybrid publishing companies proclaim to merge the crème de la crème of both the traditional publishing option and the self-publishing option but take caution! Such publishers may be wolves in sheep clothing.

Today, you can even publish your book online using popular platforms such as Amazon Createspace, Kindle Direct Publishing and iBooks.

The Benefits of Self-Publishing

  • You control the publishing period. With the online publishing option, you get to publish almost instantly.
  • The overturn is 100% yours.
  • You set the price of the book.
  • You oversee the editing process.
  • You control the creative output of your book’s cover and interior design.

The Drawbacks of Self-Publishing

  • The market is flooded with self-published books and it pays to set you apart.
  •  You control everything from page numbering to distribution, thus if you fail in one area the rest of the process is affected.
  • Minimal exposure and visibility in the market.


Please go through all your traditional book publishing options before taking the last option of self-publishing. This will save you the hassle of raising publishing funds and handling tasks you are not experienced in.

If you choose self-publishing, the cost varies depending on whether you decide to publish on an online platform and if you engage a professional editor and book designer.

The cost of self-publishing physical books can range from $1500 to more than $10,000 contingent upon the number of services you hire and the company you work with.

Whether self-publishing or traditional publishing, your readers deserve the best quality book writing.

Always keep that in mind.