“Self Publishing” vs “Traditional Publishing”: Main Differences & How to Use Both Correctly as a Writer

For any writer who aspires to be an author, knowing how to publish a book is essential. It’s a common scenario — you have an idea for a book but you don’t know the publishing method to adopt.

Today, the opportunities for writers are more abundant than ever. You can share and publish your story in multiple ways and connect with a global audience. Whether you’re aiming for the traditional publishing route, with its network of agents, editors, and publishers, or you’re considering self-publishing for more control and higher royalties, the choice is yours. Each path has its unique advantages and challenges.

In this article, we’ll guide you through the book publishing process and provide the resources you need to decide which publishing option suits your work best. Let’s delve into the differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing and how to use both effectively as an author.

What Is Self-Publishing?

Self-publishing is when an author publishes their work without a traditional book publisher. This allows the author to retain control of all creative decisions, publishing costs, and royalty profits. This method has been around for centuries, recently evolving into a multi-billion dollar industry. It empowers writers to take control of their book publishing dreams and sell their books just as they envisioned.

The biggest advantage is that you have more control over the process. If you want to tell your story, self-publishing is the safest way to ensure you get to do exactly that. When self-publishing, you get full control over the creative process, including cover design, layout, and more. You can utilize many resources to aid you if you so choose—such as professional editing, promotional packages, and more—but you ultimately have the final say on what your book looks like.

How Does Self-publishing Work?

Self-publishing allows you to write the book, maintain the rights, and be responsible for everything that happens afterward.

You can handle everything yourself, or you can engage an editor and proofreader, cover designer, marketing firm, and/or publicist to use their experience and undertake much of the work for you.

If you want a print copy of the book, you’ll need to hire a company, which could imply print-on-demand or a limited print run. Most authors use Amazon KDP Print, a POD service.

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What Is Traditional Publishing?

Traditional book publishing occurs when a publisher offers the author a contract and then prints, publishes, and sells the book through bookshops and other retailers. The publisher essentially acquires the right to publish your work and pays you royalties on sales.

To publish a book traditionally, writers typically need to hire an agent. To find one, first determine the appropriate genre for your essay. To become a non-fiction writer, submit a book proposal, including three sample chapters and a synopsis. If you’re writing fiction, you need to have your manuscript finished.

An editor reads it to determine whether it’s right for that house and whether to reject or publish it. In some cases, an interested editor may send a manuscript back for revisions. If the publishing house decides to publish your book, the house normally buys rights from the writer and pays an advance on future royalties. The house puts up the money to design and package the book, printing as many copies as it thinks will sell; markets, and finally distributes the finished book.

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How Does Traditional Publishing Work?

In traditional publishing, after writing, revising, and polishing the book, you present it to literary agencies. Your agent will then propose your book to editors at publishing houses.

When a publishing business buys the rights to your novel, they pay you a certain amount of money, sometimes known as an advance.

They then schedule a publication date, often one to two years in the future, and collaborate with you to edit, copyedit, and proofread the text. They create the cover and interior formatting, manage the marketing, promotion, publicity, and printing costs, and collaborate with a distributor to begin selling it in bookstores.

You would then begin earning royalties on each book sold, but only after you had repaid the advance they provided you.

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What Are The Differences Between Self-publishing and Traditional Publishing

Traditional publishing involves the publisher managing marketing, distribution, and warehousing for your book. This is the traditional way of book publication because there is no cost to the author; major publishers earn from the book’s sales.

Whereas in self-publishing, depending on which type of publisher or platform you choose, most of the work falls on your shoulders and you pay for all expenses. The main advantages of self-publishing are that you control when the book is published, you retain all rights to your book, and you receive 100 percent of the profits.

You can publish your book in various formats, including printed books, e-books, audiobooks, CDs, and DVDs. Assume you choose an e-book, which is a digitally published book that can be read on e-readers and other electronic devices. In that case, it may be downloaded immediately, translated into multiple languages, and will never go out of print. However, as e-book formats and file types evolve and change over time, many may need to be converted to a different file or format.

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Self-publishing vs Traditional Publishing – Which Type of Publishing Should I Opt For?

If seeing your work in print is to fulfill a personal goal you have or you view yourself as a hobbyist, choose vanity publishing.

If you’re writing a family history, memoir, or book of poetry that has a limited audience and don’t want your book stocked at bookstores, using print-on-demand is probably to your advantage. They are often nonreturnable, not sold at a discount, and you won’t have to store any unsold books.

If you have an established platform with an audience, both online and offline, self-publishing will be your best bet. This is because, with your visibility, you can market and promote your work on various online/offline platforms.

Self-publishing is also a good option if you have a time-sensitive manuscript, as a commercial publishing company can take up to 18 months to get your book from manuscript to final production.

On the flip side, if you don’t know how to find or reach your readers, don’t have an online presence, don’t have the time to spend online or dislike social media, want to be in a brick-and-mortar type of bookstore, and have a publisher handle the marketing for you, the traditional publishing route may be the best option.

FAQs On Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing

What is self-publishing?

Self-publishing is the process where authors publish their work independently, without the involvement of a traditional publishing house. Authors handle the entire process, including writing, editing, design, and marketing.

What is traditional publishing?

Traditional publishing involves submitting a manuscript to a publishing house, which then takes over the publishing process. The publisher also handles editing, design, printing, distribution, and marketing, often offering an advance and royalties to the author.

Which method gives authors more creative control?

Self-publishing gives authors complete creative control over their work, from content and cover design to marketing strategies. Traditional publishing involves collaboration with the publisher, who may require changes to align with market expectations and house standards.

How much does it cost to self-publish a book?

The cost of self-publishing differs based on factors like the book’s length, the quality of editing and design, and whether or not the author chooses to use marketing and advertising for promotion. 


Self-publishing grants you complete control over every aspect of your book, from content to design and marketing. This path allows for higher royalty rates but requires a financial investment and significant effort in handling all aspects of the publishing process. On the other hand, traditional publishing involves surrendering some control to benefit from professional expertise in editing, design, and marketing. While traditional publishing covers the costs and offers extensive distribution networks, it typically offers lower royalties and a longer time to market.

Choosing between self-publishing and traditional publishing depends on your goals, resources, and preferences. If you prioritize creative control and higher royalties, self-publishing might be the right choice. However, if you seek validation, professional support, and wider distribution, traditional publishing could be more suitable.


  • bookbaby.com – What is Self-Publishing – and is it Right for You?
  • book.forbes.com – Is Self-Publishing or Traditional Publishing More Profitable?

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