top of page

Traditional Publish vs. Self Publish

Updated: Jul 14, 2022

Times have changed in the world of publishing. Technology and business have advanced to the point where it is fairly easy and somewhat inexpensive for authors to self publish their works. Is it the right way to go compared to pursuing a literary agent and traditional publisher and giving up a percentage of sales and rights to your works? It depends on you, your product, your finances and your time. Is it worth it when your roof starts to leak to get up on the roof and replace it yourself? Some might say yes, others would say it is worth paying someone so they can focus on what they do best.

Here are some pluses and minuses to weigh on each option:

Traditional Publishing


  • Your costs are taken out of your royalties or deducted from your retainer when book sales start, so if you are cash-strapped it takes the pressure off you.

  • The process from submission to sales is a one-stop shop - editing, designing, illustrating, formatting, printing, distributing, and more is done by the publisher's professionals. Note that I did not include marketing. Most marketing is still on you.

  • You can brag about your high-profile publisher. It does give you legitimacy.


  • Likely you will need to hire a literary agent who approach the publishers unless you are a well-established author already. Otherwise it is likely they will not take time to talk to you. A literary agent could command 10-15% of sales.

  • It could take a year or more even after you've secured a deal to see your work in print and realize a sale.

  • Your publisher gets the rights to the book and they can demand changes such as title, content and more. Yet, they do know what sells so it might be best to listen anyway.

  • Your royalties for each sale are pretty small compared to the 100% you keep from self-publishing. Yet, 100% of nothing is not very much if you can't do the job of the publisher. If you know they will do what you cannot or don't have the time for, it can be worth the cost.

  • They don't really do the marketing for you so you cannot sit back and wait for the sales to roll in once you have a publishing deal. You've only started climbing the mountain at that point.

Self Publishing


  • You retain all the profit

  • You retain the rights to your works and all creative license

  • You decide how, when and where you will market your book and in what formats (hardcover, paperback, electronic, audio)

  • You can get your book on Amazon within days once you navigate their process


  • You must find the appropriate editor(s), printers and distributors; use software to format and design; hire illustrators and cover designers; navigate the different processes for different book format types; and then find the critics who not only will read your book but will plug it and offer recommendations. Plus if you have another job you need to find the time to do all this, while devoting time to writing as well. Whew. This is a big mountain to climb for most new writers.

  • Unless you learn to become an expert marketer of your book, you will remain in obscurity without a backer even if you have the most groundbreaking, enthralling, blockbuster of the century. Marketing is 80% of a book's success - and you thought you were done when you wrote The End. Pfff... Yet, many have gone the route of self-publishing these days and many have been successful. Are you up to the challenge?

bottom of page