Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing



Authors were already involved in self-publishing as far back as the 1990s. Self-published writers were regarded as renegade outsiders who didn’t conform to the standards as those following the traditional publishing method.  According to Jane Friedman of, “At the time, self-publishing was not a well-regarded path to success, and it indicated some kind of author failing or eccentricity.” Fast-forward to 2016 and self-published writers have become more prevalent. Changes in technology and innovative platforms have allowed for this to happen.

While it might be easy to reduce this piece to catchy titles like ‘Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing’, it’s important to point out the differences in approach. Self-publishing vs. traditional publishing is rather more about a publishing strategy than it is about cutting costs or big corporations taking advantage of ‘lowly and simple minded’ writers. Like everything else, it’s more complicated than that. Let’s take a look at the different facets that both systems entail.

  • Editing & Design – Going with a traditional publisher will mean that an author receives the full services of that particular company. This will mean access to professional editors, book designers and proofreaders. Essentially, the authors receive an error free book. On the other hand, self-publishers will have to hire all of these professionals on their own and pay them upfront with no guarantees on timely delivery or their books not being riddled with typos.
  • Promotion – Like every other product in the market, promotion is a big part of what makes a book successful. Traditional publishers will have all the contacts at their disposal to make the book a hit with readers. With self-publishers, they probably won’t have the same access that traditional publishers do. Therefore, branding and knowledge of good book marketing is an important part of being a self-publisher.
  • Distribution – 10 years ago, this would have favored the mainstream publishers. Digital publishing has changed all of that. It’s a fact that traditional publishers have several resources at their disposal and market these books to the greater public. What has changed is the creation of self-publishing companies like Author House, Create Space, and Lulu. It allows writers to publish directly to kindles, print or as audiobooks. They will distribute the book across the world as it will be beamed directly to online platforms. The future of books is leaning towards the digital space and becoming less print based. Of course, this depends on the genre as it varies.
  • Royalties – This is perhaps the most important factor in the ongoing debate. If a publishing house buys a book, they pay an upfront fee, with royalties ranging from 8 % to 15 %. On the self-publishing/ digital front, Amazon and Apple offer writers up to 70% for kindle and 80% for print. On both sides of the aisle, the money seems quite good. It depends on the ultimate goal of the writer.

Irrespective of which side of the debate you fall on, it begins and ends with the author. At the end of the day, the author is the one who makes the ultimate choice.