The Difference Between Traditional Publishing vs Self Publishing

Are you thinking of publishing a book and now it’s time to decide between traditional versus self-publishing?


Before you waste a TON of time (and money), let me give you the rundown of what the difference is between traditional publishing and self-publishing – because there are pluses and minus to both to consider. 


You’ll thank me later!


A traditional publisher is a publishing company (large or small) that buys the right to your book from you. Often via an upfront payout known as an “advance.” The publisher is responsible for book distribution and is the only entity entitled to profit from the sale of the book. (So you can’t have more than one publisher.)


Self-publishing means YOU have the responsibility and control for producing all elements of your book and distribution. 


Now that you know the basic definition of what each one means, let’s look at how each one works…


When it comes to traditional publishing, every publisher is different, with slightly different business models, author expectations and relationships. So this is just a general overview of the most common practices among publishers. 


A publisher buys your book from you, (or in some cases approaches you to write a book they have already decided they need written). Usually they offer an advance, and they may also include a royalty incentive based on book sales. The publisher will own the publishing rights, but you as the author should retain your copyright. 


Generally, when a publisher owns the publishing rights, that gives them final decision making power over all elements of the book, from cover design to layout, to marketing plans.  As a result they generally take care of hiring the cover designer, editors, interior layout designers, and the level of input the author has will vary depending on the publisher. 


The publisher will decide on and manage printing and distribution of your book. 


The publisher will have a marketing plan for the book based on their own business goals and objectives and their own assessment of the target audience for the book. But all publishers expect authors to be actively engaged in their own marketing efforts as well – specifically on social media.  


If you are looking for more control, consider self-publishing. There are a lot of ways to self-publish and every author can (and should) decide for themselves what it means to self-publish and how they want to do it. But the big picture is generally the same:


You will need to have the book edited, a cover designed, and have a system for printing and distributing the book to readers. 


You will need to invest some amount of money upfront in order to get your book to market, even if it’s only to get it printed. 


There are a lot of options for distribution and production of your book. Amazon is the most common for self-publishers – they handle production, distribution, and sales all in one. But there are as many other combinations of options as there are self-publishers.


As you can see, each route has pros and cons to each of them. So, making the right decision can be challenging. 


It may be that, like quite a few writers, you’ve dreamed about working with a big-name publishing house all your life, and nothing will satisfy you until you get that experience. There is nothing wrong with that.


If you’ve identified this need early on, then maybe it’s best for you to go down the traditional publishing route. 


But let’s say you win the book lottery and get published. There is still no guarantee that your publisher’s efforts will get your work in bookstores or into the hands of the editors of your favorite literary magazines and newspapers. There’s also no guarantee in sales volume. 


However, self-publishing gives you an alternative path. It gives you an assured chance of getting your book out there. You have a better chance of seeing success in your sales and making an impact if your message resonates with enough people. Not to mention, you get to stay true to the vision of your book.


Self-publishing allows you the freedom, money, community and control to shape your life into one that you adore.


So, start writing your own bestseller today. You can thank me later!