The Benefits of Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing

by | Feb 6, 2012 | Book Marketing Basics, Social Media for Authors

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Guest post by Jessica Wiener

Modern book publishing offers authors more opportunities and a wider array of options than ever before. Innovations such as e-book publishing and POD (print-on-demand) services have allowed authors who are unable to interest a traditional publishing house in their book idea to pursue publication on their own, using either a Web-based publishing platform or a custom printing service. Traditional and self-publishing each offer specific advantages that authors should weigh to determine which arrangement would work better for them, based on their individual needs, goals, circumstances, and skills.

Advantages of Traditional Publishing


Published! (Photo credit: JoshuaDavisPhotography)

1. Compensation: According to, traditional publishing houses typically pay their writers an advance on the royalties they expect a title to earn, followed by the balance in actual royalties based on sales. Royalties can range anywhere from about 7.5% to about 15% or higher and are usually set by the publisher. Many writers prefer receiving this lump sum up front and consider it one strong advantage of traditional publishing companies. 

2. Editing Services: When a publisher accepts a book manuscript for publication, its in-house editor completes a thorough edit, which relieves the author of the expense and/or responsibility of handling this crucial aspect of the publishing process. Most publishers require their editors to hold at least a Bachelor’s degree, and preferably one in a related field, such as English or Journalism, ensuring competent editing.

3. Publishing and Printing Costs: Traditional publishers cover all printing and publishing costs and assume all the risks of publication, which can prove a significant advantage to an author, since costs can range in the thousands of dollars, according to professional writer/editor Lillie Ammann’s Self-Publishing Primer.

Barnes & Noble nook (ebook reader device)

4. Publisher-Initiated Marketing: Traditional publishing houses generally handle book marketing, though most expect their authors’ cooperation in publicizing, promoting, and marketing their titles.

5. Perception/Legitimacy: Many people perceive traditional publishing to be more legitimate than self-publishing. They often assign greater credibility to titles released by a major publishing house than they do to those published by an unknown or less well-known author. This is partly due to the poorly edited books many self-published authors release on a regular basis.

Advantages of Self-Publishing

1. Publication Speed: Self-published books can be brought to market in several months or less, whereas print books can take as long as two years to reach their market. E-books are fastest of all, with the complete process sometimes taking as little as a few weeks. The Internet has significantly sped up the book-publishing process.

2. Author Control: With electronic self-publishing, authors retain complete control of the planning, editing, publishing, and marketing process. Book format, cover design, and other such critical decisions are made entirely by the author. POD publishing, however, typically offers less control.

Books of TASCHEN.

3. Retention of Rights: All rights to truly self-published books belong to the author, which means the author can do whatever s/he desires with the book at any time, rather than having to work within the constraints set by a publishing house. With POD publishers, author rights can be somewhat limited.

4. Online Marketing: In late 2010, Cisco Systems predicted that the number of Internet users would rise to 25 billion by 2025 and will by then have produced $3 trillion in revenue ( With growth like that, book marketing will become easier than ever before. The above report also considered the Internet to still be in its youth – or even its infancy – since almost five billion people have never “surfed” the Web and fewer than one-fifth use the Internet regularly, creating a huge amount of untapped marketing potential.

5. Virtually No Excess Inventory: Today’s popular POD custom printing service option allows independent authors to print books as needed rather than creating large press runs that could potentially leave them with stacks of unsold books. Printing books individually, when ordered, also prevents authors from having to ship and store large numbers of books.

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Book publishing has changed a great deal in the last decade, and most people believe that change has been for the better. Self-publishing has empowered authors in new and exciting ways, while still leaving the door to more traditional publishing methods wide open for those who prefer to pursue them.

Jessica Wiener is an expert in the online printing industry. When she is not writing for, you can find her cooking up a storm in her kitchen.

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  1. Lisa Tener

    This is a good summary of the pros and cons of traditional vs. self-publishing. I would add on the side of traditional publishing that 1) It is easier to get national publicity because producers give more weight to a traditionally published book, particularly from a larger house (though some self-published authors certainly do get national publicity as well–it’s just harder, in general and 2) a traditional publisher is generally going to bring a great deal of experience to the table–from improving the cover or title to layout and design. If you self publish, you just want to make sure you are hiring skilled professionals for these functions. Of course, that’s not to say that sometimes self-publishing isn’t the best way to meet a particular author’s goals for a specific book.

    • Paula


      Thanks for stopping by and adding your comments. I completely agree that self-published authors need to hire skilled professionals for editing, design, title, etc. It makes a huge difference!

  2. James W. Lewis

    I’ve been indie publishing for two years now and love it! You definitely have to invest in a good cover and editing. Many new authors mess that part up.

    • Paula


      Thanks for stopping by, and we couldn’t agree with you more about investing in a good cover and editing! It can make or break a book.



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