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Self-publishing vs Traditional Publishing

by | Jun 4, 2024

Content Manager

Ara Koetts

Ara Koetts, a leading voice at Voxtury.com, specializes in AI content creation, blending technology with creativity. Her insights into AI's impact on storytelling and ethical considerations make her a pivotal figure for anyone exploring digital innovation. Ara's work is a guiding light in the dynamic world of content creation, inspiring confidence and curiosity in her readers.

Self-publishing vs Traditional Publishing

When trying to publish a book, there are two ways you can go. First, you can decide to take the self-publishing route where, so to say, you are your own boss. The other road is via traditional publishing, where the publishing process is majorly controlled by the publishing house. Both of them have their pros and cons, so making the right choice requires some heavy thinking. We’ll make it slightly easier on you by comparing both of those types of publishing with each other.

But first, let’s take a look at both processes as a whole – how does publishing a book on your own and through a publishing house work?

Traditional Publishing vs Self-Publishing – The Process

When you self-publish a book, you are the one responsible for the whole process. You can do everything on your own, including editing, cover design, marketing, etc., or you can decide to work with professionals, still on your terms though.

Thankfully, we live in a world where a plethora of tools are available to anyone who wants to publish a book, including Voxtury’s rich-text editor or Canva’s cover design mode, which gives you the freedom to choose the tool you want to work with.

Most self-publishing authors don’t have the funds to print hundreds or thousands of copies of their book right away, which is why they would typically use a print-on-demand service, which only prints a book once it is sold, so you don’t lose money on dead stock.

As for the traditional publishing process, you typically need to pitch your work to literary agents – the agent then presents your book to editors at the publishing house, and if they decide that they want to publish it, they buy the rights to your book. That’s when you get paid an advance on earnings.

The next step is to set a publication date, which in most cases will be set a year or two in advance. From then on, the publishing house helps you every step of the way, working with you to edit the copy, design the cover, market your work, etc.

Once the book is published, you can start earning royalties – however, before you do that, you need to “pay back” the advance you received when signing a publishing agreement. What does it mean exactly? In simple terms, it means that you need to sell enough copies of your book so that they earn back what they paid you.

Publisher vs Self-Publishing – The Comparison

When faced with making a decision about the future of your book, you might be asking yourself questions like “Is self-publishing worth it?” or “Is it better to self-publish or get a publisher?” While we cannot make that choice for you, here is a publish vs self-publishing comparison that can be helpful.





Self-publishing your book is very easy as long as you have the motivation to write it and enough funds in your bank account to pay for printing and freelancers if you want to work with someone.


Getting your book picked up by a publishing house is very difficult and will most likely require several pitches before finding a publishing house willing to offer you a book deal. Many writers pitch several books before getting a deal.



The author is the one taking care of all the expenses.


The publishing house is the one taking care of all the expenses.



The author has almost complete control – the one thing they most likely won’t be able to control as freely is the price, especially when using Amazon to sell their book.


The publishing house is mostly in control and can decide on things like the book cover and the marketing strategy that will be used to promote your work. While they might ask for your opinion, there is no guarantee that it will be honored.



Self-published authors retain rights to their books, which is probably one of the biggest advantages of this type of publishing.


Traditionally, published authors need to sign a contract with the publishing house in order to get their book out there, and this agreement sells most of their rights to the publication. What this means is that if, by chance, you want to republish your book elsewhere in the future, you won’t be able to do so. The same goes for selling or using your own material.



The timeline is completely up to you and the printing service you’re using. If you’re already finished with the book and have everything ready for the launch, including the printing company on standby, you can have your book in readers’ hands even as quickly as within a day or two.


Depending on the publishing house, traditionally published books typically need to wait about a year or two before hitting the shelves.



Self-publishing authors mainly operate online, as it’s easier for them. Getting your book into a bookstore is very difficult when you don’t have a publishing house behind you. Typically, only self-published books that sold thousands of copies get ordered to a bookstore.


Traditional publishing usually involves distribution both online and offline in bookstores and large chain stores like Target.



Self-published authors have much higher royalties as they were the ones responsible for publishing the book and took all the costs upon themselves. In their cases, royalties are usually between 35 and 70%.


In traditional publishing, as mentioned, it’s the publisher that takes the cost on themselves, which results in lower royalties. For traditional authors, those typically vary between 8 and 15%.



Self-published authors have a harder time establishing their credibility and earning their place in the publishing world.


With being a traditionally published author comes a certain kind of prestige – especially when it comes to opportunities to promote your book. Some bookstores like to invite only traditionally published authors when organizing book signings, etc.



As a self-published author, they need to learn everything about the industry on their own, as they usually don’t have access to those who have been doing it for a while and can share their insights. What works and what doesn’t, what things to avoid, and which ones are encouraged are knowledge that an author will gain with time.


Since publishing houses are home to many authors at once, both new and experienced ones, an author getting signed to one gets access not only to a company that’s been promoting books for years or decades, but also to an entourage of authors that have been in the game for a while and can share their experience.

Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing – Which Is Better?

There isn’t one answer to the question of which type of publishing is better. However, there are some questions that you can ask yourself to determine which one will be a better fit for you personally:

  • Do you prefer to be in charge of the publishing process, or you don’t mind letting others take the reins? Remember that self-publishing gives you more freedom in terms of the direction you want your book to go in, especially in terms of promotion and design. While it might be more time-consuming, it might be a better option for those who have a vision for their work.
  • Will you be able to get a traditional publishing deal? Keep in mind that being offered a publishing deal is not as simple as pitching to one literary agent and done. It typically takes weeks, months, or, in some cases, even years before you get offered a publishing deal, with many authors having to write multiple books before one of them is picked. Do you have the required patience or constantly meet with agents and have your work continually assessed?
  • Do you like doing your own marketing? If you prefer someone else to do the marketing as well as the other things involved in the business side of publishing for you, then aiming for a publishing deal might be a better option.
  • Have you already published a book? Those who already have launched a book at some point, even if it was a self-published one, might have a slightly easier time with getting publishers to offer you a deal.

Traditional Publishing vs Self-Publishing – The Bottom Line

While both self-publishing and traditional publishing have their pros and cons, the sad reality is that for many, getting a publishing deal is and will always be a pipe dream. Does it mean that you should give up trying? Of course not. However, you need to be aware of the odds so you don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t work out the first, second or even fifth time.

Still, putting it all aside – traditional publishing is definitely the better option for anyone who doesn’t mind earning lower royalties in exchange for the publisher taking the financial obligations involved in publishing a book. On the other hand, self-publishing is a better fit for those who want to do everything in the “becoming an author” journey on their own or at least in collaboration with the people they choose themselves.

Regardless of whichever way you decide to go with for your book, one thing’s for sure – at the end of the journey, you will have a physical testament of all of your hard work, aka a published book. Doesn’t it sound amazing?


At Voxtury, we prioritize using high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to ensure our articles are accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. To learn more about our commitment to quality and how we fact-check our content, please visit our editorial process page.

  1. Forbes – Self-Publishing Versus Traditional Publishing: Pros And Cons For Leaders To Consider
  2. Hasmark Publishing International – Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing: Pros and Cons for Authors
  3. Forbes – Is Self-Publishing or Traditional Publishing More Profitable?
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