• Victoria Hadley

Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing



Last week on Instagram, I saw an author post a question about traditional versus self-publishing. I wasn’t able to answer her question then, because it is just really too much to get into on Instagram, so I thought I would use this opportunity to write about the decision all modern-day authors face: should I publish with a traditional publisher or self-publish my book?


As both an author and editor, I have asked this question of myself and been asked this question by other authors. It is a hard question to answer, and there are several factors to consider when trying to determine what path to take. Let’s begin by addressing the basic differences between traditional publishing and self-publishing.

Traditional Publishing

When you sign with a traditional publishing company, the publisher then has most of the rights to your book. They will handle the process of your book being published, and they will have their people, vendors, and freelancers do everything for you. You participate in the process, especially the editing phases, but there are some times when the publisher will make the executive decision based on sales trends and market conditions.

Traditional publishing tends to take longer for most authors, the reason being that you’re likely to get a lot of rejection letters before you get an offer. Then, you publish according to the publishing house’s timeline. They pay for your book to go through the process, and they foot the bill for printing, marketing, and shipping as well.


Once you sign a contract for a traditional publisher to publish your book, you often get paid an advance based on what they believe the projected sales would be for your book. As an author, you hear a lot about royalties, but your book being published does not guarantee you will receive royalties. Most publishers do not pay royalties for books until enough books have been sold to cover the cost of the advance given to the author prior to publication. If enough books are sold to recoup the cost of the advance, then the author will receive a small percentage of the profits in royalties for the book after.

Another thing to remember is that some publishers will not accept unsolicited manuscript submissions. So, if you really want to pursue traditional publishing, you must consider that you may need to seek a literary agent to represent you and your book. Most good literary agents, who take you on as a client if they believe you are a great and marketable writer, won’t take payment from you up front. Rather, you will sign a contract agreeing to give them a percentage of what you are paid for the book, this includes both the advance and any royalties you make from the sale of the book.

In all honesty, it can take years for an author to be picked up by a traditional publisher. It isn’t necessarily a fast process after you are picked up either. But, there are several advantages to traditional publishing, such as having the resources of a publishing company behind your book.

Self-Publishing

Self-publishing has taken the book world by storm over the past few decades. We are now living in a publishing market where self-published authors have the ability to do every bit as well as a traditionally published author and have their books be every bit as popular. What many authors see as the appeal of self-publishing is that they own all the rights to their book. The authors can make whatever choices they want (almost), and they are in charge of every step of the process.

This could be a good or a bad thing depending on how you see it. On one hand, you could be saying, “Awesome! I’m going to do everything the way I want!” Or, you may be thinking, “Wait, so you mean I have to facilitate and manage everything?”

There are a few common ways to self-publish, and I’ve actually been involved in all of them.

Self-Publishing Company

The first option is to self-publish your book through a self-publishing company. In this situation, you pay the company, and their people facilitate everything to put your book together. But, for these companies, their work stops when the book is published. They don’t usually offer advertisement, promotion, or editing with their general packages. Often, you have to ask for these additional services and have to pay more than the general publishing package. These services are often very limited. For these companies, usually every service is optional or added on; even editing is not considered essential.

Hybrid Publishing Company

The second path is a hybrid publishing company. Hybrid publishing is an interesting concept that has developed more over the past ten years. With hybrid publishing, the company you work with takes control to an extent, much like a traditional publishing company would; they give you advice based on their expertise in the publishing industry. But, you foot the bill for the work. They will arrange for editors, proofreaders, designers, typesetters—all of it. They will make sure everyone gets paid and that your book becomes incredible. They even have copies of your book printed for you and assist in some of the advertising.

Self-Publishing by Yourself

Third is to self-publish your book by yourself. This is totally an option. There are some incredible authors who have become bestsellers through coordinating the self-publishing of their book on their own. To do this, you will have to coordinate all of your own freelancers—editors, designers, typesetters, and marketers—and you will have to keep yourself motivated to keep moving forward. You’re in charge of the process, you set your own timeline, and you get the last say in everything.

Because this is a process you do mostly on your own, you have to find the right people and figure out what it is you need to ask for and what it is you need to do and when. It is a very learning-heavy process (at least the first few times), but as you better understand what you are doing and discover good people to work with, it won’t be as hard to follow the process.

The one thing that holds true in every option of self-publishing is that you have to be willing to invest in your book. If you’re willing to invest in good services to create a show-stopping book much like a publisher would, you’ll see a return on your investment. Plus, you will have an amazing book that you are proud of and readers will love.

Should I Self-Publish or Traditionally Publish?

This is the original question that inspired this blog post. The hard part about answering this question is that it truly depends on each author and what they want for their book. It’s not a decision that someone else can make for you because they are two very difference courses of action.

If you choose to traditionally publish your book, you also need to be ready to invest your time and effort into getting your book out there. You will have to write so many query letters and reach out to so many people. But, you can’t let any rejection letters you get deter you. If you believe in your novel, you need to keep moving forward and keep submitting your queries to literary agents and publishers until someone is interested in your book. The desire to have your book published has to be your primary motivator to keep moving past any rejection you may receive.

One fact to consider is that the romance genre has moved very firmly into the world of self-publishing. Most of the romance novels published in a year are self-published. It is very possible to be successful as a self-published author, and there is also the possibility to make more money at it if you are willing to put in the work to make it happen. It is important to remember that you will have to invest time and money into your book to make it a success.

No matter which path you choose, believing in your book and in yourself is what you most need to do. If you believe in your romance novel, and you are willing to put in the work, there is nothing that can stop you from having a successful novel.

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