I’ve been thinking a lot lately about self-publishing vs. traditional publishing. There are so many options out there these days, it can be tricky to wade through the possibilities.

Here are some of the pros and cons I’ve come up with so far. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Feel free to weigh in!




Even within the realm of self-publishing, there are dozens of options. You could technically just go on to Amazon, upload your own work for free, and announce it to the world. Voila. For virtually no monetary cost at all, you could be published.

Or, if you’re like me and aren’t super confident about your tech skills, you could hire someone with more experience to take care of the layout, etc. and get it all set up on Amazon for you. If this is your route of choice, there is a vast array of companies willing and available to assist, for a fee. Fees can range from $99 for basic services, to well over $3,000 for a more comprehensive package.

blog-hostingIf you are considering self-publishing, I recommend Fistbump Media as a great place to start. Click here for a description of what they have to offer.

Here are a few of the pros and cons of self-publishing. Again, please chip in your thoughts and experiences in the comments at the end of this post.

Pros of self-publishing:

– Author maintains control of content, title, and cover design of book

– Author does not give up any “rights” to an outside party

– Author keeps a higher percentage of royalties

Cons of self-publishing:

– Author has to pay up front costs before earning any royalties (such as hiring professionals to edit manuscript, design cover, format layout, market book, etc.)

– All responsibilities fall on author; author has to do all the “donkey work” of getting the book out there

– Author assesses quality and marketability of own work; does not always have prior stamp of approval from a professional team

– Marketing is limited to author’s resources; no large company assisting in this area

– Limited access to bookstores


Traditional Publishing

The world of traditional publishing is changing by the day, and I’m certainly no expert. I do know that very few publishing companies will accept work from anyone but a literary agent, and it’s tough to break into this very competitive market.

Pros of Traditional Publishing:

– Most publishing houses add clout to final product

– Team of professionals collaborate to make final product the best it can be

– Little to no upfront costs for author; possibility of an advance

– Greater access to bookstores


Cons of Traditional Publishing:

– Very difficult to land a contract

– Authors often lose control over content, title, cover design

– Lower royalties

– Marketing assistance is diminishing over time


That’s a brief summary of what I’ve come up with so far … what’s your opinion?



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13 thoughts on “pros and cons of self-publishing vs. traditional publishing

  1. We had our redbud retreat this past weekend and this was the title of one of the breakout sessions! (You see, you should be a redbud 😉 ) I didn’t attend the session, but did overhear some of the chitchat – that self-publishing doesn’t have the negative connotations that it used to and can be a great way to get your work out there. However, one definite pro to traditional publishing seems to be the wider distribution possibilities and, perhaps more importantly, the value of editors reading your work: not just one, but two or three or more professional editors refining your work. If you have good editors before self-publishing, that makes a big difference!

    • Totally agree, Bronwyn! Thanks for chipping in! And distribution is the word that just wouldn’t come to me as I was writing this post! 🙂 Grateful for your input, and hope you had an amazing time at the retreat!

  2. I think traditional publishing is probably best if it is possible for fiction. I have had known too many people who give up and self pub novels that are not ready. If I need to go that route I plan to hire plenty of help! Different levels of editors and a copy editor, cover designer, and all the things that make up a professional product. I think if you have previously gone the traditional route, then self pubbing won’t hurt you.
    I think the key is to be professional no matter which you decide to do.

  3. Hi, it is brave to self publish, but hard to get your foot in the door with traditional publishers. I loved how you outlined the pros and cons of each approach. Thanks for sharing on Literacy Musing Mondays.

  4. thank you for posting this 🙂 a friend and I are talking about writing a book together (we actually already have a good deal of the content) just today and this is helpful!

  5. Kate, these are some good basic points when considering the two sides of publishing. However, I would like to add a couple of “bewares” in regards to traditional publishing contracts. I have had three books of mine published by traditional publishers. In all three contracts, I have had my share of problems and disappointments. Now I’m talking about your small to medium size publishers, not your “big five” as they say. I’m sorry, but if you name is not Patterson, King or Grisham, you will not be contracting with one of the “Big Five”, and most likely will not receive an advance with most traditional publishers; they simply cannot afford to pay advances any longer. Secondly…, in regards to my dealing with traditional publishers, two out of the three did not, and I repeat, DID NOT edit my book. Beware of the contract that says, “We have the right to edit your book in print and electronic form.” Notice it said, “We have the right.” Yes, they have had had “the right”, but they did not “exercise that right.”
    One of them said they “go through an editing process.” Well, whatever that process was, it was not professional editing. When I got my manuscript back for a review, I did not see much editing at all. When I asked about it, the publisher said, “Your book was very clean, so it only needed a light proofreading.” I’m sorry but proofreading is not editing. What I am saying, is make sure that the contract states that they “will in fact” edit your book. Ask who the editor is and what experience they may have. It could be just a relative or someone in the company who is doing the editing; not a professional editor.
    One of the aspects of traditional publishing is marketing. This is an area that the “pro-traditional” advocates claim as one of the big advantages to self-publishing. I have found that aspect not to be true. One publisher made claims that they would do all this advertising and marketing, yet when it came down to it, they did very little. Another publisher said that they, “have many marketing options available to their authors.” Be careful of that verbiage in the contract. Notice it said, “Options available to their authors.” Well I found later, that you, the author, had to pay for those marketing options. One of those options was something called, “a book blast”. Meaning, they send out an announcement of your title to the different on-line retailers. However, it cost me $50.00 for this so-called book blast. Another marketing option available to me, was book reviews. My book would be made available for review which would be placed on a couple of websites or blogs. There was a fee for that program (I believe $40.00), plus the author had to pay for the book to be shipped out to the reviewer. Make sure these things are included in your contract without you having to pay a fee.
    From my experience, most of these marketing strategies do not work. In fact, the books I have self-published have made more sales than the books published through traditional publishers. Now if you decide to go with a traditional publisher, make sure of what you are actually getting in that contract. Don’t be afraid to negotiate, and ask questions before signing on the dotted line.
    Because these different scenarios came up in my experience with traditional publishers, I no longer go that route. I am not saying traditional publishing is bad, but you better make sure just what you are getting in that contract.
    The bottom line is this… If you are looking for that validation factor and are very diligent in negotiating all aspects of a traditional contract, then by all means go for it. But for me, better control, faster publishing time frames, no restrictive terms of contract, better royalties, and the satisfaction of creating the finished product, outweighs traditional publishing by far.
    Anyway…, that’s my two-cents worth on the subject.

    • Thanks so much for this very thoughtful and helpful comment! I appreciate your words of warning, and am so sorry that you’ve had such negative experiences! Good advice for many who are considering publishing. All of the best in your future writing and publishing endeavors.

    • Thanks so much for this comment – I’m in the trenches of weighing all the options and understanding all the verbage right now. This helped me understand what questions I need to ask on Thursday. Thank you Abbs and Kate!

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