Home » Self-Publishing » Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing, Pros and Cons

Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing, Pros and Cons

31 January 2013

From The Huffington Post:

Publishing, no matter which path you choose, can be rewarding and equally difficult. Deciding which way to go has become increasingly more complicated with the pros of the traditional publisher being scaled down to match the pros of self-publishing in today’s evolving market.
Weigh your options. For some writers, there is only one way. For others, the pros and cons of both paths complicate the decision. There are risks and rewards choosing either, but knowing the process might help you decide what is right for you and your manuscript.

Traditional Publisher:


  • Your novel has a better chance of being available in bookstores
  • Editing and cover art is handled by the publisher
  • You are guided through the process from manuscript to publication by an editor
  • Some blogs only review traditionally published books on their site


  • You exchange control for the pros and prestige of being with a publisher
  • Contracts — may cost money to hire a lawyer to negotiate
  • The pricing of your book is determined by the publisher
  • Luck

. . . .



  • Full control of your manuscript from writing to novel form
  • Ability to set the pricing controls and to adjust to the market as it fluctuates
  • Playing a part of the creative process of cover design and marketing
  • Largest royalty percentage available for an author


  • All marketing is on you as the author
  • Personal financial investment
  • Responsible for distribution of your novel online through ebooks and/or print editions
  • Luck

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post


16 Comments to “Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing, Pros and Cons”

  1. I had to laugh at the first commenter. Is that filter the same filter that gave Snooki a book deal? Is the sea of crap he refers to include the best seller lists that are crawling with self-published works? The ignorance of some is both sad and laughable at the same time.

    At least he chose his name well; Nimrod indeed.

    • I was thinking the same thing about his name! lol! I was going to respond to him, but I didn’t take the bait. I’m rather proud of myself for that. Instead of getting angry, I’ll just smile every time I get a sale or a reader sends me an email–oh yeah, and grin like a fiend when I get those monthly remittance notices. 🙂 Guys like him can say whatever they want.
      ETA: While I was writing the above, I sold a few books. I feel like sticking my thumbs in my ears and flapping my hands. Neener! Neener!

      Ahem. But I won’t. 😉

    • For some reason, I can’t see the comments. Bummer, they sound fun.

  2. Nice touch with “luck” being a Con on both sides. Truth!

  3. One big pro left out from the self-pub side: you keep your rights to your work. Speed to publishing is another. It takes two years or more to see your book on the shelf once a sale is made. And how many months of submitting before the sale is made? Self-pub, it takes the time you determine it takes.

    HuffPo is doing a lot of guest blogging on indie publishing. I wonder if the exposure turns into sales for the bloggers’ books.

    • Does the blogger have books? I didn’t notice. I actually didn’t have a problem with the blog post. The blogger presented both sides fairly and each author can read and decide what is right for them. I just wanted to clarify that, because my post above was in response to a comment on the blog, not the actual blog post itself.

      • I was aiming my comment at the first commenter (Nimrod!)as well. I actually liked the post itself.

        I didn’t check to see if the blogger had books out or not as you never really know. I blog and have three books out under my real name, but that’s only a fraction of what I have published.

        Secret identities are awesome.

  4. I don’t mind the pro/con list, save for: “Personal financial investment.”


    POSSIBLE financial investment? Maybe. I recently invested $15 in a new cover for my first novel, bringing the grand total of my investment up to … $15. That’s after two years and a couple grand in profit, and it carries a 4.6/5 across the internet.

    I guess some people do spend a lot, but I’d bet those are mostly the PublishAmerica types.

    I dunno … this is such a peeve of mine.

    Edited to add: I guess I don’t mind mentioning a possible investment, but the phrasing and context makes it sound like you have to spend some serious cash to get your book out there.

    Okay, now I’m done.

    • Agreed. I also REALLY wish people who have never been published traditionally would quit thinking that publishers will do all the marketing for their authors. So untrue.

    • You don’t HAVE to spend a lot to publish, but I have invested some for outside help. Several hundred for a cover designer – I’m very happy with it – several hundred for proofreading and formatting. Before that, I paid an editor to look at it on a story level. It wasn’t a fortune, but I wouldn’t have done it without pro help. As for the “marketing,” I plan to spend nothing but time. I never expected a tradpub house to spend a dime on that.

    • It’s not just the PublishAmerica types who spend a lot on their books. I did some googling recently on editors and cover designers selling to the self-pub market. Most of the editors wanted nearly $2000 for a 100k word book (I used 100k words in my pricing as it seems to be the average sized sci-fi/fantasy novel length), and the designers wanted nearly $200, sometimes more, for an ebook cover.

      I can’t see myself ever paying that much. So, I’ll stick to doing my covers myself, and getting a friend who was an english major to edit my stories in exchange for getting credit.

    • I’ve spent a few hundred bucks directly on my self-published work so far — largely for software, plus a bit for hosting and doodads to build a half-decent website, and the fees to register my business name as a sole proprietorship (that’s ‘DBA’ in American). I have hitherto got cover art by bartering with an artist friend, but she has fallen on harder times and now requires payment in cash; so that will be an added expense.

      However, if I followed the stock advice to hire professional content editors, professional copyeditors, professional proofreaders, and professionally professional professionators to knock the other professionals’ heads together, I’d be into this for several thousand dollars that I have not got; and I do not believe it would have earned me a single extra sale. I have my own idiosyncratic methods of getting such work done in exchange for elbow grease and favours, which probably wouldn’t work for most people, but are good enough for me to get by on while I can’t afford to do them properly.

  5. I think the point overlooked is that a pro-and-con list of this sort is useful, but it has to be INDIVIDUAL, like every other choice and decision in a writing career.

    Is the author’s advance $5K or $100K? Is most of this author’s audience reading ebooks or print books or audiobooks, or what is the split? Is this publisher’s packaging for this author tremendous (ex. an award-winning cover artist whose work gets readers unfamiliar with your work to pick up the book and look at it?) or mediocre or awful? Is this publisher offering/providing substantial market support? Is this a great editorial team the author likes working with or wants to work with? Are the negotiations over rights and percentages reasonable or egregious in this deal? What are the author’s personal circumstances (mortgage to pay? kids to put through college? day job covering most expenses? lots of time? very limited time?). How much material does the author have in the market already, how’s it doing, what market (traditional or self-publishing) is it in?

    There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer because every individual writer’s situation, needs, goals, preferences, and opportunities are different, and there’s a very wide range of publishing relatinships and arrangements and deals out there. In the real world, there’s no such thing as a reliable, monolithic list of what Every Author will/won’t get in a deal or relationship with a publisher, nor a reliable/monolithic list of what will/won’t happen in a self-publising venture, nor a reliable one-size-fits-all description of what Every Author needs, wants, prefers, or has on the table.

  6. I imagine the author of this article is well-intended. I think she is published both ways. But, unfortunately, I have to say, this article really bugged me.

    The most current tactic in these types of articles is to make each path look viable. And then boil it down to the personality of the writer, making a subtle slur against the indie writer. Here is how this one does it:

    “Are you a control fiend who loves the challenge and the business side of publishing? Or, are you someone who wants to write and leave the other responsibilities to a team?”

    In other words, a control fiend will publish indie, and someone who really only “wants to write” will publish traditionally.

    That completely misrepresents the reality of the situation. You do NOT have to be a control freak to go indie, and you will NOT be allowed to only write if you go trad.

    In addition, it is really bothering me that they keep talking up how much money you have to invest if you go indie. Actually, the costs can be very low.

    But what really bothers me about all of this, is it completely gives up ghost. There is nothing in here about how much the trad. publishing path offers writers peanut royalty rates and treats them like dirt.

    I’m afraid I don’t see both paths as equal. I see one as explotative, and one as independent. And I think articles like this – that pretend to be balanced – are hiding the fact that trad. publishing is NOT a good path for any writer, unless possibly, it is print only (something the article doesn’t mention). And even then, check that contract carefully.

    • …there’s something wrong with being a control fiend? O_o

      Editing and cover art is handled by the publisher

      *moves “cover art is handled by the publisher” to the Cons side of the ledger*

      There, fixed that for everyone.

  7. Is it me, or does this veiled trashing of indie-pub actually make it sound better? I’m sorry, but every “pro” for the traditional side sounds like a “con”. As for the actual “con’s”, I also think they missed a few dozen.

    And every “con” for indie-pub is, in any other private business veture, your bare bones, minimum responsibilitites.

    We can spend hours taking this apart, but my favorite “con for the traditional side:

    “Contracts — may cost money to hire a lawyer to negotiate”

    Yeah. LOTS. Like, every time you request changes and it comes back and the only actual change were that the no-compete you refuse to accept was moved and worded differently someplace else in the 50 pages of double sided, legal sized, bible print.

    And it costs you big lawyer bucks to find it each time. KKR had a huge post on how this is becoming rampant now that writers are a little bit more clause saavy because of former print authors finally being able to spill the beans.

    Just sayin’.

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