Help! Should I Self-publish Or Traditionally Publish My Book?

That’s the author’s biggest dilemma.  Will he or she self-publish or traditionally publish a book?  Here’s my comical way of looking at it.  Yes, there are a lot of details left out, but can you see my point?


The world is changing. Traditional publishing has its perks, but so does self-publishing.  The only way you’re going to find what works for you is by knowing what your goal is for your book.

*Do you dream of being found in every chain bookstore?

*Are you okay with giving control over your story to someone else?

*Are you okay with being paid smaller royalties for a little bit of marketing assistance?

Then traditional publishing is probably for you.

But remember, it’s a dog eat dog world out there (pardon the cliche) wherever you end up.

And even if you do get a traditional contract, you will have to market yourself.  Publishers offer less and less of that these days.

My advice?  If you’re going to accept a traditional contract, accept one only from the Big 5.  (In my opinion, nothing else is worthy of your book baby.)


Now, what if you aren’t okay with surrendering control of your book?

*Do you want to be able to choose your cover?

*Do you want to make sure you have an editor who works well with you?

*Do you want to be in charge of, well, EVERYTHING?

Then self-publishing is for you.

Check out this list of pros and cons of self-publishing from Book Marketing Tools:

The Pros

*You have creative and scheduling control of your book from cover to cover and from manuscript to market.

*You are not dependent on a publisher who is juggling other projects so you can get your book to market much more quickly than most publishers can.

*You can control who you target and how you reach them in your marketing and have full control of your marketing message.

*You have the ability to work with editors, proofers, designers, etc. you choose instead of having them assigned to you by a publisher.

*You have the possibility of a much larger return on your publishing investment since you keep 70-100% of sales rather than get a 15% royalty.

*You don’t need to seek and pay an agent.

The Cons

*Because a lot of not-so-inspiring material has been self-published (along with some excellent stuff by established authors) it’s an uphill battle to gain the credibility your work deserves and which automatically comes from being published by a major publishing house. It can be done but it is far from automatic.

*Since you do not have an agent, you do not have any of the representation and advocacy that agents typically supply.

*You need to develop and master the skills (or hire those who have them) for cover design, editing, proofing, EBook formatting, print design, printing and all the others processes that publishers typically handle.

*You do not have a network of distribution channels that traditional publishers have and use.

*You have to pay up front for publishing costs with no guarantee of recouping your expenses in a timely fashion.


But what about the pros and cons of traditional publishing?

Here’s a list from Writer’s Digest:


*Wide distribution and more exposure

*Most offer an advance, sometimes a large one

*They do the editing, formatting, cover art

*Marketing power


*Take six to eighteen months before publication

*Price ebooks waaaaaay too high

*They have power over cover art and title

*Don’t use the marketing power they wield effectively

*Pay royalties twice a year

*Don’t involve you in many of the decisions regarding your book

*Difficult to implement changes

*Lousy royalty rates, between 6% and 25%

*Very hard to break into


Now that you’re up to speed on some of the details of both self and traditional publishing, ask yourself – What do I want?

For me, I answered like this.  I want to have control over my books so I can make them look and feel like I imagine.  I want to have higher royalties.  Since I’m controlling the majority of my marketing anyway, I’m willing to commit to this for the long haul.

I decided to self-publish because it is a good fit for my writing goals in this moment.


That doesn’t mean I’d reject a publishing contract from the Big 5.

But I did recently reject a publishing offer from Solstice Publishing.  After reading through the contract I was offered, I decided the only boost they could give me was a little extra marketing.

To me, that wasn’t worth surrendering to a cover I had no control over, signing away my ebook, audio book (even though there was no intention to make an audio book by this publisher), and print rights for three years (!!! – one year is enough…), taking about a 10% royalty from a sale, and having no say in the product price all in exchange for a tiny bit of marketing.

My book would’ve been published through Createspace with that publisher. That’s exactly what I could have done for myself and chosen my own cover, price, and a 70% royalty. Yes, it’s a little more work on my end, but to me, that’s worth it.


If you’ve got a business brain and you’re ready to jump into publishing for the long haul, I think you’re much better off to do the hard work and jump into self-publishing.

But remember that no matter what you choose now, you can always change it up later.

Don’t let the fear of failing stop you from publishing.  Just because you self-publish your first book doesn’t mean you can’t traditionally publish your next one, or vice versa.

Maybe you take up an ebook to print contract (a publisher releases your ebook first and depending on how well that does, you get a print book later).

Maybe you pay a small publisher to release your book for you and if you sell a certain number of copies, they give you a traditional contract later.

Maybe you found an agent and they sold it to a publisher for you.

My point is…

Yes, there will be roadblocks.  There may even be times when you want to quit.  But if you stay strong and don’t give up, you can make a career for yourself with your writing.

Here’s some extra research you can do on having a writing career.  It can be done! I promise.

The Best Way To Begin A Writing Career By Jeff Goins

Designing Your Writing Career By Holly Lisle

How To Write A Best-Selling Book This Year By Four Hour Work Week

Marketing Your First Book by Joanna Penn

Why Building An Email List Is Essential For Authors By The Book Designer

Five Tips To Starting A Freelance Writing Career By Entreprenuers-Journey


  • Great comments. I’ve done both, and I agree with your comments about either style of publishing. For me, Indie is the way to go right now, but…I learned a lot from my first publisher. And yes, if a big-five pub came knocking on my door, I’d sign, simply so I’d have a little more time to write and socialize with my avid-reading friends. Doing everything you mentioned to self-publish a book — the right way — is A LOT of work. 🙂

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