Self-publishing vs traditional publishing

When it comes to publishing a book, there are many things to consider; the main being whether you choose to self-publish your book, or invest in traditional publishing.

The method of choice is dependent on your personal requirements:

  • How soon do you need your book to be published?
  • How much control do you want over the publishing process?
  • How much money do you want to spend and make?

Traditional publishing

Traditional publishing involves finding a publishing agent who is willing to publish your book. You usually have to shop around to find the right fit, and then the publishing agent has to do the same. Sometimes, you are given a book advance towards your book before it’s been published. But typically, you don’t get paid until your book has sold enough copies to recover the costs to produce the book in the first place. This is known as royalties, and typically range between 7-15%.

Pros of traditional publishing

Brings higher esteem

With traditional publishing comes greater respect. If you have succeeded in being signed by a book publisher, people will believe your book is worthy of being read, further increasing your reputation and validation as an author. 

Leave it to the professionals

The service of a traditional printer involves editing, proofreading, designing, printing and distributing the book. They also take care of any editorial reviews and book signing, allowing you as the author to focus on the one thing you do best – write!

Nothing to pay

The publisher assumes responsibility for any book printing costs. You don’t need to pay to get it published and if your book doesn’t sell many copies, you don’t need to pay anything back either.

Cons of traditional publishing

Takes more time

This is especially true to new writers. It can take many goes at pitching your book to a publisher before someone agrees to print it. And then once you’ve found your publisher, it can take anywhere from one to two years before your book is published and available to purchase.

Limited creative control

By using a traditional publisher, there are more people involved in the creative aspects of your book, meaning you won’t have absolute control over how it is edited, what the cover design might be, or even the title!

Complicated contracts

Contracts tent to favour the publisher, so it’s important to be sure you have as many rights to your book(s) as possible. With the amount of information and fine print, it is usually wise to get a solicitor to check things over to ensure you have missed anything.

Lower royalty rates

As you don’t make anything until the publisher starts to see a profit, and because the money is split between you and the publisher, the royalty rates are generally lower in comparison to self-publishing.


Self-publishing allows authors to bypass the need for a publishing agent. They can get their book printed immediately, and still have it professionally edited and designed, but for a cost. Instead of royalties, self-publishing companies work on commission. Once agreed, you then get the rest of the monies, from as soon as your first book is sold!

Pros of self-publishing

Any book can be published, fast

Whether you’re a first-time author or have a niche genre that might be considered too risky for traditional publishing, your book is guaranteed to be published. Self-publishing can also be printed within a matter of days or weeks, rather than years.

Complete creative control

Even if you hire a professional editing service and book designer, you still have the final say of how it is presented. You get to decide how it looks, and the services you choose will help you create your vision.

Easier to adapt

Should you find your book isn’t working once it’s been printed; perhaps the title is off-putting or cover design isn’t enticing enough, or you’ve found some grammatical errors after print; you can make these changes quickly and get your book re-published in no time.

Longer shelf life

With traditional publishing, books tend to have a limited shelf life, as books are rotated and removed to make way for the latest publications. Whereas, with self-published books, you can control how long these are available for online after they’ve been published.   

Cons of self-publishing

You have sole responsibility

With more autonomy comes greater responsibility. Without a designated publisher you are in charge of everything; from publishing on multiple platforms, to soliciting reviews, to raising awareness and driving traffic to your book. Some authors enjoy and want this level of control but it can be a burden for others.

Pay for services

You no longer have the comfort of a traditional published paying for editors and book designers, so you will need to ensure you have the money to pay for them.

Less time writing

By self-publishing your book, you are becoming much more than an author. Your responsibilities now involve everything you would usually leave to a designated publisher, meaning you have less time to write. Especially if you are new to the world of publishing, you can expect to spend more time on this stuff, so make sure you are prepared.

Bookshops won’t stock your book

Without the connections of a traditional publisher and the offer or book returns, bookshops are very unlikely to agree to stock your book. You will find you are better selling online. 

Self-publishing is the perfect choice if you want your content visible without delay. If you want more creative control and are willing to put in the hours and money to get your book published, and assume all responsibility for promoting it, self-publishing is for you. 

If you’re considering self-publishing, consider BookPrinting. We offer book printing for self-publishers and our dedicated team have a wealth of experience in the book production and publishing arena. We produce high quality books and provide assistance to publishers and authors so they can focus on what they do best. Whether you’re looking for a free bespoke estimate or some professional advice, contact us today and let us help you. Call us on 01525 621742 / 01525 621754 or email: