Traditional publishing VS Self-publishing: Let’s get ready to rumble!


Image: Pixabay


After yesterday’s post about the premature self-publisher, I was mulling over the whole Self-pub VS Traditional publisher debate.

I’ve so far been put off self-pub because tech is not my thing. When I began this blog, I had to take WordPress Blogging 101 just so I knew what a widget was and – don’t laugh – I’ve only just recently learned how to included YouTube videos in my posts.

Yeah, I know, I’m lame. But please remember when I was growing up, computers were only just appearing in the classroom, and they still had those snazzy orange-tinged screens. Pong was cutting edge back then, so I don’t think I’m doing too badly.

Anyway, let’s decide this thing once and for all. 

In the Blue corner, several hundred years old and weighing in at a trim 150 pounds, the Leviathan of Literature, the Maestro of the Metaphor,

Traditional Publishing!

And in the Red corner, less than 20 years old and touching 155 pounds, the New kid on the Printing Block, the Nipper of the Novel, iiiiiitsss


Let’s get ready to rumblllllle!

SELF-PUBLISHING pros and cons

Control ‒ the author has total control over content, cover design, layout. All pros, especially for many who don’t fall into prescribe genres or writing styles. But also a con if the author has poor judgement on cover design (we’ve all seen those covers that scream SELF PUBLISHED – image and font picked out of a hat). It also means they don’t have a professional proof reader or editor on hand to guide them – though these skills can be bought independently.

Tech savvy rating ‒ the author has to be able to upload, format, add photographs if necessary. A skill some of us struggle with, nay flee from screaming / have nightmares over involving man-sized homicidal novels trying to give us lethal paper cuts because we got their formatting wrong.

Marketing ‒ to sell any books at all, the author has to develop their own marketing strategy, set up their own interviews, contact the press etc etc. Without good planning and a thorough strategy planned in advance, the book can sink without trace into the sludgy waters of the Self-Pub Swamp.

Money – any earnings go directly to the author (after publishing costs  and tax have been deducted, of course). Though if sensible, you’ll pay for editorial services and a cover artist. No 10% to agents – no publisher’s cut. Of course, the book may be more difficult to promote without a publisher behind it, so may sell less than if produced conventionally. 100% of nothing is still nothing.


Control – although the author can have input over cover design, the final say will no doubt be from the publisher. But they’re the professionals so should know what sells ‒ a good cover should boost your sales. There will be more editorial input re contents and if your novel seems hard to market (perhaps it straddles genres or is unconventional in other ways) you may not be picked up by a publisher at all, no matter how good the writing. You will have a team working on your side, proofing, editing – though we’ve all read conventionally produced books which contain errors or could’ve done with a few hundred words fewer, so even the professionals aren’t infallible.

Tech savvy rating – zero, as other people do it all for you.

Marketing – you’d think having a big publisher behind you would lessen the authors marketing load. This is not really the case these days as writers are expected to promote their books to the same extent self-pubbed writers do. However, there are occasions (see Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist), where publishers see the product as a potential big hitter and will throw a substantial advertising budget behind it. And it still seems the case that you’re more likely to get your book in bookshops if you’re traditionally published.

Money – you’ll have an advance and only begin to earn extra money on top once (if) you sell enough copies to cover that. If you have a 10% cut of sales and your agent takes 10% of that … you can see there may not be much left to play with.

So, the result?

It’s a close run thing – no knock outs. This bout will have to be decided on points.

I think if you’re confident in your own IT skills and have the energy, ability and imagination to promote yourself, if your editorial skills are top notch or you can pay to have a professional do it for you – then self-publish. And as my last post proved, you may start off self-published and could snag a conventional deal anyway if you make a big enough splash.

If you’re not confident in all of these things, need the validation that comes with a book deal and have a carapace of steel that can cope with a ton of rejection – try the old fashioned route. But still be prepared to do your own marketing and if the continued rejection gets you down, there’s always Kindle Direct Publishing.

Bout result – an honourable tie.


What do you think? What’s your experience? What pros / cons have I missed?


20 thoughts on “Traditional publishing VS Self-publishing: Let’s get ready to rumble!

  1. Self-publishing sounds too scary to me, but I didn’t know writers are supposed to market themselves these days. It would seem I’m too wrapped up in my little world to have any idea of what’s happening around me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not at all – not something anyone would be expected to know unless they’re looking to publish a novel. It’s a sad fact that even if you’re conventionally published, you often have next to no marketing budget spent on your book – that’s why publishers like writers to have built up their own online community before publication. Marketing is time most of us would wish to spend writing the next book, though 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Never a truer word spoken – I’m pretty open when I get to know people, but it’s certainly the case that I’ve shared some stuff online I some people I know ‘in the flesh’ don’t know. Nothing that scandalous, but still …

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think I get the gist of that eccentrically edited message…
        I definately communicate in a different way to friends online – we tend to share the same interests and understanding of life. i suppose because we have so many people to choose from, we find those with whom we gel on a different level.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. That’s true. We migrate to people who see the world as we do. Sorry if my point was difficult to understand – must have been losing my marbles as I typed 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Haha! Love the idea of a physical embodiment of your sanity. ‘Don’t knock Nana’s marbles over or she’ll be thinking she’s Queen Victoria again.’ Might have to steal that idea, Jane 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      5. You just gave me the first belly-laugh of the day. Thanks for that.
        Go ahead and steal the idea – you’ll do something good with it.
        I’m still laughing about Nana’s marbles.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Ah, bless Nana – at least she knows where her marbles are, which is more than can be said for some of us. 🙂 Thanks for being so generous with your ideas – if I write a short story about it, you’ll definitely have a dedication 🙂


      7. Never mind the dedication, just write the story.
        I had marbles until a couple of years ago, but I gave them away. They didn’t do a lot for the person who took them…

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Haha! Yes, I’m sure you’re right that there’s a link between the ubiquity of the net and publishers handing over the marketing reigns to authors. As book sales have dipped, publishers saw an area where they could cut back on expenditure I suppose.
        I’m sure dear Jane Austen never had this trouble – was she expected to hand out flyers to push Pride and Prejudice? Bookmarks advertising Persuasion? Saying that, Dickens did a lot of his own promotion – a ton of reading tours here and abroad, so maybe it’s not that new a phenomenon. I feel a blog post coming on that very subject …

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Jane Austin was a very private woman who preferred not to be recognised, but at that time it was considered “not quite nice, my dear” to be a female author.
        I’m drummimg my fingers on the desk, waiting for that post…

        Liked by 1 person

      10. Yes, maybe that was the difference – maybe if she’d been make, she would have trod the boards as Dickens did. Though he loved performing as much as he did acting – if he’d been a better actor, I suspect he would have thrown himself into that and we would have missed out on some classics.

        Liked by 1 person

      11. Absolutely. Much as he was patchy (and a little over sentimental for modern tastes) he was a brilliant storyteller. Can’t imagine a world without Oliver Twist, Scrooge etc

        Liked by 1 person

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