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?