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Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing – Part 1

Traditional publishing or self-publishing, which one do you choose? Well, that depends on what you want and what your budget is but there are some definite pros and cons to each one. So, let’s kick off with traditional publishing.

What is Traditional Publishing?

With traditional publishing, the publisher is the gateway for your audience and your very first port of call is the publisher. First, you find an agent and commission them to pitch your idea or book to a publisher. If you have luck on your side, a publisher will sign you up and send you an agreed book advance. After your book has been published and begins selling, you get royalties from each sale, usually between 7% and 15%. However, these royalty payments will only start when the publisher has recovered the money they sent you as an advance and if they don’t, you won’t get anything.


Being with a traditional publishing house can be prestigious and it is a kind of validation for your work. After all, if a publisher thinks your book is good enough to publish and is prepared to pay for it up front, then you must have done something right!

Traditional publishing doesn’t require any payments up front. The publisher takes the risk as far as publishing costs go and if your book doesn’t realize many sales, it's not your loss. You will never be asked to repay any of your book advance.

The publisher does everything. They provide the editor, the proofreader, book layout and cover designer. They look after the printing, warehousing and distribution side of things – it is down to them to make your book available for sale at the retailers, libraries and so on. They also take care of any editorial reviews, arrange book signings and so on, and having someone there to take all this work off you is a huge relief to some authors – less time on that means more time to write.

One of the biggest pros is that your book will appear in physical stores. Traditional publishers tend to have an excellent network for distribution and also offer a book return option so more stores are likely to stock your book, improving the potential for new readers to see it and buy it.


The biggest downside to traditional publishing is the time it takes. New authors tend to get many rejections before a publisher finally accepts them and, even after the deal is signed, it can take at least another year before the book hits the shelves.

You don’t have much control over the creative side such as the book cover, editing, and title either and the royalty rates are much lower than they are in self-publishing.

Contracts are very complicated and will always favor a publisher, not an author. Authors need to go over these very carefully, with a lawyer if necessary, to make sure that as much of the book rights remain with them and not the publisher.

That’s traditional publishing; head to part 2 for a look at self-publishing before you make your mind up.

Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Anne-Marie Reynolds