Self publishing vs traditional publishing

This post is all about self publishing vs traditional publishing and what exactly the differences are. Both routes have different things to say for them and both routes have their own pros and cons. No matter what route you’ll ultimately take, be sure to have educated yourself on exactly what you can expect! And if you’re just interested in learning the differences between self publishing and traditional publishing, this post will also provide you with useful information.

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Self publishing vs traditional publishing

Self publishing vs traditional publishing

So you’re interested in learning more about self publishing vs traditional publishing? This post will dive into what the differences are as well as the pros and cons for each option. Ultimately; whatever works best for you, is best for you. Every person is different, which results in every person walking their own path. There’s no bad choice, just as there’s no good choice. There’s only your choice. Let’s go!

Indie publishing vs traditional publishing: The difference

Self-publishing, also called Indie (independent) publishing, is the practice of publishing your own books. This means that you write, edit and fund your entire book. You hire the people you want to work on your book, cover or other aspects of the publishing process. You manage the timeline and you’re your own team – you are your only motivator. And you set the deadlines, but can also adjust them to your wishes. You are in control and you decide every single thing about your book!
Traditional publishing means publishing your book with an existing publisher. You’ll first need to be represented by a literary agent for this, in most cases. And not every literary agent will want to work with every author out there. When querying to agents, you go through a sort of first ‘audition’. But if you do land an agent, they will try to sell your book to publishers. Again, after getting an agent the publishing of your book is still not guaranteed. Trying to get your book published traditionally will never give you a guarantee of it becoming published. But, if you do get your foot in the door with a publishing company, the possibilities are boundless.

Is self-publishing worth it

Self-publishing vs traditional publishing pros and cons

This does not mean that the possibilities aren’t boundless for indie publishers, but with traditional publishing you already have a whole team of professional representatives for you book. Your book will have passed the judgement of people that want to publish your book. When you are the only person working on it, of course you believe in it. But that does not mean that booksellers, bookshops and other people will believe the same. Having a publishing company to back you up, will get your foot in the door more easily.
But again, nothing is impossible! Let’s discuss the differences and the pros and cons!

And a great book (pictured below) about writing and publishing your first book is ‘Your First Novel‘, which goes over both independent publishing as well as traditional publishing. It also has an amazing graph which can help you decide what route is best for you! Buy on Bookdepository, Amazon or

Self-publishing vs traditional publishing pros and cons

Self-publishing pros

+ You are in control of everything & get to choose with who you will work
+ Have a (very, very, very small) chance to picked up later by traditional publishing companies
+ Your book will definitely get published
+ You make more money per book

Self-publishing cons

– You are in control of everything, which may get a bit overwhelming from time to time.
– You pay for everything yourself.
– Need to work around the negative self-publishing stigma when working with book influencers, companies and getting your book into bookshops (which might be/seem impossible in a lot of cases).
– Probably can’t afford a printer right away, so start working with POD (print-on-demand) companies to produce your book. Which don’t have that many options.
– Harder to get into (big) book events and be taken seriously

Traditional publishing pros

+ No costs
+ You get an advance on your book when you sell, which means making money beforehand.
+ In-house people working on your books
+ More book printing options, like dust covers with metallic foil, etc. Art on the inside cover. (then if you’re working with a POD company as a self-published author)

Traditional publishing cons

– You sell your copyright in most cases, which means that your book now belongs to the publishing house. Nothing to be scared of, but you should be aware.
– You, in most cases, do not make the final decisions (book cover, story, etc.). But that also depends on the publisher you work with.
– You will still need to do marketing for your book yourself. The publishing company will probably not do it all for you.
– If a first book in a series doesn’t do well, your series might get cancelled (a.k.a. your series will not get published).
– No guarantee of being published

So, again, it all depends on your preferences! Look at what will fit you best.

Indie Author Laura Thalassa

Is self-publishing worth it?

Is self-publishing worth the cost? Worth the independence? Worth it when you want to make a living from your books and writing?
First of all, this all depends on the type of person you are. If you’re someone who thrives on creative freedom and flexibility, then I would say yes. And if you want to make a living off of your independent published books, you should also be someone with a knack for business – or at least someone who is willing and eager to learn about it or is interested in it. How your book will do out in the wild is all up to what you do to make your book great and promote it. It all comes down to how dedicated you are to make it a success. Because I believe that when you persevere, constantly practice your craft and are passionate about what you do – you can do absolutely anything you want.

Successful Indie author Laura Thalassa

An amazing and successful indie author is Laura Thalassa and her Rhapsodic (with over 50.000 Goodreads reviews!!) is often recommended if you liked the ACOTAR series by Sarah J. Maas! You can buy Rhapsodic on Bookdepository, Amazon and, if you want to see for yourself what a good indie author is like.

Why self publishing is bad

Why self publishing is bad and why it’s not

Self-publishing has such a ‘bad’ reputation because there are a lot of people who just publish their written work without putting much effort into it. Without paying professional editors, book cover designers, artist, etc., to try making their book as amazing as it could be. Because everyone can publish a book nowadays. There also are many indie authors who publish a book every two months or so – and it shows in a lot of cases. Of course, there’s fast releases (which we will get into another time), which is a marketing technique and doesn’t immediately mean actually putting that little time into the books. But there are also authors who really write, edit and publish their book in the span of 2-3 months. In most cases, the quality of the book will suffer. Which in turn lowers the expectations of the reader when it comes to self-published books. But this, thank goodness, is also changing. The entire industry is shifting and indie authors are taking on traditional publishing ways of doing things, but faster (and to be fair, trad publishing is really slow).


There are more and more indie authors who really want to make a living from their books and are succeeding.
You’re the person who cares most about your book – more than anyone in this world. It might make you feel really powerful to have full control of the reigns. It might make you feel powerless. This completely depends on the person holding the reigns and your preferences! I know that the #1 reason people go the self-publishing route is because of the control, not the money.

Indie publishing vs traditional publishing

Self publishing vs traditional publishing 2021

Self publishing vs traditional publishing in does look a little different than it used to. There are more authors (both indie and trad) deciding they want to go hybrid, which means they want to go both routes; indie and traditional – with different books of course. It seems that a mix of having control and being backed by a traditional publishing company seems an aspiration of many. This does seem like fun, as you’ll be able to view the process from all sides! Of course, you should include this in your contract – but your literary agent will help you with that.

Self publishing industry

There are also more fast releases in the self-publishing field, which means that you write the series first and then publish them all in the span of a few weeks/months (close together). Because people nowadays are used to social media, getting things with one click and having that instant gratification, readers are also morel likely to buy books in a series that is publishing fast. Because the concentration span and focus on a book series might be fleeting, it works really well to capture the readers attention for some time in a row by publishing fast.
Also more and more options become available in the printing-on-demand field. Although still expensive, it would be amazing to have the same options a traditional printing company has. You can print your own books after some time of course, but in the beginning this probably won’t be worth it.

The industry overall

All in all, the publishing industry as a whole really does focus on diversifying the books out there. Everyone that has a story to tell, should tell the story. Representation matters. Diversity matters. And above all, stories matter! Write the story that’s on your heart, not what’s hot in the market. In the end, people will only remember the stories that touched and amazed them.

Choose what’s best for you!

To finish off; choose the publishing route that is best for you. Don’t let fear or judgement decide your choices, but go with the route that speaks most to you! What are your goals, talents and skills? You got this! No matter what.

Lots of Love,

Britt van den Elzen

Hi! I’m Britt, a 20-something creative entrepreneur from the Netherlands. I’m passionate about all things magic and can often be found dreaming about fictional worlds. The greatest love of my life is storytelling and I’ve been reading and watching stories ever since I can remember. ✨

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