Traditional Publishing or Self-Publishing?

traditional publishing

Traditional, self or hybrid. What works best for you?


I’m often asked about the pros and cons of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing. There’s hybrid publishing as well. So what does each entail? Here’s the short overview of what to expect.

Check out this link on Reedsyblog for a longer explanation.

Traditional publishing

First, lets talk about traditional publishing. It involves seeking a literary agent who will pitch your book to a reputable publisher.  The top publishers do not accept unagented manuscripts. This means you must find a literary agent who believes in your book and agrees to represent you. This involves researching who is accepting submissions in your genre, crafting query letters, and making sure your book synopsis really hits the high notes. The agent then contacts various publishers with the goal of landing a contract.

  • You, the author, pay the literary agent nothing out-of-pocket. Nada. Zip. Zilch.
  • Instead, an agent gets a standard commission, meaning a percentage of your advance on sales (what you are paid upfront by the publisher). The cut is usually 15%.
  • Agents also generally take 20% of your overseas sales, and 20% on film and TV rights.
  • In order for an agent to be successful, they need a good manuscript to pitch. This is why most authors hire a book editor for basic copy editing, or more robust editing based on the needs of the book. It’s an investment that can pay off… IF you want to impress an agent.
  • Traditional publishing can take a long time. Finding a willing agent who, in turn, finds a willing publisher can takes months or even a year (or longer).
  • Usually, you relinquish some control when the publisher takes over. Your content may be re-edited. Your book cover design, ISBN, bar code, back cover blurb, and even the details on your Amazon listing may be created by the publisher.
  • The publisher wants your book to sell and will market it, but will also expect you to help. You should have a Facebook, Twitter and Instagram following as basic platforms to promote your book. You should also participate in virtual blog tours, book signings, podcasts, interviews and any other opportunity to publicize your book.


What if you can’t find a literary agent willing to represent you? Or, what if you are fed up with the waiting process and want to take matters into your own hand? Well, self-publishing is exactly that — taking charge of your book’s publication. You can format your book yourself (usually at a 6×9 trim), design the book cover, upload it to Amazon with your own listing description, and market it by yourself.

FREEDOM! Or, maybe not. The downsides to self-publishing are listed below.

  • There is no advance on sales.
  • The formatting stuff may sound like Greek, especially for the less tech savvy among us.
  • You may have no idea how design a book cover.
  • So, you have to hire contractors — a book formatter and a graphic designer — to do it for you. Their work is usually white-labeled, meaning their names don’t appear anywhere in the book.

And… There’s Also Hybrid Publishing

Honestly, hybrid publishing is still a rather new phenomenon, sort of a cross between traditional and self-publishing. Hybrid publishers come in all shapes and sizes and operate with a revenue model that certainly differs from traditional publishing. It’s basically a service that may or may not pay you an advance on sales. In fact, you generally have to pay the service to do everything for you.

  • You don’t need a literary agent to work with a hybrid publisher.
  • The hybrid publisher may offer editing services for a fee, but your book should already be edited before you endeavor to get it on the market.
  • The hybrid publisher attends to your formatting and design for both e-book and print.
  • There is no white labeling at all — you have a “publishing house” attached to your book
  • The hybrid publisher might pay you royalties, but probably not.
  • They hybrid publisher should help promote your book, but again, you are expected to do a lot of self-marketing.

Have Questions? Let’s Collaborate.

Please contact me at  to discuss your book project. I’ll do my best to answer your questions and work elbow-to-elbow as we get your book written and edited.