Self publishing is extremely popular these days.  And why not!  It is easy, affordable, accessible, and sometimes the only way for a struggling writer to get published.  However, the easiest route may not be your best option.  Sometimes traditional publishing makes more sense.

In this post I want to describe some of the main differences between publishing the traditional way and publishing yourself.  Let’s start with self-publishing.

When you self-publish, all of the responsibilities of what goes into making a book falls on you, the writer. In practical terms this means cost.  As the self-publisher you have to pay all the expenses upfront.  What are they.  At the very least you need to pay for for an editor, cover designer, and formatter.

You can’t skip these steps if you want to take your career as a self-publisher seriously.  You’ll need these collaborators if you want to give yourself a decent chance to succeed as a self-published author.

If you are the kind of person that needs control every part of the book-making process, then self-publishing might be a good choice for you.



Another thing to consider is distribution.  Distribution is very different with self-publishing. Your chances of seeing your book in print in a bookstore like Barnes & Noble are pretty close to zero if you self-publish. There’s a good chance, however, that you will be able to see your book at major online retailers like Amazon and Barnes &

There is also the print-on-demand distribution option.  The two biggest key POD distributors for this method are:



When it comes to getting paid for what you have written, you’ll make more per unit as a self-publisher.  It will also come to quicker than it would as a traditionally published author.  Keep in mind I am referring to a per unit, or book, basis.  Just because you make more per book as a self-published author doesn’t mean you will make a lot of money.  Remember there are thousands of self-published books that don’t even sell a hundred copies.

You do however get royalty checks faster.  Sometimes you can get them money, or at the very least you get them more often than traditionally published authors do.



Almost every great idea lives or dies based upon the strength of its marketing.  When you self-publish all the promotion and marketing is on you.

There are several ways a sef-published author can market their books.  Some of more popular promotion efforts include:

Facebook Ads: A minimum budget of $500 should be planned.

Google Adwords:  Again, plan on a minimum of $500 for your Adwords campaign

Print media:  At least $1000.

Professional book marketing services:  A reputable firm’s fee will start around $2o00.

Another thing to keep in mind is that there is a stigma associated with self-publishing.  It is unfair and says nothing about the quality of writing, but, dealing with the stigma is part of being a self-published author.



When you’re a traditionally published author, you do not pay anything upfront.  In fact, the publisher pays *you* to publish your book. Unless you hire a freelance editor on your own, you shouldn’t pay anything upfront as a traditionally published author.

Ahh, the dreams of the big advance!

There are publishers out there who are called vanity publishers.  This is a bit of twist on traditional publishing.  Vanity publishers  take money from authors in order to publish their book.  They are largely considered scams in the publishing community, so proceed at your own risk.


Similar to self-publishing, with a couple exceptions, when you traditionally publish, most of the marketing and promotion will be on you. How much promotion you get from the publisher really varies publisher to publisher, and book to book.

You will likely get your book promoted in social media, at book expos, and maybe print advertisements.

When you traditionally publish, you have less control over what happens in the book-making process outside of the words that end up on the page. This might be a good option for you if you want to focus on the writing itself and not have to worry about the other details.

Traditional publishers have a whole team behind you and your book. You have a team for distribution, a team for marketing, a team for creating the physical book itself, a team for the words.  You may also have an agent who will help you with your career.  In the traditional publishing route you have a lot of people who are all invested and doing the best that they can to make sure that your book and your career succeeds.

One perk of traditional publishing — if your writer’s ego needs it — is you have a much higher chance of seeing your book in a bricks and mortar bookstore.  If your dream is to walk into a Barnes & Noble and see your book on display, then traditional publishing is the way to do.



The downside in traditional publishing is the pay isn’t that good.  Author pay is super unpredictable.  Most authors have no idea what their royalty checks are going to look like until they show up, and we have no idea what advances we’re going to get until an offer is made.  It is nice to have some money coming in, but it makes budgeting really difficult.

There are authors who do both and they’re known as hybrid authors.  A word of caution, however.  Before you dive into that, you want make sure you know the publishing industry really well.  This kind of publishing has to be done strategically.


Self-publishing or traditional publishing —  one is not better than the other.  It really just depends on what you as an author want to get out of your writing career.  Whatever choice you decide to go with, if it makes you happy with your career, then it’s the right choice for you.


Tell us about your publishing experiences below

    5 replies to "Is Self Publishing For You?"

    • Jay Kaushal

      This was hugely helpful. Nice article!

      • Jon Pennington

        Glad it was helpful! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    • Gary Miller

      As I always tell folks: The great thing about self=publishing is that anyone can get published. The worst thing about self-publishing is that anyone can get published. Your article does a great job of highlighting the most important aspects of the publishing world. Unfortunately, too many folks feel that once their book is published the work is over and the money starts rolling in. In reality, that’s when the real work begins. Even with traditional publishing through major publishing houses, authors still need to market their product. Publishers don’t like to retain authors who have no marketing plan. I don’t believe that self-publishing carries the same stigma it once did and can be a lucrative path to follow. Either way–traditional or self-published–the most difficult and time-consuming work begins when an author’s final draft receives a cover and ISBN. Thanks for your article.

      • Jon Pennington

        Gary, Thanks for the insight and taking the time to share with us. Book promotion is the most time consuming and difficult part of self-publishing. This is especially true if the author has no real marketing experience and is trying to do it alone.

      • Alexandra Ispas

        I feel that your comment about the real challenge only starting after getting published is quite interesting, and now that I think of it, I might just be starting to relate. Being self-published is undoubtedly a tough task and I can’t say I’ve done any progress so far, but I’m still aspiring to become a writer one day so I won’t give up! Either way, this article sure is helpful, I enjoyed reading it.

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