Traditional publishing vs Self publishing | Detailed Comparison

Getting a book published is a dream of every budding writers out there, the dream of writing a story so epic that millions of readers would buy it, love it, post reviews… which would result in a huge fan following is a not something to trifle with.

However, it is not that easy as it looks. You may have written something that would have been liked by your parents, relatives or friends but the same cannot be said for a publisher who is looking for the next best thing.

Take the example of J.K.Rowling, she had approached a lot of publishers but every single one of them declined it. It was the final publisher that saw some potential in it, decided to take a chance and the rest as you know is history – Harry Potter was born.

That brings us to the question – if someone like J.K.Rowling could face this kind of challenge, what can be said about us? Besides, take any bestselling author out there, have we ever heard of their names before they were published authors? No, they were and still are normal people like us, the only difference being that they earn a 100 times more than what we earn in a year.

So, to be a published author (of course, a best selling one too), what are the things that we should keep in mind before taking the plunge, that long journey from mind to paper.

Well, the first step is to approach a publisher and this post will explain about 2 types of publishers – Traditional and Self-publishing.

Traditional Publishing

They are like the judges of an Indian idol show looking for the next best thing or like Morpheus from the move ‘The Matrix’, looking for the ONE. Content is king for them and if they find even a single flaw or loophole, they wouldn’t think twice before rejecting it.

To have a traditional publisher accept your work is like winning an Oscar or a Nobel prize for they have seen something that even the God almighty would have not seen. I am not exaggerating, mind you, I am being serious. Take every bestseller out there and you will care to note that most of those books have been published by traditional publishers. If you are writing something, you have to be committed to it, be it serious about it for they have are going to take it even more seriously.


  • There is no cost incurred or investment required from your end. Your job is to write something amazing that will be favored by the publishers. If they like it, they were take care of everything right from editing, cover designing, marketing and promotion.
  • Very few traditionally published books have seen situations of less sales, so the odds of your book not touching break even point is less. You may not become a millionaire but be assured, you will get noticed.
  • Traditional publishers are always working hard in driving sales so they will do everything in their power to get your work recognized. They will hold book signing programs, interviews and may invite you to programs or functions to be introduced with other authors, big players and interested parties.
  • Quality of content is top priority and that is why traditionally published stories are always worth reading, however, it is hand of the writer that has created that story… so, how good is yours?


  • Remember J.K.Rowling, well, I am kind off wondering what all those publishers must be thinking now. I mean what were they thinking before rejecting a story like that? Never mind, coming back to us, if you are confident that your work is earth shattering enough, it won’t be rejected at the first go. However, if not, be ready for your mailbox to be crowded with rejection letters from different publishers. Don’t blame them for it for they seriously no intention of shattering your dreams. At the end of the day, they are doing their job and the job of seeing both content and quality is not so easy.
  • If you still think that your story has substance and you want to make the publishers realise that they are making a big mistake, you may need to hire an agent. Agents have contacts with a lot publishers and they will take a commission to get your work accepted. You will also need to build contacts with people who have had their book or books published. They may refer you to their publishers and you may have a chance.
  • What’s even more disturbing or demotivating is  that you may not even hear from the publishers whether it has been accepted or rejected. Publishers go through some immense brainstorming sessions and meetings over accepting a new story. So, if you get a rejection mail, demotivating as it may seem, it is fine but if you are receiving a reply from a publisher for about 3-4 months, it is time to move on.

Self Publishing

There is a reason why there seems to be a steady decline in traditional publishing. People are no more ready to get rejected, they are determined to get their work and word out which has lead to the rise of self publishing companies.

A self publishing company guarantees your book to be published ambient on your expense. You heard it right, you are the one investing on your book. Every self-publishing company has a string of packages ranging from low to high and you need to select the package that is right for you.

If your intention is to only get your book published, you can opt for the lowest package possible but if you are looking for name and fame too, you will have to pay more.


  • No books are rejected, it is guaranteed to be on all bookshelves or online book stores around the world within a stipulated period of time.
  • You have complete rights to your book, so if you are planning on getting your book translated or approaching a filmmaker, you don’t need approval or permission. It is work, be proud of it and do whatever you want to do with it.
  • Most of the publishers give 60 to 100 percent of the royalty which is huge as compared to traditional publisher who hold the rights of your books and may pay very less (you may not get anything if break even is not achieved.)
  • There are sites like amazon kindle, create space, smashwords, etc where you can publish your book for free. There is no mediator and you don’t have to approach anyone. You simply need to register and login, follow the steps as instructed on the site and viola, your book is ready and published.


  • We said about free publishing sites earlier, however, they have a fixed set of templates and images which you can use to design your book cover or the interior pages. If you really want to make your book to look good, you will need to spend on hiring a professional designer to create according to your requirements.
  • Recently, a lot of self published books have criticized on the grounds of quality, be it content, design or editing. If you are looking forward to making your book salable, you have to work on all aspects. Contact professional editors and designers, contact beta readers to read your stuff and give a preliminary review of how good or bad is your work and maybe even contact the publishers or agents to know what is in demand at the moment at the book market
  • Considering that you will bearing most or all of the cost, some self-publishing companies charge exorbitant amount of money. If you still think of taking the plunge with them, you might to take a personal loan.

Be it traditional or self-publishing, writing is an art form that is and will always be in demand. The pen may lose its demand, but not words, so keep your dreams alive. Do your research, read a lot of books to know what is going on in the market, talk to people, authors, bloggers, scan several sites… you never know what can click and the last thing you know, you book is the next best seller.

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