Traditional vs Self Publishing (Opinion Blog)

First published as part of my Summer Newsletter 2020 – if you’re not signed up to my quarterly newsletters, click here!

This month I’ve spent some time researching about publishing, agents, and how my WIP book could be released into the wild for people to enjoy.

One of the main hurdles of sending your beloved WIP out into the wild is the choice of publishing route. There are many different articles on the pros and cons of traditional publishing vs self publishing, so I’ve collated my thoughts on the subject, and put a few extra reading articles if you’re interested.

So, without further ado, let’s take a little look at both styles of publishing.

Traditional Publishing

Traditional publishing tends to be the more recognised route (in terms of literary acclaim). You get an agent, who sells rights to your manuscript to one of the bigger/medium sized publishing houses (or their imprints). They then have significant input over your cover design (some publishing houses have their own art departments), titles, and other marketing aspects. The contracts related to these types of deals are more likely to be standard (and in favour of the publishing house, who is likely to hold more negotiation power).

For these types of deals, you’re looking at books with a mainstream appeal. Certainly from the research I’ve done on the fantasy market, the agents are few and far between, and the publishers even more so.

In terms of payment, this is the publishing pool where you’re more likely to get advances on your royalty. Your book then “earns out” the advance over time – once “earned out”, you can then start being payed royalties in your “royalty checks”.

How big the advances are, how long they take to earn out, and how much royalty you get from each sale will depend on a number of factors. But it’s safe to say if you look at the royalty % of a Amazon KDP sale vs the % from a traditionally published sale, the traditionally published sale is likely to be far, far lower.


For me, when I think of “self-publishing”, I automatically think of Amazon Kindle store. It was the market-changer, really, in allowing vast numbers of authors accessed to their reading markets by taking away the agent & traditional publisher in the middle. These deals tend to be more for e-books (although with a lot of these publishers you can order print runs of your books), and tend to have less “literary acclaim” about them.

However, the creative control is 100% with you, the author. You can choose your editor, your cover artist, your marketing assistant. You get to choose how your story is presented right down to the nth degree.

You also get higher royalty stakes. Without an advance, royalties are how you make money from this form of publishing, and depending how you pitch your prices you can look to c.70% royalty from your sales fee.

What one is better?

There are pros and cons to each options of publishing. In recent years, the self-published market has become more well regarded, especially as there are a greater increase of “indie” authors who invest time & money in professional editors, cover artists and beta readers.

For more pros & cons, I suggest reading this link – a really interesting & in depth read on the pros and cons of each publishing type (including a few points I never even thought about – like restrictions on what else you can write in your world!)

Which route are you going to pick Alex?

In all honesty, I don’t know yet.

I think, at the moment, the childhood dream of walking into a bookshop and seeing my book on the shelves next to the others is still winning out, and that dream is a traditional publishing route.

But I know the fantasy market is tough, especially in the UK. So I might toy with self-publishing if my WIP cannot find a home with a traditional publisher.

Useful Links

I’ve come across some useful links in my reading, so check out the below for more information!

Featured Image Credit: Leslie Lopez Holder on Unsplash

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