Chris A. Baird | September 16, 2023
Self Publish vs Publisher [Know the Difference]

Self publish vs publisher? So, you're trying to figure out whether self-publishing is right for you or going to a traditional publisher. This can be very confusing, and there can be a lot of costs involved that you may not be aware of.

In today's topic, we're going to talk about self publish vs publisher, knowing the difference and how that difference can significantly impact your sales, profits, and whether you even complete the project at all. 

Understanding self-publishing is crucial. 

Definition of Self-Publishing

The definition of self-publishing is quite interesting because, in this sense, there's no independent agency that's going to help you with the distribution process or any of these aspects. You're going to have to figure it all out yourself. That's when you'll be producing both books and eBooks.

Along with various other items that go along with it, all of which you'll be putting on the market. You'll be putting it together yourself, giving you a lot of flexibility and control over the entire publishing process. This includes content creation – like writing it all yourself. As well as editing, cover design, formatting, and marketing.

Now, one important thing to remember is that it doesn't mean you have to do every one of these steps yourself. You can still hire other people to perform these tasks for you, but it's up to you to find them, decide what they're going to do, and determine if the work is of high quality. And then, follow up on the schedule that you're going along with.

The other thing is that self-publishing enables authors to retain ownership of their works. Now, some authors have gone with hybrid or traditional publishing, especially hybrid publishing. And they say, "I still own the copyright; I did not sell or give that away to the company that published it.

Check out this related article: How To Self-Publish Without Traditional Publishers

However, it's published under their account, which makes it difficult for you to regain access or, if done traditionally, even to reclaim the rights to your book from the traditional publisher. Even when the book is making no sales, they have no motivation to give you those rights back.

The Process Involved in Self-Publishing

Next is the process involved in self-publishing. The first thing is manuscript preparation, which involves editing and all of these phases that I discuss extensively with my Group Coaching and 1-On-1 Program clients. We go through exactly which editing approach will work best for you based on the book you have and your budget. 

That's one of the advantages of self-publishing. You can decide how much money, time, and resources will go into that particular phase. Then comes the design and formatting. And, you know, I teach how to format your book using Jutoh, which is my favorite tool.

I have a course on Self-Publishing Made Easy, specifically on formatting, made easy for authors. This is one of the easiest ways to go about it—just working through the process. Now, I can tell you that no matter which tool you use, there's going to be a level of frustration when you're first getting started, and the same goes for Jutoh.

That's one of the reasons why I guarantee, as we go through the course, that I'll be able to help you with any problems you have, such as "How do I do this?" or "How do I do that?" Now, I won't be handling your exact manuscript like I do with my 1-On-1 clients, but in terms of formatting, going through a course is a fantastic way to learn.

Just remember, it will still require some effort. Even if you're good with technology, you'll still need to invest some time in learning the tool, and that's something you just have to do if you're going down the self-publishing route, which I highly recommend.

Of course, the other aspect is distribution and marketing. You can distribute it to as many distributing houses as you want. So, for all the distributors you'd like to use, the marketing is also up to you.

Strangely enough, it's also up to you. When it comes to traditionally published books, the fact is that it's up to you to move the needle for your specific book. Nobody else is going to do it for you.

The Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing

So, let's explore the pros and cons of self-publishing, as well as the benefits. 

Benefits of Self-Publishing

First, you're going to have creative control. Nobody's going to tell you that you need to remove this paragraph, change that title, or alter the way you have your cover. No one will say, "I don't like the way it looks." You have the freedom to personally choose how you want your book to look and feel.

However, this can also be a negative because what if you make some wrong choices? What if your decisions don't boost sales? That's why, as a self-publisher, it's essential to seek input from other experienced self-publishers. A coach, for example, can be invaluable in this area. Another advantage is higher royalties.

When you're self-publishing, the royalties are significantly higher compared to traditional publishing. Instead of receiving 10%, 11%, or 12%, you can earn 70% on your eBooks and between 40% to 50% on your paperbacks. If your pricing is high enough, you can even reach 60% or 70% there as well. This is undoubtedly something to consider.

So many authors just neglect to pay close attention to all the benefits that you get from self-publishing. Another benefit is your speed and flexibility; you can decide how fast you want to move. The downside is that nobody will be pushing you, so your book may progress slowly or never get published if you're not willing to put in enough effort.

None of the options we're discussing today are easy. Some people ask me, "Is it all super easy?" Well, it's "Self-Publishing Made Easy" now. It is easy if you focus on one step at a time and allocate the necessary time to each one. If you move along step by step, you'll get it done.

As you'll find in my Checklist, it outlines the exact steps you need to follow through on each of these stages to self-publish your book. This helps you understand the effort required and see how quickly you can progress.

Drawbacks of Self-Publishing

However, there are drawbacks to self-publishing, including a lack of traditional publishing support. You won't have someone telling you what to do or offering that kind of guidance. That's one reason why hiring a coach can save you a lot of time and frustration as you try to figure things out.

You can get the guidance you need while still having some support, even if it's not the traditional support you would receive from other publishing companies. The other concern is limited distribution and visibility. This one isn't entirely accurate because, with limited distribution, your book will still be available in many different channels.

Does that make sense? In fact, in some ways, it may even be more accessible. However, it might not be found in the traditional brick-and-mortar bookstores around the corner, as those places may not carry self-published books.

Nevertheless, your book will be available in all the online stores, and in some ways, it could be positioned better for sales than traditionally published books. Then there are the perception challenges, meaning that many people, when they look at self-published books, may think, "Oh, it's self-published. It's not traditionally published.”

In reality, it really won't make that much of a difference when it all comes down to it. So when you're going through it all and you're looking at it, you know these are drawbacks. But whether somebody, most people aren't like, “Well, was that self-published? Well, it must be terrible or something.”

They're going to hear word of mouth. They're going to see the reviews. They're going to be pushing ads. It's going to cause people to read your description and decide whether this book may or may not be right for them. 

Understanding Traditional Publishing

So, let’s move on to understanding traditional publishing.

Definition of Traditional Publishing

In traditional publishing, on the other hand, unlike self-publishing, it's where you're going to an established model of publishing where authors submit their manuscripts to publishing houses that select and publish the works they deem commercially viable.

This means there's a gatekeeper involved, and as a result, one of the beautiful things is that they will give you a bonus, money upfront, even without having written the book yet. You can sometimes get money upfront or receive an advance.

So, getting these advances in exchange for the rights to your specific book. The other thing is, you're going to need literary agents to even get in contact with these traditional publishers to get your book published. If you think you can just mail it to a bunch of traditional publishers and they'll jump all over your book because it's so wonderful, you are mistaken.

Many people find this to be a shocking reality check. To remind you that no, you're not going to be able to just wing this thing and magically get chosen. There's only a small percentage, they don't even know whether or not they're going to do well.

The other thing is that publishing houses take care of various aspects, including editing, cover design, printing, distribution, marketing, and all of these things. They bear the cost and the associated risks and even give you an advance upfront, along with some royalties afterward. So, there's a lot of risks that they're willing to take. 

The Process Involved in Traditional Publishing

But what exactly is the process involved in traditional publishing? Well, there are a couple of things. The first thing is, that you're going to need to find a literary representative or agent who can review your book, provide feedback on how to improve it, and guide you on how to position the book effectively.

This is essential to sell it to the right publishing house that suits your needs. The second step involves submitting your work to publishing houses and having agents help promote your book to these publishers so that they are aware your book even exists. Hopefully, you're working with a good agent who has connections within the major publishing houses and can assist you on that front.

Additionally, there's the process of contract negotiation for publication. This is where most authors encounter challenges because they might be presented with a less-than-favorable contract. Unless you have access to lawyers who can review the contract, you may not even realize it.

Even if you have legal support, your lawyers should be experienced in assessing what constitutes a good or reasonable deal. When you're considering books, most authors are so excited about signing the contract that they don't even bother to review just how bad of a deal this thing can be for you. Unless you're already a huge author, in which case, why are you even reading this article?

The Pros and Cons of Traditional Publishing

Now, let's look at the pros and cons of traditional publishing. 

Benefits of Going with a Traditional Publisher

The benefits of going with a traditional publisher include their publishing expertise and resources. They already know exactly what to do and have all the professional people on staff to guide your book through the entire process. You've just written the book, and they take care of the rest.

They also have established distribution channels, including bookstores. For some authors, seeing their book on a bookstore shelf is incredibly important, and traditional publishing can make that happen.

Moreover, there's credibility and prestige associated with traditional publishing. Many people feel that they've made it past the gatekeepers when their book is published traditionally, signifying that their book is genuinely good. They can proudly claim the title of a published author, as opposed to a self-published one.

However, the question remains: how much money did you actually make from this deal? That's where most authors suddenly discover that just being a published author wasn't as financially rewarding as they thought, even though they do get some additional benefits.

Check out this related article: How To Self-Publish With No Money?

One way to look at it is how you can get users to open doors, saying, "Look, a random house or one of these other six big publishing houses chose my book." You know, you become a traditionally published author, which you can use for your business if that's something you're interested in.

Drawbacks of Traditional Publishing

You should also consider the drawbacks of traditional publishing. The first is that you lose a significant amount of creative control. They have the authority to request changes to every aspect of your book, including the title, the cover, and even specific chapters or text. It's not as simple as them accepting your manuscript as is; these things don't typically go that way.

The second drawback is the longer timeframes involved in the publishing process. It can take a considerable amount of time, sometimes even years, to get your book to market. And by that point, if it doesn't perform well, it leaves you in a precarious position.

If you've written anything else during that time, you might hesitate to publish it, thinking, "I should wait and see how this first book does." This waiting can lead to a loss of motivation due to the prolonged process.

One huge drawback is lower royalties, which are essential for many authors. You might think, "Oh, money doesn't matter," but in reality, it actually does because it's going to help motivate you to keep producing books. It's a way of showing you that people care about what you're writing. If you're willing to accept lower royalty rates, then the traditional publishing route isn't the best choice. 

Comparing Self-Publishing vs. Publisher

Now, let's compare self publish vs publisher. 

Direct Comparison of the Two Paths, Highlighting Key Differences

In a direct comparison of the two paths, highlighting key differences, the first thing to consider is creative control. As we mentioned, if you self-publish, you have a lot of control, whereas if you go with a traditional publisher, you're going to lose most of that control.

Another factor to consider is the time to market. When you self-publish, you can get a book on the market within a day, even within 24 hours from the start of the entire project. This is completely doable, especially once you learn the tools and methodologies that I'm using. You can check out my free Checklist.

Now, let's talk about royalties and financial considerations. If you're interested in making actual money through publishing, self-publishing is probably going to be a better option for you. But if you're more interested in prestige and such, then you might consider the traditional publishing route.

Considerations for Authors When Choosing Between Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing

Now, let's discuss considerations for authors when choosing between self-publishing and traditional publishing. The first consideration is creative control versus support. We've talked about this before, but it's worth emphasizing that you won't receive the same level of support if you choose to do it yourself.

You'll have to invest time and money in finding the right people to support your project, and then you'll need to manage and coordinate their efforts. This can be quite challenging unless you have some form of coaching or guidance, which is one of the reasons I offer my 1-On-1 Program to provide exactly that service.

The next consideration is time and speed. The traditional publishing route is very slow, as we've discussed, whereas self-publishing allows for a much faster turnaround. We can get this thing on there really fast. The final consideration, of course, is the financial aspect, which is something that some authors claim they don't care about. 

Case Studies

However, I'll tell you, many students have later realized its importance. 

Examples of Successful Authors Who Have Self-Published

Let's look at case studies and examples of successful authors who have self-published. One of the big ones would be Andy Weir, who self-published "The Martian." I really enjoyed that book; it's fantastic.

Next would be E.L. James's work, "Fifty Shades of Grey," which has sold tons of copies, even with only around three and a half stars in its ratings on Amazon. It still demonstrates that you can, in fact, self-publish and do well.

Another example is how Hugh Howey's book fared from a science fiction standpoint. He self-published it, and it turned out really well. He remains one of the major voices in self-publishing.

Examples of Successful Authors Who Have Used Traditional Publishers

Now, let's consider examples of successful authors who have used traditional publishers. The first significant one is J.K. Rowling with the Harry Potter series. It was published through Bloomsbury in the United Kingdom and Scholastic in the United States. You can see how that all played out.

In addition, another example is Stephen King. All of his books were traditionally published. However, it's worth noting that for his first book, "Christine," he had to submit it more than 20 times. The same persistence was true for J.K. Rowling.

The point is that the gatekeepers at traditional publishing houses may or may not immediately recognize the quality of the book you're submitting. They might read it and say, "It's nice, but we're not interested." In such cases, you may need to submit it again.

It's important to keep in mind the level of patience and perseverance required for this process and how much you're willing to endure to get your book all the way through. As a result of their determination, Stephen King had his books published by Doubleday, Viking Press, and Simon and Schuster.

Another example is Dan Brown and his best-selling novel, "The Da Vinci Code," which was published by Doubleday in 2003. So, that's just another example of traditionally published books. This is indeed a viable route.

However, I would like to emphasize that the first two examples, J.K. Rowling and Stephen King, faced numerous rejections. Is this something you really want to subject yourself to? Of course, I'm telling you that you don't want to go through that because it can be seriously depressing. However, it did work out well for them.

But think about how many authors it did not work out well for. It took forever to get their books accepted by one of these major publishing houses, and when they did, their books just weren't selling at all. 

Making the Decision: Factors to Consider

So, when making the decision, consider the following factors. 

Personal Goals

You should think about what you're trying to achieve for personal fulfillment. For example, if your goal is simply to get a book on the market, self-publishing is by far the best way to do that. In terms of your own personal development.

This is a great way to learn about the nature of online businesses, passive income, and all of these aspects you can explore through self-publishing. However, in terms of your connections and your business life, traditional published books are clearly a better way to go when it comes to establishing yourself as an actual author.

Even though, really, the moment you've published a book, you're already an author. I remember someone once told me you have to sell a thousand books before you can truly call yourself an author. After selling a thousand, I thought, "Well, I don't know if you ever really feel like an author. At some level, you're always deep down wondering, 'Am I really an author?'"

To be honest with you, the second you put the book out there and make a single sale to someone you don't know, you're an author. Congratulations! You've achieved what most people have not managed to do. Only a small percentage of the population can claim that title.

Around 80% of people want to write a book at some point in their lives, but only a very small percentage actually manage to self-publish or publish a book in the market. That's quite amazing. Another aspect, as I was mentioning, is the relationships and connections with people. Traditional publishing has some advantages in this regard.

Check out this related article: How To Write, Publish, And Sell An Ebook

Financial Considerations

Then there are financial considerations, like budgeting and savings. You need to evaluate how much money you actually have for the project. The reality is that traditional publishing requires a substantial amount of money. You should already have your book edited, and polished, and have an agent, among other things, to get it through.

It's not as if you can just send them a draft, and they'll be amazed and ready to jump all over your project. That's a significant point to consider. Another factor is investment in wealth building. If you're thinking in the long run, self-publishing will give you a greater rate of return on your time and effort because you can keep producing books with a higher royalty rate.

Each sale allows you to afford more advertising to drive additional sales, creating a positive cycle. Furthermore, there's debt management. In other words, if you find yourself in debt, self-publishing can be a good option.

You can save a lot of money by handling almost every step yourself until the money starts coming in and you can use it to pay off your debt. There are numerous financial considerations to keep in mind when pursuing this path. Does that make sense? 

Desire for Control vs. Desire for Support

Additionally, you have to consider your desire for control versus the desire for support. If you want control, self-publishing is by far the best route for you. If you want support, then you should definitely go with traditional publishing. However, I still don't entirely agree with that. The reason is that you can buy the support.

You can simply enroll in a group coaching program, which you'll find below in the description, where you can interact with other authors and have direct back-and-forth interactions with me. This can provide you with the support you'll need to navigate this process.

It's easy to take it one step at a time, but it can be challenging to stay motivated and complete all the necessary steps to get your book self-published. Lastly, there's the aspect of balancing control and support. Trying to find that balance, a hybrid publisher or one of the vanity publishers might be a suitable option for you.

However, I would caution you that if you choose to go that route, make sure to verify the reputation of the vanity publisher. Speak with people who have published at least two books through them and are satisfied with the results. If you can't find such testimonials, then it's best not to proceed with them.

You'll notice I never mention their name, so none of these people would ever sue me. I'm very careful about that because I am familiar with their names. Many of my clients come from experiences with vanity publishers, where they've spent tens of thousands of dollars and ended up feeling destroyed.

Then, they come to me, and I show them that they didn't have to go through that ordeal. I can teach them the necessary skills, and they can earn all the royalties instead of someone else profiting from their work.


You can see that there are numerous factors to consider when choosing between self-publishing and traditional publishing for your books. By examining these factors, you can determine which option is best for you, which can be a challenging decision for many.

However, sometimes just gaining an understanding of the available options is a good starting point. This is something I offer through a simple Discovery Session, which is a 55-minute or less session where we assess your current situation and explore which services are suitable for you.

And which path might be the right one for you? It's absolutely free, and we conduct it on Zoom at a scheduled time that works for you. So, check that out, and also, check out my other blogs and videos for more answers to your self-publishing questions.

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