Self-Publish vs Traditional Publish

I’m not sure I categorized this topic properly. But I’m just curious, how many of you plan to OR are already pursuing traditional publishing routes? And how many have decided to self-publish their work instead? Self-publishing is such a huge thing right now, I just wonder how many people actually submit their manuscripts to traditional publishers these days.



I took the traditional route and signed on with a UK based publisher. I might self-published shorter stories in the future, but I like the idea of being backed by a publisher.


That’s a great testimonial. I think being backed by a publisher is ideal. How did you feel about the publisher having creative control, or even owning the rights to your story? Did that bother you at all?


I don’t have any particular plans to publish something right now, but I do want and plan to in the future. I’m definitely going for self publishing. The idea intrigues me cause I would want full control over my work which I feel I wouldn’t get with a traditional publisher. In my country, you almost have to be a celebrity to get your work published by a company. Most debut authors here take the self publishing route. But I definitely see benefits with traditonal as when you self pub you have to do all work by yourself, all marketing and such. I figure a publisher would be able to help with that part when going traditional. But self publishing still wins it for me :slight_smile:


I’ve been trying the traditional route for years with no luck. I feel like agents and publishers are so focused on what’s “safe” and easily marketable that they’re unwilling to take chances on new writers. (Can you tell I’m sour? I’m so sick of sending out query letters!!! :joy:) They’re also keen for writers to already have audience.

I love the idea of self publishing as you have full creative control - but that comes with its downsides, I suppose. The marketing and promotion side of things I find quite daunting!


I’m traditionally published in nonfiction and (ostensibly) working on a novel. That novel I would PROBABLY traditionally publish, because it’s standalone general fiction – bookclub fiction – which would benefit from the reach of a traditional publisher.

Behind that there are some urban fantasies and cozy mysteries I would love to write. Those I wouldn’t even consider traditionally publishing. Those genres do very well for self published writers, and there’s little to nothing a trad publisher could offer me that would make up for the money lost with their crappy contracts and rights grabbing.

My personal opinion is that most writers would benefit from traditionally publishing one book FIRST, and then self pubbing after that. Why? Because traditional publishing is a gatekeeper that can tell you plainly, “Your writing is ready for prime time.” Once you have that part of the equation nailed, then you can focus on the business side.

If you jump straight to self pub and sell well – fantastic!! But if you self pub and don’t sell well, is it the fault of your writing, your concept, or your marketing? You very likely don’t know and don’t have the skills to tell!

(A huge percentage of self published books were not written to a high enough standard. Seriously. There’s a REASON it takes years and many manuscripts to get an agent and sell a manuscript.)


I agree, there are pros and cons to both. And it does seem like publishers are too afraid to take chances on new writers, which is sad. I feel like there is some really good talent they are missing out on. And since when does having an audience dictate whether or not you’re worthy of getting published. I think that’s a mistake on the publishers and agents part for passing up good work due to lack of a big audience.


Excellent point!

It might depend on the publisher, but mine has been pretty good. They won’t make any big changes without my approval. I even have final say in what cover is used, so creative control still belongs to me for the most part.

As for the rights, you’re really only signing it over to them for as long as the contract lasts. I love that they are the ones who put it together and deal with the online book dealers. It takes a load of stress off my back.


I know - from what I gather, it’s all down to marketing. They like writers to do a good amount of the leg work on social media and so if they’ve got an audience to begin with then a) There’s a higher guarantee of a return, and b) They don’t have to work as hard to promote the book.

Ugh. It’s slimy!


I’ve published in two different genres, each under a different author name. Traditional publishing isn’t ready for my main genre so I self-published those novels.

When I branched out into a different genre, I got fed up with querying after 4 queries so, being accustomed to self-publishing, I self-published it under a different name. That was a mistake. I should have stuck it out and gone the traditional route for that one.

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I have only done self-publishing and I haven’t had much success. The only ones who have bought my books are the people who know me and the people who I personally talk to at book-signings.

I have had 3 agents ask for 2 of my manuscripts, but I still don’t think they are good enough to show to them.

I’m trying both. I have the first act of my novel on here to see if I can gain some readers to help with self-publishing, but I’m still querying agents here and there. Once I get real heavy into self-publishing I’ll feel more committed to doing that, especially after I throw down for an editor and stuff.

For me, hybrid is the best approach. The third novel I wrote got contracted by a traditional publisher. I did this deliberately because I wanted backup when setting out. Yes, they’re rights grabbing and the royalties aren’t brilliant but at the same time I got superb editorial support. You have to choose your publisher well, though, and you need to know exactly why you are doing this and what you want from it.
I’m also in WP Paid stories, simply because I like to try out new things. I know my audience on WP is very limited but I’m still glad I did it. More experience. And no, I’m not being swamped with hate messages. We had one troll who hit us all. That was it. Otherwise people are typical Wattpadders - Very, very nice!
In future, I will self-pub, based the experience I’m gaining now.
These days anything is possible, you just need to have a clear vision and a plan about what you want to do and why.
Publishing is expensive. Whether you lose royalties or whether you make large investment as a self-pubbed author - you are taking an entrepreneurial risk. ROI is not guaranteed. Vanity won’t get you anywhere. You have to have a pretty tough marketing/sales mindset - unless you have a super besteller and are on the A-list of the Big Five.
That’s another point actually. I stopped querying agents (it was a great experience and I don’t regret it) simply because you need to have a top manuscript, a super agent who can get you right to the top. If you are B or C listed with the Big Five, you won’t get much. Actually, I much prefer being with an indie press, where I get some attention rather than being a name on a list.
As I said - choose wisely…


Very thankful that you posted this topic! Really helpful to read the answer! Anyway, I really want to try traditional publishing, but not the one in my country. And I write my story in english so I kinda wish to reach wider audience :see_no_evil:


You don’t have to live in the country where the book is published. To publish in English, I would recommend querying agents in the US or UK. Just be aware: Your manuscript will have to be written to the same standard as that of a native speaker.

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Ah, thank you for the enlightenment! Now I’m eyeing to be published by Wattpad Books, they just announced it this year.

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My sense is that agents and publishers in trad are still swamped with submissions.

I think XimeraGrey has the right tactic. Book readership seems to have bifurcated, somewhat, with certain kinds of readers staying with trad (general fiction, women’s lit, ‘idea’ based science fiction, more modern fantasy takes, more diverse genre fiction) and certain readerships seemingly migrating en masse over to self publishing (a lot of romance, urban fantasy, paranormal fantasy / romance, space opera, traditional epic fantasy) - basically, a lot of the more commercial fiction being published today seems to be in self, and readers are finding it there. It’s cheaper, oftentimes comforting as opposed to challenging, and there are active authors and communities that have grown up around certain genres. So if you’re deciding between self and trad I’d explore where your readership is now and what would be the most effective way to reach them.


I agree with everything you wrote, but I wanted to highlight this. People like to think that self pub has somehow scared or hurt traditional publishing. But that isn’t true. They are not only still swamped with submissions, but they’re still making tidy profits, even with their outdated operating model and poor pricing model.


Both routes are viable…and there is no “universal” right answer as to which path you should concentrate on. It depends on your genre, your goals as a writer, and your abilities. For what it’s worth, I’m transitioning to 100% self going forward, the reason stem from the following:

a) I like the full-control aspects of self-publishing
b) I make more money from my self-published titles than I do from my traditional ones
c) The contracts have become more disadvantageous to the authors over the years…mainly in the areas of non-compete clauses, high-discount reduced royalty rates on printed books, and the requirement to sell audio rights in addition to ebook and print.

To put some of this into perspective, I’ve sold more than 1.6 million books (about 2/3 traditional and 1/3 self-published), and write full-time, and I could earn well with “either” path. But for me, self-publishing is now the path with the better fit.