As you put the finishing touches on your manuscript, you should think about how you’re going to launch your book. Your main concern is going to be weighing the options of self-publishing vs. traditional publishing. Both are proven effective methods for successful authors.

Before you decide, it’s essential to consider the many differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing. You should think about each of the traditional publishing and self-publishing pros and cons in light of your book’s needs. Remember, each author and their book is unique, so there is not a one-size-fits-all answer.

What is Self-Publishing?

When J.K. Rowling made a big splash about two decades ago with the self-publication of her first Harry Potter book, writers immediately wondered, “What is self-publishing?”

In the years since, self-publishing has managed to completely disrupt the traditional publishing model. Now, anyone who desires to publish a literary work is able to do so without the requisite need to break through that nearly impenetrable firewall of agents and publishers. Through the advent of new technologies, such as online bookseller platforms and editing tools, anyone can now become a published author.

When an author decides to self-publish their book, they are choosing to personally bear the costs and labor involved in its publication. This includes formatting, cover design, editing, publishing, and distributing the book. Most self-published authors hire professionals to handle many of these functions, which adds to the costs.

The tradeoff made after investing time and treasure in the book can be significant. Self-published authors retain 100% ownership rights to all versions of their works and earn a far greater profit for each unit sold. If you are asking, “What is traditional publishing?” continue reading to learn all about it.

What is Traditional Publishing?

Now, for the other side of the coin — What is traditional publishing? Since time immemorial, if a writer wished to see their manuscript in print they were compelled to follow the publishing industry’s well-worn pathway to publication.

To this day, the process of becoming a published author with a publishing house of any size or stature has remained fairly static. The author submits their query, waits to receive word back, and if accepted, can expect the publishing house to offer a modest advance on the book. After a contract is signed, the author then places their manuscript entirely into the hands of the publisher’s editors and designers.

Traditional publishing involves an author querying an agent to pitch their book in the hopes of securing representation. The query process is an arduous, time-consuming one that often is met with one rejection letter after another. Literary agents view the incoming queries with jaded eyes and admittedly narrow odds if they are even accepting any new authors at the time at all. After reading the query letter, they then decide, almost instantaneously, whether or not they are interested in the book.

The agent is the golden ticket, the gatekeeper to publication. Without an agent, most publishing houses will rarely consider an author’s query or sample of their work. However, gaining the representation of a literary agent is a high hurdle to clear in today’s competitive market. To learn more about traditional vs. self-publishing, read on.

Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing – What’s the Difference?

The final goal of the publication is to have your book in the hands of appreciative readers. But self-publishing and traditional publishing are different ways of reaching that goal, each with its upsides and downsides.

List of Pros and Cons for Self-Publishing
Pros Cons


List of Pros and Cons for Traditional Publishing
Pros Cons


Self-Publishing Pros and Cons

Let’s start by examining the main self-publishing pros and cons. You should consider these points as you decide whether or not self-publishing is your best bet.

Pros of self-publishing:


One of the most significant advantages of self-publishing is that it can significantly accelerate the publishing process. If you format and upload your manuscript to a digital publishing platform, you can publish an eBook in about a week.

If you utilize the help of a publishing service like Gatekeeper Press, which can assist with things like editing and layout, it will take longer (e.g., perhaps a few months). However, it will still be far quicker than the process of securing a traditional publisher and getting your book published.

More control

With self-publishing, each decision is entirely in your hands. This is one of the biggest differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing! From editing choices to artwork, you get to publish the book that you want without worrying about editors insisting on changes that you aren’t comfortable with.

You also get to decide how to promote the book, which is a big responsibility. Some writers appreciate being able to have full control of the message and methods used to market a self-published book.


Self-publishing can cost as little as nothing if you go it completely alone. But even paying for services like formatting, editing, proofreading, cover design, and distribution can be surprisingly affordable.

Through Gatekeeper Press, for instance, you could pay as little as $30 per 1,000 words for professional copyediting and proofreading, $500 for the eBook conversion and distribution of a children’s book, or $100 to handle the copyright registration of your book, to name just a few services.

Cons of self-publishing:

Less guidance

When self-publishing, you don’t have as much hand-holding through the full process that you would get through some traditional publishers. This lack of direction can be intimidating for nervous first-time authors.

Less visibility

Traditional publishers will typically have relationships and resources in the publishing world that will help get your book greater visibility than you will as a self-publisher. When you publish your book, you won’t have the automatic advantage that comes with those types of established connections.

Upfront costs

Although the price of self-publishing can be budget-friendly (and even free if you publish an eBook by yourself), the fact is that some money is required upfront to self-publish a print book — and to get important services like editing and layout. If you are low on cash, that can make self-publishing prohibitive.

Traditional Publishing Pros and Cons

In the battle of self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, how does traditional publishing fare? Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of publishing your book through more traditional means.

Pros of traditional publishing:

Access to experience and expertise

With a traditional publisher, especially one that has been in business for a long time, you get the advantage of their industry insider knowledge. This depth of knowledge can help you make more informed decisions, from creative choices regarding the book itself to publication and distribution decisions that might affect sales.

A name brand

Going through a traditional publisher could allow you to release your book under the name of a publisher that readers already know and trust, which is one of the most significant differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing. A known publisher helps give a sense of credibility to a book, making some readers feel more comfortable taking a chance on reading the work of a new author.

Marketing resources

No matter how excellent your book is, people won’t know about its greatness if they don’t hear about it somehow. A traditional publisher will likely have a marketing department to promote your work through everything from print advertising to setting up author events at bookstores for you to participate in.

Cons of traditional publishing:

Need to get an agent first

Perhaps the most daunting problem with traditional publishers is that it is extremely difficult to get them to even consider your manuscript unless you have an agent to submit it on your behalf. This means your first obstacle is to entice an agent to represent your book, which could involve months and months of sending out query letters and manuscripts to agents in the hopes of gaining their interest. You also have to make sure the agent is reputable and will have the right connections to get your manuscript to good publishing houses.

Possibility of rejection(s)

Once you do have an agent, they will submit your manuscript to traditional publishers, and there is no telling how long it could take to find one interested in publishing your book. Rejection is not necessarily a reflection of the quality of your work. It could have to do with which genres the publishers are interested in, current trends, budgets, and other issues beyond your control.

But no matter what the reason is, it’s no fun to have to endure rejection after rejection. It can depress your morale, and, if you know that your book truly is good, it can be frustrating to watch your manuscript collecting dust when you know it deserves to be out in the world.

Potential for publishing delays

Once a traditional publisher accepts your manuscript, there is still the potential for delays and other obstacles. You may be tasked with a large number of changes to the book, which can be time-consuming. Once you have a final draft that everyone is happy with, the production timeline could be drawn out. Even once a publication date is set, it could be delayed if they have another more well-known author whose book takes priority.

Discover Publishing That’s Easy, Affordable, and Professional

If this breakdown of the pros and cons of self-publishing vs. traditional publishing has led you to feel that self-publishing might be for you, learn more about all the services that Gatekeeper Press can offer you by getting a quote or enjoying a free consultation. We look forward to helping you with your self-publication journey!

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