Should You Self-Publish or Traditionally Publish?




by A.G. Young


So today we’re talking about if you should Self Publish or Traditionally Publish that baby you have been working on for months or years. This of course is no easy question to answer, and also very highly personal to each writer. So I am going to discuss my opinion on the matter. And a little forewarning, because of the topic of this post, this is going to be a long one.

Before you can answer this main question, you must answer a few others first. Let’s see what those are.

  1. What are your goals as a writer?
  2. What are you looking for in the publishing process?
  3. Where do you see your writing career in 5 years? Because yes, you should treat this as a career, even if you have a day job.
  4. How good are you at sales and marketing?
  5. How much money do you have to invest in your book? This does matter, and I will discuss below.

Ok, so let’s take those questions one by one.


First, what are your goals as a writer?

Do you seek to publish just this one single book? Are you looking for fame and fortune? Are you planning to write five books a quarter? This first question is very important, no matter which route you decide to go with publishing. You need to know your short and long term goals.

If you are looking to publish just this one single book, and no more, then Self-Publishing may be a better option for you. Not that all agents will reject because of that reason, but a lot of agents are looking for writers who want a career as a writer. Someone who is going to publish multiple books they could sell to publishers. For obvious reasons, the more they sell, the more they make. If one writer can put out 3-5 great books in the next five years, that writer is a better bet for the agent than the writer who only wants to publish one and done.

Also, if you are planning to write multiple books a quarter, you could go either route. If you can write, revise, and edit multiple great books each quarter (first know, I hate you. No, I’m kidding. I am jealous though.) an agent could sell to multiple publishers. Or, you could self-publish them so that you’re not waiting a year for each book completed to be launched. Notice I said great books. This is key.


Second, what exactly are you looking for in the publishing process?

Are you looking to be in complete control over your cover? Release dates? Or would you rather just have that done? Self-Publishing by far offers writers the most control over all aspects of their book. However, Traditional Publishing handles all of that, with very little input from the writer.

So be sure you know exactly what you are looking for with the publishing process so that you are not disappointed or overwhelmed once you make your decision.


Third, where do you see your writing career in 5 years?

This is important to know. Do you plan on quitting your day job to be a full time published author? Do you plan on having written and published more than 5 books in 5 years? Or I this really just a passing thing that you always wanted to do, but don’t really see it as your career?

If you plan on quitting your day job, well, I hope that’s because you know you’re coming into money that’s not from publishing. While yes, you get more royalties from self-publishing than you do from traditional publishing, it will still be a long road to go. It is not a get rich quick thing. You need to build up your reader base. Enough to where you are selling thousands of books a year. And be honest, you may not ever get to that level.

Being able to quit and do nothing but write full time is a lot of writers’ dream. However, one you must be honest about with yourself. It’s a very rare occurrence. Not saying that you won’t, who knows, you very well could. I hope that you do. But don’t put all your eggs in that basket. Be realistic with where you see yourself in five years.

If this is just a passing phase for you, that you may have always wanted to publish a book, but you don’t really see this as your career, self-publish. The reason is once you self-publish, it’s always out there.


Fourth, how good are you really at sales and marketing?

While you will have to do both no matter which publishing route you decide to go, the amount will be different. With Traditional Publishing, you will get the aide of the Publishing house somewhat. When you can attach your name to a well-known publishing house, or even a small but still traditional publishing house, it will make your marketing job just a little easier.

You will still be an unknown (if this is your debut) but being able to attach the publishing house name to any of your marketing materials, it’s just a little easier.

However, when Self-Publishing, you are 100% on your own. No one may have heard of you yet. You have no contacts (maybe, depending on how much work you did prior to publishing), you are responsible for everything. Every single aspect to make sure your book gets out there and sells. Is that something you know you can do, do well, and are ready to take on?


Finally, Fifth, how much money do you have to invest in your book?

I’m not talking about vanity publishers. You should never pay a publisher to publish your book. A reputable publishing house pays the writer, not the other way around. Always keep that in mind.

It is well established, when done well and correctly, self-publishing costs the writer far more than traditional publishing. You have to pay your own editors, and yes, you need them. You have to pay your own cover artist, and yes, you need this too. And you have to pay for all your own sales and marketing. While traditionally published authors do invest in marketing also, self-published authors need to do just a little bit more.



Once you have answered all these questions, honestly, for yourself you will know which path may be better for you.

Personally, I am going to be trying for the traditional route. Simply because, that has always been my dream. This is what I want, have always wanted, as my career. I am in no way opposed to self-publishing however. Some writers are hybrids, that both traditionally publish and self-publish. This could be you as well.

When you make your decision, know that neither is really easier than the other. They are just different. Different challenges, different hardships, and different kinds of work. So know what you’re getting into and what you will be looking at, no matter the route.

Which direction are you planning on going? Traditional? Self? Or do you plan a hybrid approach?




Guest post contributed by A.G. Young. A.G. is a mother, wife, writer, and reader. She blogs about her successes, failures, learning experiences, and her bumps in the road all leading toward publication.

26 thoughts on “Should You Self-Publish or Traditionally Publish?

  1. Excellent article and definitely food for thought. For myself, I suppose I’ll self-publish for first year, until I get a decent agent / deal down the road. At least self-publishing, and regularly producing articles for online magazine gets those writing muscles working again.


  2. For most of us,trying for traditional publishing can be a prolonged, disappointing venture. I once had two agents (one retired and recommended me to another) and had published in national-circulation magazines. I still have a file of personal complimentary rejections for my first book. One reads “Once hardcover rights are sold on a fine novel like this paperback rights are easier to obtain.”!
    After recently self-publishing other work, I’m thinking of going the same route with my long-neglected first literary baby.


  3. Okay: I’ve self-published two books of my Machine Civilization series. I’ve a children’s book of the same 30 days from completion. And, a free webnovel of another on my website. Oh: and I’ll be writing another for NaNoWriMo.

    How do I find an agent/publisher to step out of the anonymity of self-publication?

    I understand that unless opted for film, writers have “day jobs;” I’m fine with that. I’d just like folks to read my stories.


  4. Reblogged this on Alleigh Burrows and commented:
    I am struggling to make the decision on whether or not to keep torturing myself finding a publisher. My current manuscript is 40,000 words, which doesn’t fit in with most submission guidelines.

    A.G. Young’s blog raises some other valid points as to why I might want to go the self-pub route.


  5. I have opted for self-publishing, for the moment, because I want the control that comes with it. I have a fantastic cover artist and a fantastic editor. Sales and marketing are going to be hard, I know that from previous jobs but I`m willing to put in the hours and hard graft because this is my career. Ultimately I want to see my books in the hands of a very well known director and made into movies which thrill people as much as his other -coughs- fantasy movies do.


  6. Reblogged this on Archer's Aim and commented:
    These are good questions all authors should ask. I’m a firm believer in knowing why and how you are going to implement a writing project or else you tend to wander without getting much done. Reblogging on Archer’s Aim.


  7. Very informative post. I personally would prefer traditional publishing because it would add the value of the publishing house to the book but I was still confused.
    And thank you for visiting my blog.


  8. I have self-published three books. Instead of paying for a vacation, I publish a book! I think marketing is where most self-publishing authors fail, because there’s a skill to that and it’s a long-term job. It helps a lot if marketing opportunities are built into the story, like including history or diversity or current events, using a real location as setting, or a character is facing a problem that’s common.


  9. Reblogged this on Writer's Nook and commented:
    I wondered for a time whether it was better that I stuck to self-publishing or if I should have gone the traditional route. Now I know why my choice to self-publish was the best choice for me given what my goals were. This is the most insightful and objective post that I’ve run across on the subject of both types of publishing. I recommend this to every new writer who find themselves unsure of the path they want to take.


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