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To Traditionally Publish or Self-Publish?

When it comes to publishing, everyone gives you advice. Have you heard the following?

“You aren’t a real writer if you don’t traditionally publish with a big-time agent.”

“You’re crazy if you don’t self-publish because you get to keep your royalties."

What’s a writer to do?

Let’s start by exploring the pros and cons of each type of publishing.

Traditional Publishing:

Traditional book publishing is when a publisher offers the author a contract and, in turn, prints, publishes, and sells their book through booksellers and other retailers. The publisher buys the right to publish the book and pays the author royalties from the sales. This can happen with one of the big five publishers or a smaller independent publisher.

Tip-Don’t confuse independent publishing with self-publishing. Many independent presses offer traditional publishing contracts.


1. Your book will most likely be of good quality because you have a team of professionals behind you.

2. There is no cost upfront. However, you may want to pay a freelance editor to review your manuscript and assist you with your query letter.

3. Your book will be distributed to more channels.

4. You have assistance marketing your book.

5. There is prestige involved in being traditionally published.


1. The query process is brutal. You may receive a lot of rejections before you find an agent.

2. You give up a large percentage of your royalties.

3. The publishing world moves slowly.

4. You no longer own your work.

5. You must make the edits your publisher wants even if you disagree.


With Self-Publishing, you handle all aspects of publishing, including editing, cover design, layout, and marketing. You can find people on Fiverr to assist with some of this. Beware, not all of these people are qualified. Many authors who have been traditionally published, and have a large audience, can switch to self-publishing and earn more in royalties. Some traditional publishers and agents will work with self-published authors, but some won’t. If you self-publish and don’t have good sales, it can affect an agent taking you on.

Tip-If you decide to self-publish, make sure you hire a professional editor and cover designer.


1. You keep all of the royalties.

2. There is a sense of pride if your project is successful.

3. You have control over your content.

4. You control the time frame.


1. There is no quality control. There are a lot of poorly done self-published books. Your book may not be ready. This is where a professional editor can help. Of course, not all self-published books are poor quality.

2. It is hard to sell books. Most self-published authors never sell more than two hundred books.

3. It can be lonely if you don’t have a support system.

4. You may not know where to start.

Hybrid Publishing:

Hybrid publishing is an alternative to self-publishing. Authors publish their books on their own by contracting out specific services such as editing or cover design. With hybrid publishing, the author pays the publisher a fee upfront to offset production costs. Some hybrid publishers allow you to choose from a menu, so you only pay for the services you need.


1. You keep your royalties.

2. You have more control over your publishing schedule.

3. You control your content.

4. You have a team of experts to help you.


1. It is expensive, and you must put up a lot of money upfront. You may never recover all of these expenses.

2. You need to ensure you have a quality, respected hybrid publisher.

3. You may have to stay on top of the people assigned to you.

4. You have to make sure you have a hybrid publisher and not a vanity press.

Tip: Stay away from Vanity Presses.

Vanity Presses:

When working with a vanity press, the author pays the publishing company upfront to edit, layout, and design their book. Authors must purchase hundreds of books without marketing assistance. This type of publishing doesn’t have a good reputation and is riddled with scam artists.

Are you still feeling confused? I have a great solution!

Why not try a publishing combination?

Do you have a book that lends itself to self-publishing? Go for it. Put it out there. Learn the ropes. Need some help? Hire a Hybrid Publisher to get you started. Meanwhile, write that next book and query it to agents.

If you would like more information on writing and publishing, check out Nicki's new book with Media expert Julie Lokun, JD.

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