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"Highlights from FBF 2023"

Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing: How to Choose


Congratulations on getting your manuscript ready.

But after the initial euphoria of having succeeded in this seemingly challenging task, you may be overwhelmed by the question of how to get it published.

Yes, often writers, particularly first-time writers, feel a little lost in the next steps involved in the publishing process. Even experienced writers may feel at sea, especially if they do not have a contract with their previous publisher. And over the last few years, the confusion has become heightened since the writers also have the option of self-publishing.

The indecision arises because both forms of publishing—self-publishing and traditional publishing—seem like different approaches with the same end result. It is a book or an article in a format that can be easily distributed and reached to prospective readers. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters.

But both have an inherently different impact on the book publishing and distribution process. Therefore, before choosing one or the other, it is important to understand the differences and make an informed decision. We at PageMajik will elucidate how the two differ, and their advantages and disadvantages. Based on your publishing goals, you can select the method that best suits your need.

Likelihood of Being Published

This would be your first consideration. In self-publishing, the publisher is not concerned about the potential market for your book. A self-publishing house lets you decide whether there is a demand for your content, and only assists you in the design and layout of the book. Sometimes they may offer editing services, but the decision would still be yours about whether you want it edited at all, or edited by recommended professionals or by someone of your choice. The package you sign with them may include marketing, promotion, and distribution, but again, the choice is yours to take up that offer.

In traditional publishing, the book’s viability will be evaluated before it is accepted for publishing. You may approach a publisher directly or through an agent. The publisher will get the book edited, designed, and printed. Distribution is also the responsibility of the publisher, and they will have access to a good network of popular physical and online book stores.

Time Taken to Publish

Once you submit your manuscript to a publisher, there will be a waiting period while it is first evaluated and then accepted. The risk of rejection lingers always.

Even after being accepted, the time to get the first copy of the book may take months depending on the number of manuscripts pending with the publisher for publishing. In the case of a research paper, it will depend on how many have been accepted and when the journal or publication is due.

It is a multi-step process from the time of submission to publishing involving editing, design, and printing. Each of these may require you to review, revise, and approve before it moves to the next stage. To be honest, not only the publisher, but even authors want to revise content in a desire for perfection. This iteration can be time-consuming.

While the self-publishing lifecycle is similar in nature, the time to accept is in your hands and therefore gives you better control over the production timelines.

Cost of Publishing

Clearly, in self-publishing, you are the boss. Because you bear the cost of publishing too. The publisher offers all the processes as a service that you pay for depending on your requirements.

In traditional publishing, you may receive a token advance from the publisher on signing the contract, and the cost of the entire production process is borne by the publisher.

But this difference is offset by the difference in royalties you receive from the two types of publishers. In self-publishing, royalty for Amazon paperback book copy can be 60% as against the 10-12% paid by the traditional publishers.

Brand Matters

Being published by a self-publishing house may not bring with it the brand recognition that a traditional publisher can. This is because of the process of acceptance, which validates your work and sets you one notch above your peers.

However, the risk of a good manuscript being rejected always exists. If you are confident of your content and can market it well, it can speak for itself and make you a brand!

Marketing and Distribution

This brings us to the point of promotions and distribution. Traditional publishers have a wide reach in all leading bookstores – online and offline - with high footfall. This makes distribution easier for the author who does not have to worry about it.

However, as an author, you may have to be part of the marketing efforts to spread the word, and the effort may be the same in both cases.


If you choose self-publishing, will that work against you when you reach out to a traditional publisher? It may not. If you succeed in establishing yourself as a popular author with a self-published book, it may arouse the interest of traditional publishers. Many popular authors too are contemplating this route for their books.

So which one you choose to go with will depend only on how much control you want to have and how fast you want to be published. Choose well and wish you good luck in becoming a best-seller.

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