Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing

January 5, 20235 min. Read

Traditional vs Self-Publishing guide from Palmetto Publishing.

Publishing a book might feel daunting. From editing to book layout and cover design, it’s a long journey. But it’s a journey every author has to take.

The first step on the road to publication is deciding which route you want to pursue: traditional or self-publishing. This guide will walk you through the differences between those options, plus the pros and cons of each.

Here’s what you need to know before you decide what’s best for your book.

What’s the Difference?

You probably already know the basics — traditional publishing means going through a publisher, while self-publishing is done on your own.

But it’s not quite that simple. Depending on who you work with and the resources you choose, you can find tons of support in self-publishing. And traditional publishing can also be very independent.

So, what’s the main difference? It all comes down to ownership. In traditional publishing, the rights and royalties of a book belong to the publisher. In self-publishing, the author owns all rights and royalties themselves.

Here are a few more key factors that set these two options apart:


Traditional publishing takes a very, very long time.

On average, it takes around nine months to two years for a book to get published through a publishing house. And that’s after the contract is signed — before you get a contract, you have to go through the grueling querying process to land an agent, polish your manuscript, and submit it to publishers.

Self-publishing, on the other hand, can be as fast as two months. That includes book editing, interior formatting, and initial marketing.


So, self-publishing is faster. But it also requires a little more work on the author’s end.

Fortunately, there are tons of platforms (including Palmetto Publishing) to have your book professionally edited and formatted. You will have to invest some time and energy into promoting your book if you want to make any real money — but Palmetto’s book marketing resources can help with that too.

Traditionally published authors also need to promote their books, but their publisher will help them reach a wider audience.


There is no guarantee that your book will get published if you take the traditional route. In fact, the odds are pretty low.

According to some sources, only around 1% to 2% of books submitted to agencies will actually get published. That doesn’t mean the other 98% of books are terrible — it just means that agents and editors have limited resources and are extremely selective about the books they work with.

With self-publishing, there is no submission process. Your book is guaranteed to be published.

Who Should Self-Publish?

Self-publishing is faster, is guaranteed, and allows you to keep all the rights to your book.

But that doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for everyone. There are plenty of pros and cons to consider. It’s worthwhile to look into both routes before you decide to self-publish.

You might want to pursue traditional publishing if you:

  • Want the prestige of a Big 5 (now known as the Big 4) publishing contract
  • Are willing to wait years to see your book published
  • Already have an established career as an author
  • Aren’t hoping to make money off your book right away

On the other hand, you might be a great self-published author if you:

  • Want to see your book published within the next few months
  • Want to earn royalties from every sale
  • Are just starting your writing career
  • Are ready to invest in book publishing services and make a profit
  • Know how to create lead magnets (or are willing to learn)

Marketing Your Self-Published Book

One of the most common arguments against self-publishing is that the author has to market their book all on their own.

But here’s the thing: Traditionally published authors also have to promote their own books. Unless you’re already famous, you need to convince people to buy something with your name on it — that means having an active social media presence, a website, and effective lead magnets.

On that note, self-published authors aren’t totally on their own either. There are tons of resources out there to help you develop leads and drive sales.

What Are Lead Magnets?

A lead magnet, or reader magnet, is something you offer your readers to bring them into your marketing reach. In most cases, it’s an incentive to get them to sign up for your mailing list.

Some examples of lead magnets you might use include:

  • A free book (if you have multiple books published)
  • A chapter or sample
  • Exclusive content like bonus chapters or interviews
  • Downloadable art or graphics

Why Do You Need Them?

Creative lead magnets are among the most effective book marketing tools a self-published author can use.

Not only do they encourage people to learn more about your books, but they also provide samples of your work. An effective lead magnet will leave your readers hooked and excited to learn more.

How Do You Make Them?

That depends on what you want to use as a lead magnet. Palmetto’s book design and marketing packages can include bookmarks, printed copies, posters, and business cards to get you started.

Beyond that, you can use anything you want as a lead magnet! Just don’t give away your whole book for free — the idea is to build a fan base by making people want to read more.

Is Self-Publishing Worth It?

Self-publishing your book is absolutely worth it. It’s up to you how much you want to invest in the self-publishing process, and you can start making money off your book right away.

Of course, there are benefits to the old-school method too. But it’s difficult to break into traditional publishing as an unknown author. Self-publishing can be an awesome way to start building your fan base and making a name for yourself.

Writing a book is the hard part, so why not take that extra step and become a published author? A book publishing service like Palmetto Publishing can help you with book printing, editing, marketing, and design.

Check out our self-publishing resources to learn more about how we can turn your manuscript into a published, profitable book.

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