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The pros and cons of traditional publishing.

Every author needs to weigh up whether they seriously want a traditional publisher. It may seem like the holy grail, providing professionalism, market reach, and the gravitas of an association with a respected publishing house. Even so, assisted self-publishing and hybrid publishing are also viable options and may even be the best option for you.

Here are some of the main pros and cons to consider.

One of the main perks of traditional publishing is that most everything is taken care of by the publishing house: publishing and printing costs, copyright and legal services, and some book marketing.

The biggest drawback to this method is that you assign the publisher certain rights to your book, meaning you lose some of the ownership to your work. If you want full control over edits, the cover, distribution, and marketing, traditional publishing is probably not the right choice for you.

However, this is the only publishing method that will give you money upfront for the rights to your work. If you don’t have the money to print and distribute your book on your own, traditional publishing could be your best bet. Do keep in mind, though, that when it comes to your book’s sales, traditional publishing companies will take a (majority) percentage of your generated revenue. The precise amount will depend on each individual publishing house and its policies.

The process of shopping the book to publishers and then their production and marketing cycle takes time—sometimes years—so the traditional route can take quite a bit longer than some of the other publishing options.

In supported self-publishing (AKA hybrid or independent publishing models), the author invests in the production of the book in exchange for higher royalties on the back end than offered by traditional publishers. This upfront investment requires capital, and a return is not guaranteed, which introduces a level of risk for the author.

Supported self-publishing companies bundle tasks and services into various packages. The types of services you want will determine how expensive each package will be. For example, a publishing package to edit and print copies of your book may not be as expensive as a package that includes marketing, sales, and design services.

Ownership: Under most hybrid publishing agreements, authors retain the rights to their content, as well as creative control over things like cover design and packaging.

Quality: Hybrid publishers do not accept all projects that come their way, meaning that they only take on books that make it through a submission process. The best ones offer editing, design, and production services to rival the quality of books produced by traditional houses.

Distribution: Independent and hybrid publishers know the ins and outs of a very complicated supply chain and can manage that process on behalf of authors.

Self-publishing is the other end of the spectrum from traditional publishing: the total DIY option where you arrange and fund the printing and distribution.

As I said in my last blog post, the correct decision depends on your individual circumstances, goals, desires, and bank balance. Only you can make this choice for yourself.

(Kudos to Greenleaf Book Group for their excellent summary of the pros and cons of different publishing models, which inspired this post.)


If you need writing or editing assistance for your non-fiction book proposal, or if you’re interested in my other services, please check out the “Services” tab on my website.

Coming in 2022: my new online course on writing book proposals! In the meantime, check out my course (with co-presenter Lari Bishop) How to Write a Successful Nonfiction Book:


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