trad vs self

Authors, today, have different ways of getting their manuscripts published. In this post, we concentrate on the two most dominant methods of publishing – traditional publishing and self-publishing.

Traditional Publishing

In traditional publishing, the author after completing his or her manuscript, sends a query letter or a proposal, and submits the manuscript to a publishing house of his choice. The publishing house reviews the manuscript before deciding whether or not they would want to publish the book. If rejected, the author is free to submit the manuscript to other publishing houses. On the other hand, if accepted, the author signs a contract with the publishing house transferring the rights of the book to them. The publishing house pays the writer an advance on future royalties. The house then pays all the expenses required to design the book, calculate the market size for the book ad promote the book before finally distributing the finished product to the public.


Self – Publishing

As the name suggests, in this method, the author himself acts as the publisher. Therefore, he has to carry out all the responsibilities of a publishing house; from proof reading the manuscript to designing, packaging, estimating market size and distribution of final product to the public.

Self-publishing is no longer seen as the last resort by the authors. Many big-name authors and celebrities like Jim Carey, Jackie Collins, JK Rowling (Pottermore), Ian Fleming’s Estate (the James Bond 007 series), Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright/author David Mamet, and Eric Van Lustbader (author of the Jason Bourne series) have chosen this path.



Apart from the obvious differences between traditional publishing and self- publishing, there are some other differences which one has to keep in mind when deciding which one to opt for.

  • TIME: With traditional publishing, a manuscript may take years before it can become a book. It is not easy for authors to get their manuscript accepted by publishing houses readily. Even J.K. Rowling received loads of rejections before the editor at Bloomsbury Publishing decided that her manuscript was worth publishing. The mere process of getting accepted by the houses can take upto a year. After the manuscript is selected by a publisher, the actual work begins. This takes up at least another year. It’s important to note that this process mainly applies to fiction as the process tends to workout faster for the non-fiction books. On the other hand, with self – publishing, an author can bypass the hassle of choosing and getting selected by publishing houses, and can have a book ready within six months, and with the advent of e books, the lead time is further reduced.
  • MONEY: Now, self- publishing does reduce the time required to get your book published, but it is you who has to pay the entire expense of designing, packaging, estimating market size, marketing the book and distribution. Whereas, if you opt for traditional publishing the publisher will pay you a certain sum of money (advance on future royalties) and will handle the rest of the process.
  • CONTROL: Self-publishing does require the author to spend quite a sum from his own pocket, but the payout comes in the form of control. Once the rights of the book are handed over to the publisher, the editor is free to make as many changes as he likes to the manuscript. He may even edit it into something unrecognizable to you. With self-publishing, however, the author has much greater control over the contents, designs and appearance as well as where the book is marketed and distributed.

Choosing between self-publishing and traditional publishing methods is no easy task. But I hope that this post helps ease the decision-making. Good luck!


12525329_786605814817725_1263617434838388213_oSoujanya Das is an introvert who often ends up with her foot stuck in her mouth. Her likes include music, movies, books, food, wine and more food. Yes, the way to my heart is my tummy. Enjoys long walks and longer naps. Often struck by wanderlust. Currently pursuing International Relations at Jadavpur University.



BEE Books is an Indian publlishing house headquartered in Kolkata. We have our regional office in Delhi. If you have any queries regarding publishing assistance, please feel free to mail us at:


Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *