Debate: Self-Publishing Vs. Traditional Publishing–Which Way Should You Go?

Self Publishing vs Traditional Publishing

Debate Over Self Publishing vs Traditional Publishing Goes On

Self Publishing Vs. Traditional Publishing–the Rumbling, the Pros and Cons, Plus a Little More

By Deborah S. Nelson, Author-Book Coach-Speaker

The debate rages on: Self Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing? Who will win? Having worked in both sides of the industry, I can tell you without a doubt that self publishing is winning. What makes me say so? Do you remember in photography the debate between film and digital cameras? There was the idea that film was superior and was the proven standard. And also the idea that digital cameras were cheap and not up to par, and the photos could never be as good. However that debate has gone by the wayside. As a case in point, have you shopped for a roll of film lately? Have you tried to develop a roll of film lately? Good luck on that! The same will soon be true of the self publishing vs traditional publishing. The debate may go on and on, but one day we’ll look up and offset presses will be sitting in antique shops! That day is coming closer than we may realize.



Traditional publishing companies are going out of business and side-by-side with their sales arm, the bookstore. In 2011, Borders, one the largest bookstore chains in history, closed its doors to bankruptcy. What people may not realize is that online book purchases are surpassing brick and mortar book sales. This, in turn, creates a bigger problem for traditional publishers who market their books through the bookstore venue. They can sell books online as well, but there’s only one problem–Amazon Books, a behemoth larger than all the bookstores put together, and online books sales mostly go through Amazon, which Barnes and Nobles (the remaining large traditional book store chain) considers as its largest competition. In fact, many traditional bookstores refuse to carry any “self-published” books printed by Amazon’s print on demand arm, CreateSpace. That’s how fierce this debate can get. While the self publishing vs traditional publishing debate rages on, some traditional publishing companies are buying print on demand equipment and offering print on demand services to authors, now blurring the lines between the self publishing and traditional publishing. Basically self publishing involves the writer making and financing the publishing decisions all along the way. These decisions are many, such as book cover, interior book layout, editing, marketing and distribution. However, what allows this to be more possible than ever, is print on demand, digital printing, which makes publishing just one book affordable. A writer can now publish without the financial backing of a large publishing corporation. With the offset press of traditional publishing, the set-up costs to print that first book are beyond the means of most writers. Thus the partnership with writers and traditional publishers began.

How to Self Publish a Book Yourself

I have written many specific articles on this site on how to self publish a book yourself. Before you make a decision to do that, I suggest you get a clear idea of the landscape of self publishing vs traditional publishing.  The video above is simple and a great explanation of digital publishing, print on demand, and traditional publishing. If you want to learn how to publish a book, or have started publishing a book, study this site before you leap. It isn’t easy, but it is not that hard either. Do your homework before you get involved because once you get started, it is difficult to stop in the middle. You may even want to be the publisher of your own books. See my article about Becoming a Publisher in Seven Strategic Steps if you want to write and publish a multitude of books. Just keep in mind, if you do not know what you are doing, you could spend a small fortune trying to finish a frustrating and difficult project. I am passionate about self-publishing and if you would like a half hour consultation, let me know, I would like to help.

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About Deborah S. Nelson

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