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Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing: Which Should You Choose?

March 26, 2021 (Last Updated August 18, 2021)

48 Hour Books

You thought writing the book was the hard part! Now it’s time to decide whether you should choose self-publishing or go with traditional publishing. One route gives you more profits, but you’ll have to do a lot more work. The other method is slower and requires you to give up some creative control. Which should you choose? 

Learn the differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing, so you can move forward with publishing your book.

Traditional Book Publishing

With traditional book publishing, a publishing company takes complete control of the publishing process of your book. You write the book, and the publishing company edits, formats, designs, and prints it. They are also in charge of distribution and marketing. In return, they keep a portion of the profits.

Pros of using a traditional publisher

Paid in advance: You may receive an “advance” once you sign with a publishing company, which is like paying you royalties ahead of time. 

They do the work: You also can sit back while your book is edited, formatted, designed, printed, and marketed. You do not have to worry about raising and saving money to launch your book. This is all taken care of for you when you sign with a traditional book publisher.

You’ll be in bookstores: Traditional book publishing companies have greater access to getting your book in stores and online. If you manage to find a publishing agent and sign a contract, you can feel relatively confident that your book will make it to the shelves — and see some sort of profit.

By signing with a traditional book publisher, believe it or not, you’re already in an exclusive club of authors.

Cons of using a traditional publisher

It’s a waiting game: You are not fully in control. If you sign with a publishing agent, it is up to your agent to pitch your book to the publishing company. The whole process of traditional publishing is also long and can take years to for your book to go to print.

You give up some rights: If you do manage to get published, and your book does not sell well, the publisher could drop you as a client. Then you would have to wait until your contract ends to retain the rights to your book, since the publishing company would own your ISBN and copyright.

Hard to get: Another con is that it is difficult to acquire a book publishing deal. Traditional book publishing companies are looking for “safe bets” and guaranteed best-sellers. Very few proposals are accepted by book publishing agents — especially proposals from unknown authors. If you do not have a guaranteed audience, you may want to consider submitting your manuscript to smaller, independent publishers.

You keep less of the money: When you sign with a book publishing company, you also need to split your profits, which can take a big bite out of your book income. Be prepared for all of the money that will be going directly to the publishing company and your publishing agent.

Woman holding a book in each hand, smiling


Think of self-publishing as the “DIY” version of book publishing. The benefits of self-publishing are vast. However, this method requires you to publish, print, and market your creative work yourself, with no help from a traditional book publisher.

On the plus side, when you self-publish a book, you own all of the rights to your book. You control the whole process, from writing to printing to distribution. 

Pros of self-publishing

You’re in charge: You’re in control and you own the rights to your work. You can buy your own ISBN and barcode to sell your books in stores and online. With a traditional book publishing company and even some self-publishing platforms like KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), they may own the ISBN, meaning you can only sell your book to their approved retailers. When you self-publish, you buy and own your ISBN, so you don’t have to worry about purchasing a new one if you want to switch to self-publishing.

Your profits are yours: When you self-publish, you also don’t have to share any royalties. You won’t earn money until people start buying your book. But once it sells, you don’t have to share the profits with a publisher because you are your own publisher.

Make sure you research the percentage of royalties that some online self-publishing companies earn, so you can then price your book accordingly. If you choose to sell your book on your own, as long as you have strong marketing efforts, you have the potential to keep 100% of your profits by selling through your personal website or reaching out to local bookstores.

You control your brand: You are also in control of how you want your book to look, the materials it is printed with, and the branding of your book. You have complete freedom to make your story the way you want to make it and design the book as you always imagined.

Cons of self-publishing
You have to fund it yourself: You will be completely responsible for every stage of the book publishing process. This includes the printing costs, the design and editing costs, the marketing budget, and the distribution. Half the battle of self-publishing is making sure you have a budget-friendly plan if you need to hire an editor or designer. Once your book is edited, formatted, and designed, you can start looking for a printer and calculate those costs, too.

You have to market it by yourself: One of the bigger challenges an author faces when self-publishing a book is marketing. Luckily, there are many ways to market your self-published book without breaking the bank, such as having a strong social media presence, blog writing, and guest speaking on podcasts. With a modest budget, you can focus advertising efforts on social media or host a giveaway.

Woman with laptop in her lap on a cream couch

Is it better to self-publish or get a publisher?

Ultimately, self-publishing is becoming an increasingly popular way to publish books and is the avenue many authors, especially new authors, end up taking. Traditional book publishing has become an exclusive club and these companies overlook many great authors.

Ask yourself these key questions to help you decide:

      Are you willing to put in the work to market your book yourself?

      Would you like to keep more of the profits from book sales?

      Do you want to retain creative control?

      Do you want to maintain the rights to your book?

If you’ve answered yes to most or all of the questions above, self-publishing may be the better path for you.

Woman holding an open book in front of its package


How 48 Hour Books Can Help You Self-Publish

ISBN and barcodes: If you plan on selling your book in stores, you’ll need to get an ISBN. When you print with 48 Hour Books, you can easily buy an ISBN and barcode package in singles or blocks of 10, 100, or 1,000. Simply request this on your online order form with us and we will send you the information to request an ISBN.

Free templates: If you need help formatting your book, we have free downloadable templates that open in most word-processing computer programs. These templates are available in four different standard sizes, so you don’t have to worry about having the proper page size when you go to print your book. Simply download the template and start typing!

Cover design: We also have cover templates available that open in InDesign. If you need extra help designing your cover, our Create-a-Cover service is an affordable option to ensure your book is designed to your liking, without the stress of creating it yourself.

High quality printing: When it’s time to print your book, 48 Hour Books offers the best bookstore quality books in online book printing. We understand that the process can be overwhelming when you start the printing process, so we have created our Ultimate Guide sample book to provide information on printing and self-publishing and provide samples of our paper and cover options.

Fast, friendly service: Other online book printing companies could take forever to get back to you if you have a question. Our customer service answers your questions thoughtfully and promptly. We’re here to help every step of the way.

Ready to self-publish? Get started today!

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Sign up for the 48 Hour Books newsletter to learn how to self-publish your book — and get it printed faster with us than anywhere else.

Print painlessly

Sign up for the 48 Hour Books newsletter to learn how to self-publish your book — and get it printed faster with us than anywhere else.


Luann November 18, 2023

Do you print on coated stock? I have a book with a lot of color photographs. We also live in a humid climate (FLorida).

48 Hr Books November 20, 2023

Hello! Yes, we recommend our 80# or 100# Gloss Text or Silk (matte) Text paper for photographs. You can view these options in person when you order our free sample book: https://www.48hrbooks.com/ultimate-guide

Fitzroy t March 14, 2023

Hello can you please send me a copy of your book ?? printing prices

48 Hr Books March 14, 2023

Hello! You can get instant pricing using our price calculator: https://www.48hrbooks.com/self-publishing-cost#/steps/binding You can also our free sample book, containing our paper and cover options, here: https://www.48hrbooks.com/ultimate-guide

New Author Dell S. Henry October 10, 2021

Do you help with Promoting and Marketing of Autobiography books?

48 Hr Books October 11, 2021

Hello! We do not offer marketing and promotion services, but we have plenty of actionable marketing tips available on our blog and in our newsletters, so make sure you are subscribed to both!

Betty Lukehart-Gress July 16, 2021

Send your free guide.

48 Hr Books July 19, 2021

Hello! You can order our free Ultimate Guide by filling out the order form here: https://www.48hrbooks.com/ultimate-guide

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