Indie vs Traditional Publishing

First, I want to say that I’ve personally read dozens of articles and posts that bash X way to publish over Z way, or that X way is horrible, etc. It’s ridiculous. Personally, I love self-publishing. But I also realize that it’s NOT the only way to publish, nor is it the BEST choice for everyone. There is no right or wrong answer here. There are simply options.

Second, before we dig in, I want to clarify my meanings:

  • Indie Publishing = Self-publishing. (This does NOT include places that charge you fees to publish your books.)
  • Traditional Publishing = The Big Five, New York publishers, the so-called ‘gate-keepers’, etc. These are the main print publishers.

(There are other ways to publish, such as through a small press or through an electronic publisher, but for the sake of this post I’m including them under the Traditional Publishing umbrella.)

So, which way is best? The short answer is: Both. Each option has its own pros and cons, so the answer really depends on you. What do you want?

  • Is having your books in print and on lots of shelves the most important thing to you? Then going with a traditional publishing would probably be best.
  • Do you want your book up now, as soon as it’s ready? Then indie-publishing might be the way to go.
  • Do you want a publisher to handle all the heavy lifting (editing, covers, etc)? Traditional publishers do this.
  • Is having complete control over your books what you need? Then indie-publishing is likely the better option.

Of course, it’s not that cut and dry, because you may want both of those things (and who wouldn’t?), so this is where you have to sit down and really decide what you want and what you’re willing to give (or give up) to get it.

Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of each.

Traditional Publishing Pros:

  • Knowledgeable people.
  • Good editing.
  • Decent covers.
  • A reputable company name behind you (since some still don’t see self-publishing as real).
  • An advance.


  • Long waits for publishing (anywhere from a year+ in most cases).
  • They pick the cover art.
  • They pick the publishing date.
  • They choose the price of your books.
  • If your books don’t perform well, they can drop you.
  • Poor rights grabs in most cases.
  • Low royalty rates and long waits for money.

Indie Publishing Pros:

  • You pick the cover art.
  • You pick the release dates.
  • You choose the price of your books.
  • You keep all rights.
  • You get a higher royalty rate and, typically, get paid monthly.


  • You pay for the cover.
  • You pay for the editing.
  • You pay for formatting.
  • You’re in charge of nearly every decision (and there are lots), good or bad.

There are a lot more pros and cons for each way, I’m sure. I listed some of the ones that were on my mind, or ones that I particularly liked or disliked.

The gist is this: Neither way is really better than the other. There isn’t a better path to take if they both lead you where you want to go. Some people like long walks, some like short. We’re all different and we all want different things. Some of us (*cough* me *cough*) are control freaks who like Being In Charge of All The Things. But there are just as many people who are willing to concede to someone else’s opinion/expertise and let them make the call. Neither side is good or bad, right or wrong. Just different. Heck, just different at different times.

If you’re still deciding what you want to do, I suggest researching all options (a lot) and sitting down to think about everything–logically, and even emotionally. Don’t just think about what you want right now. Think about what you’ll want in a year, five, ten. Think about where you want to be in a year, five, or ten. And then decide which path will get you there the best way and which way will keep you the happiest.

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