Self-Publishing or Traditonal Publishing?

There are hundreds of blogs comparing traditional publishing to self-publishing. The most common discussion is how much an authors royalty would end up being. And there is the ever popular, “Authors that self-publish keep all the rights to their books.” But none of these blogs tell you what to choose. “It’s all a matter of opinion,” the expert claims. 

No, it is not a matter of opinion. Almost all truly gifted and motivated authors will break into traditional publishing at some point. All others will choose self-publishing. 

On the other hand, gifted authors do self-publish. It’s just eventually they are signed by a traditional publisher. Why?  Because you cannot sell thousands (or millions) of books on your own.You must succeed in both self-publishing and traditional publishing. 

 In order to do that, look for the signs. 


If a publisher (or literary agent) flatters you, then run away with both hands on your manuscript. Professionals in the publishing industry tell you what is wrong, not what is right

You can always catch a self-publisher in a flattery lie by asking one simple question. “Have you read my entire book?” The answer will be no, or they will lie and say yes. 

Traditional publishers will put you through the grind before they invest money in your career.  

It is your job to give publishers greatness. Not the other way around. Also, if you are a self-published author, you must put yourself through the grind, because no one else will do that for you. 


It is every authors dream to sell books. That is okay, because you should make money. Just don’t let self-publishers convince you that being on Amazon is the key to success. In fact, do not depend on any publisher for your success. 

Start right now and figure out the best ways to market your name and your books. Never, ever, ever, count on the publisher to sell your book. 

I know what you are thinking. “You just told us that a traditional publisher is the only way to sell thousands (millions) of books.” That’s right, I just said that. However, you cannot sign with a traditional publisher until you know how to market yourself. Once you start doing that, you will continue that process all through your career and never depend on others. 

Publishing 101 

At every writing conference, someone on the panel says, “Self-published authors do not know how to market, which is why they fail.” And my response as always is, “All authors-whether they self-publish or traditional publish-who do not know how to market will fail.” 

Furthermore, self-published authors that do not have a professional editor will fail. Self-published authors that do not have a professional marketing agency to create their book cover will fail. Self-published authors that do not understand price points, distribution, shipping, press releases, public relations, and public speaking will fail. 

Start today by mastering knowledge in the publishing industry. Traditional publishers are looking for authors that understand “The Game,” rather than having to hold the authors hand.

You must know that both traditional and self-publishers are not searching for great storytellers and authors with polished writing mechanics. They run a business and profits come first.  


Authors know what a royalty is, but do you understand how a royalty works? Research the answer to all these questions: 

What is the difference between an author’s profit, net payment, and the royalty? (Self-publishers mix different lingo in the contract. Make sure you understand what you are signing.) 

When does the royalty get paid? (April and October if you are a traditionally published author.) 

How will you get paid? (In traditional publishing, if you have an agent or manager, they see your royalty check first. If you are self-published, the check will come to you or put in an account.) 

How much will you get paid? (Price per book in self-publishing seems clear, until you realize that the self-pub not only charged you for publishing, but they added extra expenses per book. This is the reason your book is $17.95 compared to $6.95.) 

How does the return process work? (Self-published authors do not need to worry about returns, because a bookstore will not work with them in most cases. However, traditional authors do need to be aware of how the return process works.) 

How do you know when books are sold? (Do you get a statement each month, even if the sales are zero? After a year, do you still receive statements? If not, it is time to make a call to your publisher.) 

Four Keys to Success 

If you succeed in these four areas, I know in my heart that you can have a flourishing career as an author, no matter if you are self-published or traditionally published. In fact, there are no excuses in the world that will nullify these four keys to success: 

Excel in reading. Understand why certain authors sell millions of books. Do not tell me that they lack talent and got lucky. If you think that, then someday when you are on the bestsellers list, an author may say the same thing about you. 

Excel in writing. Two parts you need to concentrate on. The first is storytelling, the second is writing mechanics. Many self-published authors have a great idea for a story, but it does not “read like a book.” 

The fastest way to improve your writing is to have a credible professional in publishing look over your work and give you feedback. The other way to improve is reading everyday and writing several novels. 

Excel in marketing. When you are writing, think about one person who will read your book. What do they look like? How old are they? Male or female? Rich, middle-class, or poor? Would you find them in a city, town, or suburb? Where did they purchase your book? Why did they purchase your book? How much did they pay? Where will they read it? Will they discuss your book with anyone? If so, who? 

By asking yourself these questions, you are narrowing down your target audience. The next step is to reach your audience. 

Excel in publishing. To publishers, both self and traditional, it will always remain just a product. How much money can they make off that product? Who will pay for the product? In self-publishing, authors pay. In traditional publishing, readers pay. But none of that matters. 

You must understand that publishing is a way to package your book. That package may come in printed pages or in a digital format; hardback or soft-back; self-publishing or traditional publishing. It is a package that will be distributed one print at a time, or thousands of prints around the world. The package may be sold out of the trunk of your car, or sold in bookstores. 

Before a book is packaged and sold, there is an author excelling in reading, writing, and marketing. Authors that accomplish those skills, will then use publishing…as opposed to publishing using the author. 

Ron Knight 

“Top 50 Authors On Facebook, 2011!” Will be announced in December. Here are some authors that already qualified.  

Need help with marketing or branding your name?

Ron Knight

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  1. Self-publishing never compares to mainstream publishing. With mainstream publishing books get into actual stores and authors get the respect. I approached a bookstore for one of my books and the manager was very interested, until he heard the book was self-published. He immediately lost all interest.

    Why won’t you let us comment on your posting on Facebook?

  2. I’m not sure I understand this blog– you say you have to do both? But you eventually end up in traditional?
    I’ve done both. Traditional for 20 years and non-traditional going on my second year. Frankly, no non-traditional author who succeeds should sign with a traditional publisher unless they offer you an obscene amount of money. Because what is that publisher going to do for you that you can’t do for yourself that’s worth the incredible loss of royalty rate?
    Also, my rule of thumb in traditional publishing is that unless you get a least six figures per book, the publisher is tossing your book out there with the rest of the books they toss out there. And with the retail outlets that traditional publishing consigns to dying quickly, the future is inevitable.

  3. Ron Knight says:

    Thanks for the feedback Michael N. Marcus of “Book Making Blog,” and “Self-Pub Info.” I have to be honest. I don’t have someone edit my blogs for apostrophes. ~ Ron Knight