Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing: Which is More Profitable

If you are thinking about publishing a book, determining how to publish it is a BIG decision. So, is self-publishing or traditional more profitable?When it comes to writing a book, it can be a pretty long and arduous process. And that is just the actual writing of the book! But then you have to get your work out there to the public. So now comes the bigger question: how do you determine the best way to publish your work? In today’s world, writers have a few more options than just the traditional publishing route of the days of olde. We can self-publish, go the traditional publishing route, or use a hybrid publisher. But, which publishing method is more profitable in the long run?

What is Self-Publishing

Self-publishing your book can be a more labor intensive process. At least for you. This is because self-publishing is exactly what it sounds like. You are doing all of the work yourself, instead of having a team of professionals doing a lot of the heavy lifting.

However, when you self-publish, you retain all of the creative control and the royalties. You can design the book however you want to, as well as write in whatever style suits you best. You can also market your book wherever, and however, you deem fit.

This process is really the best fit for writers that are more entrepreneurial by nature.

When it comes to self-publishing, you have quite a few great options to choose from.


Aggregators are self-publishing companies that provide publishing and retail outlets for eBooks, primarily. The way they work is that once you have created your book using their tools, they will put it on their retail platform, as well as distribute it to many other retailers online. This way you get the most bang for your buck due to getting a much wider reach. The even bigger bonus here is that some book retailers do not take submissions directly from authors, but aggregators can get into them for you. So you will be able to sell your book on platforms previously out of reach for you.

The way aggregators work is that they will charge you anywhere from 10-% – 20% on top of what the retailer charges you for the book sale. So, while you may be getting a much larger reach, your proceeds will be significantly reduced.

Some of the most well known aggregators are:

Amazon Direct Publishing

With Amazon Direct Publishing, you can create your book directly on their platform and begin selling it almost instantaneously. Amazon will put your book on their Kindle Direct site, which will get you a very far reach. With them, you can use their tools for free to create your book. Their tools are very easy to use, have easy to follow steps to walk you through and if all else fails you can reach out to their support to help guide you.

Ultimately, if you choose to self-publish with Amazon, you can make around 70% royalties on eBooks and 80% royalties on physical books. However, keep in mind that you still have to pay the printing costs for physical books, so that will come out of your royalties.

Since Amazon has the largest worldwide reach of any book distributor in the digital space, this may be the way to go. Or, at least make sure whoever you choose to self-publish with will put your book on their platform. If not, you are missing out on a huge piece of the pie.


Blurb is a self-publishing company that has been around for quite awhile now. They make it very easy to create your book with their wide variety of tools for different platforms. Once you have created your book, you can choose to either print off hard copies or sell on demand. Usually, the sell on demand is the better option for profitability. Unless you are planning to set up some book signings and sell hard copies of your book.

The price to publish your book with Blurb will depend on quite a few different factors:

  • Physical copies, digital format or audio books
  • Print physical books or sell on demand
  • Paper type
  • Page count
  • Cover type
  • Color or black and white
  • Pictures or no pictures

I co-authored a children’s book that we self-published on Blurb back in 2012 called Oracle Helps With a Who. This book took my co-author and I a little over a year to write and ultimately cost us under $100 to get everything done for self-publishing. However, every time we sell a book, it costs money to print it, so we only make a small royalty. Which is perfectly fine, because we the money it costs to print the books comes out of the sale of the book and we just get the royalties direct deposited.

If you are thinking about going this direction, they have a really great calculator to help you figure out what the cost would be to print your book.

And once you have your book ready to go, you can connect your sell on demand to a few other sites automatically. Besides selling it on Blurb, you can connect to Amazon, Kickstarter and your own website.


Retailers are self-publishing sites that help streamline things for you. Once you use their tools to create your book, you will be ready to connect it to their retail store. These platforms have their own store with which to sell and market your book. Some of the most prominent retailers include:

With a retailer, what you will make depends upon their structure. But the overall cost to publish with them is pretty nominal.

What is Traditional Publishing

Traditional publishing is how books have been released to the masses for majority of current history. However, times are certainly changing with the digital age. And in due course, so must the publishing industry.

With traditional publishing, you submit your work to different agents first. This can either be the completed manuscript, a partial manuscript or a book idea. You will likely get a ton of rejections until you find an agent who believes in your story.

Once that happens, the agent will then submit your work to different publishers to see who will take the project on. That will get you a lot more rejections, until somebody finally agrees to publish your book.

Then there will be a lot of edits, and possibly different editors, for your work. Eventually, your book will get published.

The major perks to this type of publishing are:

  • No out of pocket money on your end
  • Prestige
  • Validation
  • Getting into bookstores is a LOT easier
  • Higher chance of getting book awards

What is Hybrid Publishing

Hybrid publishing houses are few and far between. This method is a combination of traditional and self-publishing. What this usually means is that you are dealing with a smaller publishing house that lets you have a lot of control still. You do get the creative editorial team to work with, so it is more structured and professional. But, you will have to do all of your own marketing, unless you pay them for PR services.

They will:

  • Create your cover art
  • Help you with the book editing
  • Provide copy layout
  • Put your book on multiple digital platforms
  • Reach out to bookstores to get your book on their shelves
  • Create some marketing and launch strategies with you

So a hybrid publishing company is one you may want to go with if you want the prestige of having a book published by a publishing house, but you make all of the royalties from book sales. However, keep in mind that you will have to pay for these services out of pocket, whether you sell any books or not. So, you have to be willing to fork over some dough in the hopes of selling books to really make this work.

For my second book, I chose to go with a hybrid publishing house instead of self-publishing. It definitely cost me more money to get The Art of Being a Pita published, but I learned a lot about the professional publishing process. And, I was able to get this book into multiple bookstores, whereas my first book isn’t in any.

Since I wanted to be taken as a more serious writer, this seemed like a good way to go for the validation aspect. So, while this process was very different than my first and cost me more money, there are pros and cons to both methods.

The most profitable publishing method depends on your ultimate goals for your book. Click To Tweet

Which Publishing Method is Most Profitable

Ultimately, the publishing method you choose depends on your overall goals with making your work public. If you are going for notoriety, then traditional publishing or hybrid are the two best options. But, if you are just eager to get your work out there, and don’t really care about the notoriety aspect, then self-publishing is probably for you.

In all reality, self-publishing and traditional cost the least amount of money. But it is much easier to self-publish than to go the traditional route.

Overall, traditional publishing can be the most profitable, IF you can get a publishing house to publish your work. Otherwise, you may want to go with self-publishing, since it doesn’t cost much to get the work out there and you get to keep all of the proceeds.

If you have published books, which method have you found to be the most profitable?