For Writers: Traditional Publishing vs. E-Publishing vs. Self-Publishing! A Pro and Cons List Plus General Advice

Just cracking a door into this topic makes my head want to explode. With so many options out there for writers to publish their work, it takes research and good judgment to choose the path that fits best. I compiled a list of pros and cons for traditional publishing, self-publishing, and e-publishing. I add some general advice after each section.

Let’s take a look:

Traditional Publishing: The Literary Agent 


  • Most publishers will not accept manuscripts without an agent. Agents filter submissions and reduce the workload for publishers.
  • Agents have access to editors of large and small publishing houses and are thus better able to put the right story and writer with the right editor.
  • Agents know what editors want, and the writer’s manuscripts receive priority.
  • Agents handle contracts and negotiations so writers can focus on writing.
  • Agents help writers polish and lead proposals in the right direction to help editors sell them to superiors.
  • A good relationship with a literary agent provides an outlet to help generate ideas for the next book concept before time is invested in a concept that needs tweaking or eliminating.
  • Experienced agents know and understand the publishing industry and can get the right contract for a writer.
  • Experience agents understand editor’s needs, know what’s current and what’s not, and are on top of corporate policies.


  • Lack of autonomy in terms of handling negotiations and selling of work
  • Sharing the profits of books sold; Most agents earn 15% of author royalties.
  • The trap of new agents out for him/herself and not the author; new agents have little to no previous contacts with publishing industry.
  • Scammers: agents or impostors who make money off the writer by charging reading fees; not members of AAR; other hidden fees: manuscript critique, editing services, additional services, connecting clients to fee charging publishers, etc
  • Writers must do careful, extensive research on agents to ensure they find the right agent.
  • Query letters and Synopses (enough said)
  • And the waiting and rejection letters

General Advice:

  • Author Michelle Buckman: “Getting a bad agent is worse than no agent, but a good agent is precious to your career.”
  • Ask agents smart questions: Material they represent, length of contracts, fees charged, prior representations, willing to represent more than one book, willing to nurture careers, etc.
  • Meet agents at writers’ conferences because connections can be established and an agent might express interest in work unlike in cold contacting.
  • Agents are interested in writers who are familiar with the publishing industry and have been in the field for a time. Get informed.

Non-Traditional: Self-Publishing (Print)


  •  Autonomy: control price and cover; control changes, decisions, etc
  •  Autonomy over the creative process
  • Self-publishing writer can receive 40-60% of selling price as opposed to author in traditional route who receives 10% of selling price.
  • Instant publication
  • Writer controls marketing details of book.
  • “The accomplishment of building something from the ground up.” – Sally McGraw


  • No free professional editors, people to handle layouts or format book, cover art, printing, sales people, etc: All this must be done alone or seek help, which costs money.
  • Most likely to sell fewer copies than if with a traditional publisher who prints and distributes books
  • Writer must figure out how to negotiate payment and ensure contract matches typical publishing contracts (writer to editor without agent).
  • Writer is responsible for promotional costs.
  • Print route is risky in the midst of popularity surrounding e-books and digital publishing.
  • Money is invested before received and there is no guarantee a return.
  • Writer must find a distributor because most book sellers will not buy directly from an author.
  • Building brand and garnering audience might take some time.
  • Very stressful and time consuming

General Advice:

  • Create meaningful connections with other writers; promote self through bloggers in terms of reviews, giveaways, and promotional incentives.
  • Work with a small press that specializes to the book’s genre.
  • Organize or host local events to promote self and bolster sales.

E-Book Publishing


  • Writer controls the rights of his or her work; can choose the cover, the editor, etc.
  • Writer controls pricing and examines novel sales as they’re happening, which offers insight to markets tactics that work and don’t.
  • There’s no need for a middle-person or company who takes portion of proceeds.
  • Speedier process as opposed to the one or two years wait that results in a hunt for an agent and editor and wait-time for book printing and availability in bookstores.
  • Potential for increased readership
  • Market for E-Books is growing.
  • Potential to make a small fortune
  • Easier to produce subsidiary content for your work
  • E-Books can never go out of print so opens up new opportunities for new readers.


  • Investing money before making money: paying for custom cover art, professional editor, formatting, etc
  • Lack of standard formats available for readers using a variety of systems; can lead to reader confusion
  • Writer must take sole responsibility of marketing side; invest time in learning marketing strategies.
  • Sales have ups and down. Unpredictability
  • Quality must be high to compete with other E-Books.
  • Amazon’s algorithms for suggesting author’s works to readers does not always work to the favor of the author.

General Advice:

  •  Aggressively, but intelligently market book online. Take time learning about marketing strategies through social media.
  • Invest time in building an audience and targeting readers.

What do you think? Think something I should add something or remove anything? Let me know! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Stay amazing,


List of Sources:

  • Jennifer Reed: How To Decide If You Need a Literary Agent. And How to Find a Literary Agent (
  • Ali: Book Writing and Publishing FAQ – Do I Need a Literary Agent? The Pros and Cons of Having Literary Agent Represent You to Publishers
  • Writer’s Nook Club: Creating And Selling E-Books: The Pros & Cons For Creating Electronic Books (


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