Trad vs Self-Published

Traditional Publishing –

Traditional publishing (AKA Trad) is a concept most people are familiar with.

When a writer finishes their book, they approach literary agents for representation. This is the phase that keeps most writers up at night. This is querying.

If the agent likes the query, they’ll request the full manuscript. And if they like the full MS (for any number of reason), they will respond to the author to offer representation. If this is what you envision for yourself, you’re probably drifting away right now, fantasising about that call.

Contracts are drafted, presented and signed by the writer and the agency, and hey presto, you have an agent.

That agent will then support the author and help them prepare to sell the book to a publishing house.

What a lot of people don’t realise is this- now, the agent will do pretty much what you’ve been doing and sending out queries to publishers. But they called this phase “out on submission.” And this is why it’s so hard to get an agent. They have to be confident that the publishing houses will want your book and will be willing to buy it. After all, your agent doesn’t make money off you until they make you money first.

If a publishing house fancies the book, they make the author an offer  in the form of up front advances, and/or royalties. Then, the publishing house will employ editors, formatters, book and cover designers and marketing.

This method sees the publishing house foot the bill, but the author won’t see any royalties until the advance payment is earn out. And then, the author will only make a percentage of the sale price as royalties. 

This is considered as the gold standard of becoming an author.


Unlike Trad publishing, there are no agents or publishing houses. The author writes their book, edits it by either self-editing or paying a freelance editor. Then, they will format it or have employ a freelance book formatter, and then either design the cover themselves, or pay a book designer to create their vision. The author is now ready to publish their book through whatever platform they choose.

This method sees all the cost fall at the author’s feet, but the royalties are much greater.

Despite this being the smaller section to this post, the indie route is much, much harder on the writer. They will take on everything. But if they succeed, they reap bigger financial rewards. And so they should because this is a full time job.

Check out the video below for a great overview of all the different publishing routes.

Meg LaTorre is an experienced agent, editor and writer, and her advice is always spot on.

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