Which Route Should You Take: Self-Publishing or Traditional?

This is the first post in an eight-week series on publishing and editing! Check the chart at the end for a schedule.

Almost every writer at some time or another wonders which publishing route they should take. In my experience, most writers want to take the traditional route. But why? They usually say they want more notoriety or money. Then others say they want to be famous.

Those who take the self-publishing route tend to want the freedom that comes with it.

But which route should YOU take?

The Difference

So, what is the difference between traditional publishing and self-publishing? The short answer is that with traditional publishing a publishing company does all the marketing, design, and formatting for you, though you may want to contribute to marketing if you can. And they pay you up front.

With self-publishing, you do all the work. You hire the designers, editors, and formatters—and I highly recommend hiring an editor, even if you do your own design and formatting—and don’t get paid unless you sell a book. The marketing is also all on you. If you don’t market, you won’t sell your book.

Note: Below is an overview of the timelines for both self and traditional publishing, but I will go into more detail on each in their own articles in the upcoming weeks.

Self-Publishing Timeline

  • Writing

    This varies depending on your outlining and writing speed. It took me a year to outline and write the first draft of Lies that Bind.

  • Editing

    This can vary depending on what your book needs. It can range anywhere from 1 to 4 months. Copyediting doesn’t take near as long as developmental editing. And the longer your book is the longer it will take to edit.

  • Formatting & Cover Design

    You can do this fairly quickly by using Fiverr, a website for freelancers. In my experience, the turnaround time can be just a few days.

    If you have illustrations–like for children’s books–this can vary widely. Talk with different illustrators on their turnaround times.

  • Copyright & LLCN

    You don’t have to have copyright and a Library of Congress Number, but I would recommend having them. The copyright and LLCN only takes a couple weeks, but it takes a year to get the certificate for the copyright.

After the initial writing and editing has been completed, self publishing can take anywhere from one to six months to complete.


Traditional Editing Timeline

  • Writing

    This will be the same for both self and traditional publishing.

  • Querying

    This is where I am in the traditional publishing process. This can take weeks, months, or even years depending on your dedication, who you query to, and your book.

    If you want to skip this step, there are publishing houses take non-agented manuscripts.

  • Editing with Agent

    You thought you were done editing? Think again! It takes about 4 months to edit with your agent to get your book ready for publishers. This can vary a bit depending on your writing speed, though.

  • Proposal to Publishers

    This can take months to years depending on the market, your agent, and your book.

  • Contraction Negotiation

    This only takes a few weeks to a couple months, but that depends on your publisher’s and agent’s workloads.

  • Additional Editing

    You still aren’t done editing at this point. The publisher will provide you with edits, which takes about 2 months, then you send your book back within 30 days in most cases.

  • Behind the Scenes

    There’s a lot that goes into finishing the book up. There’s formatting, marketing, cover design, and printing. This can take up to a year.

  • Finish Line

    After printing, the books are finally sent to the stores. About 1-2 weeks later, they should hit the shelves!

After the initial writing and editing has been done, traditional publishing can take one to two years.


So which route would you take? I want to take the traditional publishing route because I want the opportunity to reach a broader audience. It works better with my professional career goals. What works best for you?

March 16, 2021Which Route Should You Take: Self-Publishing or Traditional?
March 23, 2021Why Does it Take So Long to Publish Traditionally?
March 30, 2021How Long Does It Take to Self-Publish Your Novel?
April 6, 2021Is Your Book Ready for an Editor?
April 13, 2021Looking for an Editor? Ask Them These 10 Questions First
April 20, 2021The 8 Questions I Ask Perspective Clients
April 27, 2021Is Your Manuscript Agent-Ready? Use My Checklist to Make Sure
May 4, 20214 Tips to Creating a Mind-Blowing Query Letter

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