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Traditional Publishing vs Self-Publishing (UBC Day 20)

I knew I wanted to pursue traditional publishing. As technology made self-publishing an option, I weighed the pros and cons and made my decision. Here are some pros and cons for traditional and self-published options.

What is Traditional Publishing?

Being a traditionally published author means an established publishing house has purchased your manuscript. You may sign a contract yourself with a smaller publisher, or you have researched and connected with an agent who will negotiate a contract and work with you to obtain the best deal for your work. 

You may get paid for your work up front, but once the book hits the shelves, you’ll have to “earn out” your advance before you start receiving royalties. It can be a long process, but their are other benefits after signing with a publisher.

Pros and Cons of Traditional Publishing


  • Your book will have the opportunity for a wider distribution, perhaps worldwide.
  • Being published by a small, medium, or large publisher will offer you a team of professionals who will help you edit your craft to produce the best product. The sales and marketing teams will help guide you to gain sales. You’ll have access to experts in the field of children’s publishing at your side.
  • No upfront cost to producing your book.
  • As an author, your work is validated by a contract offer – it’s not an easy task. 


  • It may take many years to see a finished product. And royalty payments average ~10% of a book. Higher royalty and advance payments are possible, but rare.
  • You lose creative control over the end product – how much depends on the publisher and the content.
  • An author or illustrator will still be required to participate in marketing.
  • Some contract clauses can be limiting. 

Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing


  • Your book can make it to shelves quickly.
  • Most of the money your book earns goes into your pocket.
  • Your book can have a long-lasting shelf life because your are in control of your end product.
  • Research on the internet can help you find a home for your manuscript and connect your with other indie authors/illustrators. Publishing online has become easier. 


  • Cost – everything is paid upfront.
  • Lack of community resources – finding an independent editor, illustrator, how to publish, where to publish, how to market and sell will all land on your own shoulders.
  • Nothing is guaranteed. You may be spending a lot for little in return. 

Why I Chose a Traditional Path to Publication

Everyone’s publishing journey is different. And I’m sure there are more pros and cons of both traditional publishing and self-publishing. These are just a few I thought of as I weighed options.

My decision is based on my values of perseverance, “don’t quit,” and teamwork. Can you tell I was an athlete when I was young? 

I want to learn from “my coaches,” work hard to hone my skills, and pursue “a winning game.” It didn’t matter to me how long it would take for my work to be traditionally published. Or how long it would take to connect with my incredible agent. I was willing to be patient and follow through until I reached my goals.

I’m still working hard and learning all aspects of my craft – being a traditionally published children’s author. 

Wishing you the best on your writing journey!




Children's Author and Educator

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