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Ask Ronnie: Is There More Money In Self-Publishing Or Traditional Publishing?

Ask Ronnie: Is There More Money In Self-Publishing Or Traditional Publishing?

 We get a lot of questions from creative writers all across the country (and from faraway countries as well) here at Writer’s Relief, and we do our best to help writers in all stages of their careers. One of our most frequently asked questions is whether there is more money in self-publishing or traditional publishing.

  1. Which makes more money: self-publishing or traditional publishing?
  2. Self-publishing and traditional publishing offer very different methods of dealing with finances. The initial cost of self-publishing is generally absorbed by the profits.

With traditional publishing, authors make most of their profit up front (an advance). Then, if they are able to “sell through” (sell all their copies), they’ll start making royalties. Even publishing houses that no longer offer an advance still offer royalties.

With self-publishing, there is more variety in how an author is paid due to the difference in their publishing timeline. Each self-publishing company will have its own standards, and the decision to self-publish on your own presents entirely different options as well.

Generally, royalties on self-published books and e-books tend to be higher than royalties on traditionally published books—in part because a self-publishing company has a lot less at stake and needs to put less effort (and dollars) into any given project than a traditional publisher might.

However, although self-publishing royalties are significantly higher, sales volume can be significantly lower in cases where self-published authors are not prepared to handle publicity and marketing demands for their books.

In the end, how much money you make depends on 1) how good your book is, 2) how well you market it, and 3) how widely your book is distributed.

An addendum: Though there are many happily (and successfully!) self-published authors out there, writers who self-publish must be prepared to undertake the entire effort of marketing their book, use a social media assistance service, or hire a consultant. Whichever path you choose, working tirelessly to promote your book, and making connections with fans and vendors, can be the key to your self-published (or traditionally published) book’s success!

Self-publishing can be a great way to get your book in print, provided you have adequate business and industry know-how and your expectations are realistic. We hope our articles will help you make informed decisions about when to self-publish and when to keep trying to find a home for your book at a major publishing house.

At Writer’s Relief, we love that writers turn to us for answers about self-publishing versus traditional publishing and everything in between; we do our best to develop plans so that creative writers can get their submissions circulating again. Send your writing and publishing questions to us at And, as always, keep writing!

P.S. If you want to chat with Ronnie in real time, why not come hang out with Writer’s Relief on Twitter?

3 Responses to Ask Ronnie: Is There More Money In Self-Publishing Or Traditional Publishing?

  1. We’ve seen that technique before for "novel in stories," including the novella end-cap. Good luck!

  2. I’ve been working on a collection of common-thread stories with a novella as an end-cap.I was informed to stack my stories,meaning your best story first, 2nd best last, 3rd on follows the first, fourth on prior to the last…sort of pyramid style..back and forth. I’ve set my collection this way and then added the novella. We’ll see how that computes when an agent/publisher gets to it.
    Anybody elses have an idea?

  3. Hey Prez: this is great to have! Here’s my question: what’s the best way to compile a group of short stories into a collection/book– so rather than a novel, you got related (or not) short stories in one book…?
    Mary Diane
    WR Rocks

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