Kayla Hicks - Author Kayla Hicks - Author

Publishing 101

6 min read

How to choose between Traditional Publishing and Self-Publishing

When writers begin determining what publishing route they are going to embark on, they have two choices to choose between.

Self-publishing or Traditional publishing.

The first thing that writers need to understand before they determine which avenue is going to be right for them is that it takes 3 to 6 books to gain both a steady following and sales. This means authors should be prepared to play the long game.

Before you embark on the journey to publication, you need to build the following:

  • Your connections

  • Social Media Platforms

  • Website

  • Your Knowledge of the publishing world

Once you have built:

  • Your Connections

  • Social Media Platforms

  • Website

  • Your Knowledge of the Publishing World

You can begin to explore what the right publishing route is for you.

Now, truthfully, the publishing world has changed drastically over the past decade and it will keep changing.

Self-publishing has made a rise that not many have expected.

And Traditional publishing has become more of a narrow field.

However, both are good options.

Traditional Publishing

The act of presenting your finished and edited manuscript to agents in hopes that they will help you field it to large publishing houses.

The process can take from a year to a few years but the payoff can be huge in the eyes of readers.


This is when authors wear all hats in the process, with the exception of hiring an editor or possibly a cover designer.

Choosing this option also requires a process to ensure everything runs smoothly, including marketing, and research.

Take your time deciding which option will best fit the vision you have for your book so you can focus your efforts in the right direction.

Traditional publishing is the dream of so many authors.

Readers have a trusted relationship with publishing houses to bring them great books to read as they have for many years.

So scoring a publishing deal means reaching that audience.

Pros of Traditional Pub:

  • Potential to reach thousands of readers

  • Better chance of sales and recognition

  • A proven process to produce a polished product

Cons of Traditional Pub:

  • The process can last years

  • Still need to be able to market yourself

  • The publisher could require you to make significant changes to the story

  • If the book doesn’t do well, may be required to pay any advance back

Before trying to find an agent be sure to:

  • Create a book synopsis

  • Create a good hook for your agent queries

  • Research your agents and tailor your queries to each one

  • Figure out great selling points about yourself (social media followers)

Once you begin querying agents, keep a tracking sheet of who you queried and be mindful of response windows which can be months to years depending on their cue.

Self-Publishing has been on the rise for the past few years as many authors take on the challenge of wearing all hats during the process in order to get their books to readers.

And in order to choose this, you need to be dedicated.

You want to:

  • Network within the writing community

  • Find the right platform to publish to

  • Create a timeline from start to publish

  • Set Goals and Deadlines

Doing so will help you make progress.

You’ll want to learn how to:

  • Market

  • Run advertisements

  • Build your platform

  • Stand out in a crowded market

Because you are the one man/ woman show making this happen.

Believe it or not, several famous authors became big through self-publishing:

  • Christopher Paolini, author of the book Eragon

  • EL James, author of 50 Shades of Grey

  • Andy Weir, author of The Martian

So it is possible!

If you set up a plan of action, meet the right people to pass down wisdom, and stay dedicated, self-publishing could be the thing for you.

Marketing and drawing in your target audience are one of the toughest feats for an author.

And no, strange marketing advances such as putting your book in people’s grocery carts don’t usually work.

Each genre or topic comes with a target audience. So this also means you have a good chance of researching trending topics that are drawing your audience in.

Or, take a peek at other authors in your genre and see what they are doing.

Chances are, you will gather some good intel.

Examples of Target Audience:

  • Children’s Picture books: Birth to age 8

  • Young Adult: 15- 20 years old (and I know I still read these and I’m 31)

  • Horror: 15- 24 years old

And obviously, we all tend to read out of the age spectrum.

But knowing this helps you market.

Once you figure out who, you figure out how to market:

  • Book trailers

  • Videos (book readings, character intros, YouTube Channels)

  • Advertisement Campaigns

  • Posts on social media talking about your book or process

As you begin marketing, which can start from the very beginning, be sure to discover how much to market.

You don’t want to overwhelm your audience with too much marketing or it becomes background noise.

If it helps, create a marketing schedule.

I hope my Publishing 101 threads have been helpful. If you want more detail on each of the points I covered, you can find out more in my book, Starting Your Publishing Journey: A Beginners Guide.