Indie publishing vs Traditional publishing – What to choose?

An author begins to write a book for the sole purpose of having his story reach an audience. The completed manuscript binds the aspirations and expectations of the writer together. But they can only be achieved when the book is published.

While completing a book is a part of the process, publishing it becomes one of the most important phases of the entire journey. This phase determines the expected reach of the book, creates a reading community and markets the book to the audience before its arrival on to the stands.

indie-vs-traditional title picture

Various kinds of publishing

The entire process is filled with questions, doubts, rejections and rare acceptance. However, what becomes significant in recent times is the mode of publishing the writer chooses. With several options such as traditional publishing, self-publishing, indie publishing, hybrid publishing, etc., the author tends to become confused.

However, the final choice should be made keeping in mind the writer’s requirements and according to what would best suit the genre.

Traditional publishing

Traditional publishing is one method of publication that most authors seem to be familiar with, by now. The writer submits his finished manuscript to a publishing house via a literary agent, which is then reviewed by an editor. The latter decides whether the material suits the publishing house and thus decides either to reject it or publish it.

If considered suitable, the rights to the book are bought by the publishing house in question. They pay the author an advance and become the gatekeepers for the book. The house invests their money in building a readers’ community, designing and packaging the book, printing its copies and marketing it before its launch.

Why choose Traditional Publishing?

Writer Scott Semergran says, “Many authors still tout the traditional publishing model as the best way to go, particularly if you want to be taken “seriously” as a writer.”

This model of publishing a book is familiar. It validates the author and grants him recognition even before the release of the book. When recognized by a publishing house, the author collaborates with a professional team that is already in place and can earn without the added pressures of marketing and upfront financial costs as opposed to other methods of publishing.

While the process may be significantly slower, the publisher invests by means of staff time and provides professional services through the following means:

  • Editing the book
  • Designing the book cover
  • Proofreading the book
  • Publicizing the book
  • Marketing the book

There are several factors that are considered while publishing the book. It depends on the genre and category that the book belongs to, and thus the expected time is taken to publish a book. It is therefore left to the author to choose what would best suit his book.

However, this choice is as much the publishing house’s as the authors. If the book is not selected to be published, the writer has no option but to turn to other methods for publishing his book.

Pros and Cons of Traditional Publishing


  • It brings prestige to the author and serves as validation.
  • Since the publisher covers all additional cost, the author is not expected to suffer any financial losses.
  • The publisher provides all professional services, thus easing the author’s burden.
  • The book can be sold as widely on the internet as in bookstores since print distribution becomes easier.
  • Literary acclaim becomes more likely and traditional publishing becomes a potential ground for the author to become a brand-name.


  • The process might be extremely slow, and it may take years for the publishing house to even go through the manuscript, let alone select it.
  • Authors lose creative control over their own work and must edit it according to the requirements of the publishing house.
  • The legal contracts are binding and often confusing, allowing the publishing house to exploit the writer.
  • The royalties offered to the author are usually low.

Indie Publishing

With the rise of online bookstores and readers turning to e-books in the present scenario, Self-Published Independent (Indie) authors have begun to dominate the market. Indie-publishing is one of the models of publication where the author becomes the publisher. In other words, he self-published his book.

The writer of the book takes on several responsibilities in addition to proof-reading and editing the text. He becomes the marketer, distributor, advertiser and the entire professional team – all rolled into one.

Why turn to Indie Publishing?

Traditional publishing houses work in keeping with the interest of the consumer preferences. This makes the entire process seem sceptical to the author who might not want to waste his time waiting around for the tide to turn in his favour. And as author Jessica Bell says, in Indie Publishing, “there is room for everyone.”

There are several reasons as to why an author would consider self-publishing his book. One of these is that this model allows the author to do exactly what he aspires to with his book. The writer isn’t confined by the connected agent’s ‘advice’ to change the way he has written and can express his unique opinion amongst the supposed demand of the audience. He can make his own choices and design his book (KillerBookCovers) in accordance with his line of vision by hiring professionals.

With the room created for Independent publishers through e-commerce websites in the present scenario, Indie publishing has become big. While the business does involve its risks like any other business would, authors learn about marketing and promoting their own book and eventually get the return they had paid for.

In addition to this, writers understand and stand by their genre and subject area as they decide to self-publish their book and learn everything about the key players.

This helps them turn their project i.e. their book, into a resounding success. For example, books by authors such as Hugh Howey and Colleen Hoover.

Pros and Cons of Indie Publishing


  • Authors have absolute creative control over their books and have no editorial choices forced on them.
  • The e-book is published much faster than in traditional publishing, allowing it to be sold in markets in a matter of weeks.
  • The writers get significant time to make changes and observe the book’s performance in the market accordingly.
  • The royalties offered to the author are significantly high and the book has a reach around the global markets.
  • The books have a higher shelf-life than traditionally published books and if a book does well, publishers go to the author directly.


  • The ‘brand’ of validation attached to Indie publishing remains and no prestige is attained by the industry.
  • The author must take up several roles in the process, doing to all by himself and painstakingly hiring professional who suit his vision.
  • Financial responsibilities fall on the author and an upfront budget is required to market the book.
  • Public distribution in bookstores is difficult and nearly impossible.
  • Literary acclaim is difficult to attain since most prizes don’t accept indie authors and neither do mainstream literary critics.

How to make the choice?

When an author chooses which model of publishing to follow, he must ask himself one question — Why does he want to create a book?

This will help him identify his own expectations from the book he has written and the audience he wants to reach. The target readership that comes to his mind will answer the question for him.

This is because an author writes to express his opinions. With the recent success rates of authors turning to indie publishing, more writers have accepted this model for publishing their book and fulfilled their aspirations even as traditional publishing continues to be dominant in the market.

In conclusion, while these separate models might be different from one another they are have become relevant for the authors who choose either, considering what best represents their interests and their books.

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