The Pros and Cons of Traditional Publishing by Marie Lavender

The Pros and Cons of Traditional Publishing 

by Marie Lavender

With the popularity of the indie publishing route, I know some beginning writers may wonder why someone would choose to pursue a traditional publisher at all – either by acquiring a literary agent or submitting directly to a publishing company. Indeed, what are the benefits, especially when it’s just as easy to upload your edited manuscript to Amazon KDP and add a cover? Bam…done! There’s a book! ;) 

Yet, it would behoove us to explore the possibilities, the pluses and minuses of having a traditional publisher, if you will, while considering this approach as a writer…


1.      Professional Credibility. 

Despite the prevalence of indie publishing, having a contract with a real publisher is heavily respected in most circles. It increases your credibility as an author. However, many readers don’t tend to care which publisher you have as long as you're with one.

Writers have the luxury of being a bit pickier, though.

2.      Support.

Most of the time, an author support group/writing community develops at the publisher. All the authors there are in the same boat, and veterans can offer advice to newcomers.

William White, Unsplash

3.      Pride.

If being a traditionally published means a lot to you as a writer, you gain a sense of accomplishment, having mastered a milestone of your career goals.

4.      Cost-Effective.

Unless you somehow got stuck with a vanity publisher (Yikes!), a lot of the cost is on your publishing company. The editing, book cover art, final proofreading, and minor marketing are all covered, among other aspects (distribution). And that's a relief, because these services are often so expensive.

In some cases, the job of a release or launch party is on you as the author. The promo graphics for featuring the book on social media are your responsibility (you can create them on your own, or hire a designer to do it for you), and the cost of the prizes for readers will come out of your own pocket. In the scheme of things, though, it isn’t much to expect if you’re not paying out for all the other stuff.

5.      Expand Your Author Platform and Reach Places You Couldn’t As an Indie.

Periodic book launches and Amazon promo deals help you reach book readers. Furthermore, if you’re lucky, your publisher has great book distribution, and the title might even land in a bookstore at some point. 

Renee Fisher, Unsplash

Fingers crossed! :)

6.      Drop Your Security Blanket.

An added benefit of having a publisher – of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a published book – is confidence. You’ll get more comfortable stepping out of your comfort zone, so to speak. If you’re an introvert by nature (some creative types are), you will often be forced to try on different roles as an author. Through your marketing efforts, you may deal with radio hosts or even journalists who want to interview you. Enjoy the experience, and work despite your nerves. 

Austin Distel, Unsplash

These opportunities will help you grow accustomed to similar situations. Before long, you’ll be able to confront any promotional event like a pro!

Now…let’s flip to the other side and discuss some cons.


1.      Getting In the Door Is Tough.

If you’ve started the traditional publishing process, then you know there are protocols. You must have a query letter, a synopsis, and sample chapters (not to mention a fully polished manuscript) before ever approaching a potential publisher. It’s normal to suffer numerous rejections from literary agents and publishers alike, before someone finally offers you a book contract. This process can take time, and some writers grow discouraged and give up long before they’ve given themselves a chance.

Nathan Cowley,

2.      You Often Have No Control Over the Finished Product.

Let’s say you’ve landed a publisher. Congratulations! But, there’s still work to be done. The problem is that now you have to try to accept what you’re given, even if you don’t always agree with the decisions at hand. Some publishers cut corners on book covers, or even on final proofreading. Diversely, if they do it right, you still might end up with a cover or title that you hate. Or...let's say you disagree with an editor about subtle changes he or she wants you to make. There’s really not much you can do after signing a contract. The publisher has final say over this stuff. All you can do is hope that your feedback is acknowledged, but try not to become the problem author (one who complains about every aspect of the process, and goes out of his or her way to badmouth the publisher on social media and such). You’ll be tanked before you even have a chance to enjoy being published.

3.      You May Do More Than You Ever Planned.

If your initial strategy was to get published, and then sit back and let the Benjamins roll in, you’re in for a world of hurt. 

Pepi Stojanovski, Unsplash

Publishers have expectations of their authors. They want to see their writers trying to sell books, or at least developing their brand. If you’re lucky, the publisher you signed with helps out with some of the marketing/book promotion. But sometimes it falls back to you. Your platform is solely on you as the author, and with good reason. Would you expect your publisher to build and maintain your own website/blog/Facebook page/Twitter/Instagram profile? No. Yes, there are services that help you with these things, but it will be much better overall if you try to do it yourself first.

Building your brand and platform is your job. Unless you have a great PA and stellar publicist, be prepared to work your butt off and sell the hell out of your book! 

That also, unfortunately, means reaching out to reviewers on your own. Not all publishers automatically send out ARCs (advance review copies) to review sites. If you know a friend with a book reviewer list, jump for it. Otherwise, you’ll have to find them all yourself. And that, my friends, is time-consuming. Believe me, I know. 

If you’re at a loss, contact me directly for such a reviewer list.

4.      Bureaucracy Is A Thing.

Not only is the publishing process slow, accomplishing anything real seems impossible, as it has to circulate through so many channels. 


Your best bet is to be patient, unless you know for sure that someone at the publisher is violating a policy of your contract.

5.      Book Contracts Don’t Last Forever.

Most contracts have a three-year span, with the option of renewing if both parties are still interested. The truly unfortunate thing is that a publisher can drop you at any time for any reason. 

6.      Your Book Royalties May Not Be What You Expected.

How often you receive royalties is up to the publisher (and most don’t offer an advance). Some pay once a month, others quarterly or twice a year. And the income you get may pale in comparison to all the labor you actually put into writing the book. 

Regardless, you still have to pay taxes, even if you only made what amounts to ten cups of coffee that year. Unfair, I know.

7.      You’re A Victim of An Industry’s Evolution.

Things are constantly changing in the publishing world. 

chuttersnap, Unsplash

Your favorite editor may leave the publisher or switch jobs. The publishing company might change their mission statement, which could affect the types of books they offer. Some publishers close their doors – it’s not unheard of – leaving contracted authors in quite a pickle.

And I’m not saying any of this to discourage writers from traditional publishing. I just want everyone to have the facts upfront.


It’s overwhelming, to say the least. You may decide to go full-on indie instead of bothering with a publisher. For myself? I prefer to be a hybrid, to dance in both worlds. That way, I can gauge the benefits of each approach. And yes, perhaps someday one side will outweigh the other. That remains to be seen.

The choice is yours. But I like to have all the details in advance so I can make an informed decision. A lot of new writers go into this situation with huge expectations, and then get discouraged. Some quit. The journey isn’t easy, for sure. Yet, having your book reach readers – to give it the best chance possible – is rather the point of publishing, right? Let’s do what we can to get there, even through the ups and downs. Hopefully my experiences have offered some insight so you can make the best choice for your own work. That has always been the goal for this blog – to help writers of any background at any stage of their careers.

But I can’t stress enough that you should manage your expectations. Whether you choose to self-publish or find a traditional publisher, be prepared for a big reality check. If you got into this to become an instant millionaire, you’d be better off buying a lottery ticket. Making a ton of money off books is pretty rare, almost a pipe dream. Many authors still have to supplement their income with a second job. So don’t do it for the money, but rather because you love writing and your dream is to get your book to readers.

Ian Schneider, Unsplash

The choice is yours. Find a publisher, or try to navigate the world of publishing on your own. I just hope I’ve provided the tools necessary for writers to make an informed decision. And, of course, keep in mind this is subjective, though I’ve also tried to draw from the example of others as well. Every writer’s journey is unique, though some experiences are universal. We just all go at a different pace.

In any case, I hope you have a wonderful autumn season, and happy reading and writing, everyone! :)

Blogger Bio

Multi-genre author of Victorian maritime romance/family saga, Heiresses in Love Series, and 19 other books. Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and two cats. She has been writing for a little over twenty-five years, with more works in progress than she can count on two hands. Since 2010, Marie has published 22 books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, dramatic fiction, fantasy, science fiction, mystery/thriller, literary fiction and poetry. She writes adult fiction, as well as occasional stories for children, and has recently started some young adult fiction.

Marie's Books:


  1. Thanks for the thoughtful and helpful post, Marie. Small-to-midsize publishers offer less support than major houses and their subsidiaries. But for most writers, a publisher of any kind is a boost to their self-esteem and their writing careers. Finding a decent publisher or agent is not easy. Still, every writer deseves a chance to try before opting to self-publish.

  2. Great insights, Marie! I'm an indie author and editor, and have done proofreading for a traditional publisher, as well, and have numerous author & editor friends with feet in either indie, traditional or both ponds, even one who owns a subsidy press who published my first book. So I've heard others' experiences & gained my own from many perspectives, including much of what you've shared in your outstanding post above. The tips we can never stress enough are: if you go indie, please! at least have your book beta'd, proofread or even edited. Too many just upload & click publish without asking a few friends to beta read and give their honest feedback. Pick nitpicky grammar & detail-oriented critics, not cheerleaders & use their feedback. This one step can make your book sing! If you go traditional, a) your advance check isn't yours to keep until your publisher earns it back in royalties. They can ask for those funds back if your book's sales don't meet projections. Best to sock it away in a CD or similar & invest the interest in your marketing efforts, such as travel costs, fair booth table dressing, promotional posters for appearances, giveaway copies (expensive) & bling. Keep up the awesome work, Marie!

    1. Thanks for the advice and visiting the blog, Belinda! ;)

  3. B) traditional publishers can sometimes overbook their annual budget, then turn around and cancel half or more of their contracted titles with no notice. I've seen it happen. Just another reason to shift that "We're in the Money" perspective on advances.


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