How to Publish a Book: Traditional, Hybrid and Self-Publishing

Updated: April 3, 2024
how to publish a book

Publishing a book can be a daunting task, especially if you’re not sure where to start. Fortunately, learning how to publish a book is a fairly straightforward process.

Authors used to be at the mercy of traditional publishing companies, but these days the publishing industry is more flexible, allowing authors more options. There are three ways to publish a book now: self-publishing, hybrid publishing, and using a traditional publishing house. In this blog post, we will discuss the pros and cons of each type of publishing process so you can decide which is right for you.

Let’s get started.

1. Self Publishing

What is self-publishing?

Self-publishing refers to how an author publishes and distributes their work without the involvement of a publisher. This can result in lower costs, as there will not be any third-party processing fees or central distribution costs.

Whether a book is a non-fiction, fantasy, poetry, a cookbook, or any other publication, self-publishing is a method any author can use to publish a book.

However, the self-publishing process requires authors to be responsible for covering all aspects of the publishing process themselves, so they’ll need to do everything—printing, editing, inside layout, book cover design, and marketing—all on their own. In essence, an author who wants to self-publish acts as a full-service project manager.

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There are a variety of ways to publish a book yourself, but the most common is to use online companies like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, Barnes & Noble Press, or Ingram Spark. These companies give instructions online on how to publish a book using their platform. The author uploads their manuscript and sets their price, while the publishing company gets a commission on each book sale. An author may choose to publish with only one self-publishing company or several.

Some authors self-publish a digital version of their book before publishing a printable version. This gets the book on the market right away while the author continues to work on the book cover and design aspects of laying out a printable book. Learning how to publish a book digitally is fairly simple, so much so that some self-published authors only do digital versions and skip the print version altogether.

Having both print and ebook versions of a book available will increase book sales because it gives consumers more options. Some people even purchase the same book both ways.

Authors who choose to self publish typically have access to good content creation programs, or to other professionals to help them with the book creation process. Some even use AI content creation programs to help with writer’s block.

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Pros of self-publishing

It’s faster

Self-publishers are in charge of the entire process, from writing the book to publishing and marketing it. This means that there is less red tape to wade through, and the author can get their book to market much faster.

More creative control

When an author publishes a book through a publishing house, they are often required to make changes to their work that they may not agree with. This is because the publishing house has to ensure that the book will be commercially successful. Self-publishers, however, have more creative control and can publish the book exactly as they see fit.

Higher royalties

When publishing the traditional way, the average royalty rate for book sales is around 10%, but for self-published authors, it averages 60-70%. This is because the publisher is taking on all the financial risks associated with publishing your book.

Longer book shelf-life

Traditionally published books have a limited shelf life in the bookstore and are periodically removed to make way for newly published books. Self-published books, on the other hand, are always available in online bookstores and can be discovered and purchased months and years after the book is published.

No deadline stress

Self-published authors have no deadlines other than the ones they give themselves. Of course, this could be a problem for procrastinators because there’s no pressure to get the book done!

No rejection

On the plus side anyone who wants to self-publish a book can do so—there are no gatekeepers to accept or reject a book submission. On the negative side, however, this means many terrible books get published!

You retain your book rights

When you publish a book yourself, you retain your book rights. Conversely, with traditional publishing, the publisher owns the rights to your book, at least for a contracted amount of time.

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Cons of self-publishing

You have to do everything

Self-publishing authors have to do everything themselves (or hire professionals to do it for them), from designing the cover to marketing the book. This can be daunting if you don’t already know how to publish a book, especially for first-time authors. Traditional publishers, on the other hand, do much of the work for the author.

Potential financial loss

When an author self-publishes a book, they are essentially putting all of the financial risks on themselves. There is no guarantee that the book will sell well. Even if they do everything right, there is no guarantee that people will want to buy the book.

Harder to get distribution

Self-publishing authors have a harder time getting their books into stores. Independent bookstores and other retailers are more likely to carry books from well-known publishers than books from self-published authors.

No agent support

It can be hard for self-publishing authors to not have the support of a publishing agent. One of the main reasons for this is that self-publishing authors typically do not have the same resources and networks that publishing agents have. In addition, self-publishing authors often do not have the same level of expertise when it comes to book publishing. Finally, self-publishing authors typically do not have the same level of marketing and publicity resources as professional publishing agents.

Less prestige

Self-published books might seem less prestigious because they aren’t officially published or advertised by a large publishing company. Typically these writers don’t have the opportunity to include feedback from book critics, editors, or agents and thus can be subject to some natural oversight in quality.

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2. Traditional Publishing

What is traditional publishing?

This type of publishing refers to the process of publishing a book through a professional publishing company (sometimes called a publishing house) such as Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, or Penguin Random House. The author typically signs a contract with the publisher which gives the publisher exclusive rights to publish the book for a certain amount of time. During this time, the publisher will edit, market, and distribute the book.

When you publish through a professional publishing house it doesn’t matter if you know how to publish a book since all the work is done for you. The hard part is getting a publishing company interested in your book to begin with.

If you’re interested in using a publishing company, your first step is to research literary agents and find one willing to work with you. Literary agents represent authors and their work to professional publishers. They will pitch the book to publishers, negotiate book deals, and help with the editing and production of the book. They also take care of the marketing and publicity for the book.

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You may spend quite a bit of time researching literary agents before you find a good fit, however, once you have a literary agent, the book publishing process will become much easier. The first thing your literary agent will do is help you write a book proposal which is a document that outlines your book idea, how it’s different from other books on the market, and why people should read it.

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Pros of traditional publishing

No upfront cost

When an author signs a traditional publishing deal, they will generally be paid an advance against royalties. This amount is usually a few thousand dollars, and it’s meant to help the author produce the book. The publisher will also cover all of the publishing costs, including editing, design, and marketing.


There are a few reasons why traditional publishers are often seen as more credible than other forms of publishing. First, because traditional publishers have been around for a long time, they have a reputation for quality. They also have a team of editors who review manuscripts and help to make sure that the books are well-written and error-free. Finally, because traditional publishers are backed by big companies, they’re often seen as being more reliable and trustworthy than smaller publishing houses.

Placement in bookstores

Traditional publishers are more likely to get an author’s book placed in bookstores. They have long-standing relationships with bookstores and can work with them to ensure that the author’s book is placed on the shelves in an appropriate section. By contrast, self-publishing or publishing through a small press usually means that the author must do most of the work themselves, including getting the book into bookstores. This can be a difficult and time-consuming process, and there is no guarantee that the author’s book will be placed in any stores at all.

Industry knowledge

Publishers have a wealth of industry knowledge that can help authors improve their book and increase its chances of being published. They can provide feedback on the overall structure and writing style of a book, as well as offer suggestions for how to market and sell the work. Publishers also have connections with booksellers, reviewers, and other industry professionals who can help promote a title.

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Cons of traditional publishing

Loss of rights

When an author signs a contract with a traditional publisher, they are giving up certain rights to their book. These can include the right to sell the book to other publishers, the right to reprint the book without permission from the original publisher, and even the right to read or see the edited manuscript before it is published.

Lower royalties

These types of publishing houses typically pay a royalty rate of around 10%. This is because the publisher is taking all the risk in producing, marketing, and distributing the book.

Disagreements may not go your way

When a traditional publisher and an author disagree about the book cover, title, editing, or other things, the publisher typically has the final say. The author may be able to provide suggestions and feedback, but in the end, it is up to the publisher to make the call on how the book is marketed and presented to readers.


Authors can get rejected by publishing companies for several reasons. The most common reason is that the publisher already has a similar book in their catalog, and they don’t think there’s room for another one. Other reasons include the author’s lack of platform or following, the manuscript not being well written, or the book being too niche.

Complicated contracts

Traditional publishers can have complicated contracts that often require an agent to negotiate on the author’s behalf. The contract will outline the rights the publisher has to the book, how much the author will be paid, and when the author will be paid. It is important to understand these details before signing a contract with a publisher.

3. Hybrid Publishing

What is hybrid publishing?

Hybrid publishing, also known as author-assisted publishing, indie publishing, or partnership publishing, is a new publishing model that is becoming more popular these days. It is a combination of using a professional publishing house and self-publishing. This method gives authors more control over their work.

With hybrid publishing, authors can choose the level of involvement they want with their book. If an author already knows how to publish a book they can choose which tasks they want to take on themselves and which they want to have the publisher do for them. This gives authors the best of both worlds: they get the support and resources of a traditional publisher, while also maintaining control over their work.

There are a few different types of hybrid publishers, and not all of them are the same. Some will help you with the entire publishing process, while others will only help you with specific parts of it. You should research each hybrid publisher before deciding which one is right for you.

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The ideal is a reputable company that helps authors publish their books with the assistance of professional editors, designers, and marketers. However, some companies call themselves “hybrid” publishers, and despite charging high fees they provide little to no assistance. These companies often produce low-quality books that do not sell well.

Authors should research any potential hybrid publisher before signing a contract to make sure they are working with a reputable company that will help them produce a high-quality book.

The Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) has put together an article on its hybrid publisher criteria. If you want to learn more about hybrid publishing, this is an excellent article to read.

Examples of hybrid publishers:
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Pros of hybrid publishing

Ownership and control

Unlike traditional publishing where the author gives control to the publisher for all aspects of the process, an author who chooses to go the hybrid route retains much more control over how things are done. From book cover design to marketing, all parts of the project are still under the author’s control.

Faster process

Hybrid publishing can be faster than self-publishing because it allows for collaboration between the author and the publisher. This can speed up the process of getting a book to market. In addition, hybrid publishers are often more informed about the state of the publishing market, which means they can move quickly to take advantage of new opportunities.

Project management

Hybrid publishers typically act as project managers, handling many aspects of the publishing process from editing and design and, depending on the publisher, marketing and distribution. This gives authors peace-of-mind knowing their book is in good hands, while still allowing them a high degree of control over the final product.

Reviews from industry publications

There is a perception that self-published books are of lower quality than traditionally published books. This perception can be difficult to overcome, particularly because industry publications are often reluctant to review self-published books. Hybrid publishers are more likely to be regarded as of comparable quality to traditional publishers, making it easier for them to acquire reviews from industry publications.

Possible bookstore distribution

Hybrid publishers are more likely to get your book in the book stores than self-publishing on your own. This is because they have more experience with how to publish a book and how to market it. They will also be able to help you with the editing and design of your book, which can make it look more professional and increase the chances that it will be sold in stores.

Cons of hybrid publishing

Financially risky

Hybrid publishing can be financially risky because it can be expensive and it’s not always clear how well the book will sell. Hybrid publishers often don’t have the same level of experience or resources as traditional publishers, so the author may end up paying more money for less marketing and distribution.

Can be confused with a vanity press

A vanity press is not the same as hybrid publishing. With hybrid publishing, your manuscript still has to be vetted and accepted while vanity presses tend to accept any author willing to pay them. Vanity presses don’t have the same editing and proofreading standards as professional publishing houses, nor the same marketing and distribution networks.

No marketing guarantee

A traditional publisher typically carries the marketing load for you in the promotion of your book, whereas a hybrid publisher may or may not. A hybrid publisher, like a self-published author, may require the author to do much, or all, of the marketing for their book.

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Each method of publishing has its own set of pros and cons. In general, hybrid publishing is a good option if you want more control over your book than traditional publishing allows but don’t want to handle all the aspects of self-publishing. Hybrid publishers can also help get reviews from industry publications and distribution in bookstores. However, they can be expensive and there is no guarantee that a hybrid publisher will be able to generate better sales than a self-published book.

If you have the skills, know how to publish a book, and are willing to put in the work to market your book, then self-publishing may be the best option for you. Traditional publishing can give your book more credibility and reach a larger audience, but it can take longer and you may have less control over the final product. Ultimately, the decision of how to publish your book depends on your skills, goals, and preferences.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to me at no cost to you if you decide to purchase a paid plan. These are products I’ve personally used and stand behind.

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