Self-publishing or publishing house

Self-publishing or publishing - Which way suits your manuscript?

To hold one's own text in one's hands between two book covers - that is the wish of many authors. But how? Should your book be published by a traditional publisher or would you like to take the publication into your own hands and become a self-publishing author? Self-publishing or publishing house - what suits you and your manuscript best?

Publish in the publishing house

Many authors wish to publish their work under a publishing brand. This can bring advantages in marketing, because a renowned publisher has its traditional place on the shelves of bookstores. And the bigger the company, the higher the marketing budget.

How do I promote my manuscript to a publisher?

Most publishers specialise in certain genres such as fiction, children's and young adult books or non-fiction. There are also special interest publishers that only publish fantasy books, for example. Before you apply to a publisher, check whether your manuscript fits into their programme. Before you apply, make sure to design your submission under the publisher's specific guidelines. Often publishers require a specific font, line limit, indented paragraphs, left-aligned text, or no word separations. Also, whether the manuscript should be mailed or emailed can determine whether the editor even looks at your submission. Most publishers receive numerous manuscripts every day, so it's important that you follow the guidelines. Otherwise, the editor may put your application aside without reading it.

Once you have sent the synopsis, reading sample, author vita and the other required documents, you have to wait. And that can take several months. In the worst case, there is no reply - although professional publishers usually send a rejection letter. And rejections are not rare. Unsolicited manuscripts pile up on editors' desks.

Rejection rate of manuscripts in book publishing houses

Source: Own surveys

A rejection has nothing to do with the quality of the text. Maybe it didn't fit into the program or your synopsis needs some fine-tuning? Don't be discouraged and keep trying. Very few authors manage to get accepted by a publisher with their first application.

Publish with a small publisher?

Perhaps your manuscript has a better chance of being published by a small publishing house. Especially if your text fits into a niche that the publisher has specifically specialized in. Smaller publishers are also more personal and respond more individually to the wishes of the author. And your book won't get lost in the mass of publisher-owned publications. On the other hand, smaller publishers usually only have a small marketing budget, and the sales force network is usually smaller as well.

What is a printing subsidy publisher?

In contrast to the classic publishing house, a so-called printing cost allowance publisher (DKZV for short) demands money from an author for the printing of the manuscript. The author bears the complete financial risk. There is also no support in terms of layout or marketing. The term publisher is misleading and incorrect here, as the service is merely arranging the printing job. More information on printing subsidy publishers is available at the Action Alliance for Fair Publishing.

I'm a published author - and then what?

It takes a good dose of luck to get accepted into a publisher's program. Once you make it, they'll help you with marketing, cover design, and editing and proofreading. This is where you may need a thick skin. Often, large parts of the manuscript are reworded or completely changed in the editing process. In the worst case, the publisher may have a different idea of the ending or message of your book. Even if you get into a big publishing house, they have a limited budget. Most of them can only afford to promote their authors extensively. In Marketing you should definitely take action on your own.

Advantages of publishing with a publishing house

  • You will receive professional support in marketing, sales, editing and layout.
  • You get all-round care through advice in all areas.
  • In distribution, a publisher can achieve a high reach.
  • A publisher's name recognition helps to get a place in bookstores.
  • The image of a publisher is transferred to the work as well as the author and can be a marketing effect.

Disadvantages of publishing in the publishing house

  • A lot of perseverance is required when applying. You should be able to deal with rejections.
  • The process from manuscript to publication is long, as publishers plan far in advance.
  • The author is limited in terms of creativity and say.
  • Many publishers require exclusivity by contract, so no further publication through any other channel is possible.
  • The editions are limited.
  • The Author's fee is rather low and usually amounts to about 25 percent of the net proceeds.


Self-Publishing offers some advantages, especially in self-determination. A quick publication and the decision about cover design and marketing measures, for example. But here, too, you must not forget that it is not enough to simply write a text and publish it. A book created in self-publishing should also be able to keep up with a publisher's work in terms of quality. This requires, among other things, editing and a professional cover. For several years now, the number of books published through self-publishing has been rising sharply. Fewer and fewer books are being published by traditional publishers. Self-publishing has thus found its place in the book market and is establishing itself there in the long term.
Development in new publications on the book market

Source: Börsenverein (book publishers), own survey (self-publishing)

Start in a jiffy without an application

As a rule, the self-publishing process is quick and uncomplicated. There are no specifications for the manuscript and you have every freedom when it comes to layout. Many service providers support you with templates for the cover or interior. As soon as the text is written and the cover and layout are ready, you can publish your book without long waiting times. This is an advantage, especially for current non-fiction or scientific topics.

Done, I'm a self-publishing author - and then what?

Being a self-publishing author requires a lot of initiative and good time management. Layout, editing, preparation for printing and distribution - all this has to be coordinated. A checklist can help you to work in a structured and efficient way. Marketing should not be underestimated either. There are some service providers who can help you with this.

How do I find the right self-publishing service provider?

Unlike with a publisher, you don't have to apply to a self-publishing service provider, but decide on an offer. This should fit your needs and goals. What conditions does the service provider offer? Through which distribution channels will your book be sold? To know which service provider suits you, you should compare self-publishing providers. The best way to do this is to create a checklist. Criteria can include low-cost publishing, attractive fees, support with layout and design, or editing and proofreading. It is particularly helpful if you give more weight to the points that are most important to you. By the way: A publication at tredition is free of charge.

For example, do you want to fulfil a lifelong dream with the book and make the story accessible to your family and friends? In that case, the fee plays a rather subordinate role. Is your plan to become a self-employed (part-time) author? Then distribution channels will matter. The legal conditions can also be decisive, i.e. whether you are exclusively bound to a service provider or can also use other additional publication channels.

Advantages of self-publishing

  • No application is necessary, any author can publish their manuscript.
  • Publication is usually possible immediately.
  • The author has full flexibility, control and creative freedom and can decide on the manuscript, cover and design himself.
  • The author's fee is relatively high, up to 70 percent of net proceeds.
  • There are no restrictions in terms of circulation.
  • Advantages of the print-on-demand process: Book content can be updated quickly and there are no costs due to returns or warehousing, as books are only produced when an order is placed.

Disadvantages of self-publishing

  • Compared to a publisher, you get fewer services from a self-publishing provider.
  • The author has more to-dos, a high degree of initiative is required.
  • Exclusivity is also contractually agreed with many self-publishing service providers.
  • Financial risk: The costs for cover, printing, editing and proofreading and possible marketing measures must be borne by the author.
  • The author does not receive an advance.

Self-publishing or publishing? Making the right decision

Do you want to publish quickly and flexibly and get creatively involved in the design process? Then self-publishing may be perfect for you. But don't forget that you are also completely responsible for the marketing. Or do you have no time pressure and want a reputable brand behind you? Then applying to a publisher may be the way to go. But then you need a lot of patience, should be prepared for long waiting times and also expect rejections. In both cases, check what services are associated with publishing through a publisher or self-publishing service provider.

Self-publishing: Your path to book success

Learn how to make your book a self-publishing success and how to take it step by step in our Guide: Self-Publishing 2022.

Self-publishing as a springboard for an author's career

If you decide to self-publish, this does not necessarily exclude publication with a publisher. If you publish through tredition, your book can still be published under a different ISBN by a traditional publisher. Check the legal requirements when choosing your self-publishing service provider.

Many Preconceptions about self-publishing continue to persist. For example, some people assume that books from self-publishing are of inferior quality and that only authors who have not made it to a "real" publishing house choose to do so. Bestselling authors like Nele Neuhaus or E. L. James prove that these rumors are not true. And you too can start your career in self-publishing.

Self-publishing or publishing: The advantages and disadvantages at a glance


+ Support in the manufacturing process- Perseverance needed in the application process
+ All-round care- long lead times
+ high range- Restrictions on creativity and participation
+ Place in the bookstores- contractual exclusivity
+ Image of the publishing house as a marketing tool- limited editions
 - low royalty


+ anyone can publish their manuscript- fewer benefits
+ Flexibility, control and creative freedom- more work for the author
+ high author fee- partial contractual exclusivity
+ no restrictions on circulation- financial risk
+ Print-On-Demand process: fast updating, no costs due to storage or remission- no advance to the author
+ Publication is possible immediately 


Whether you want to publish your work via a traditional publisher or via a self-publishing service provider depends on your individual wishes and your objectives. Decide for yourself which way you want to go or simply try out both ways. 


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