Should you follow the traditional or self publishing path? Numbers point the way.

hybrid author

Hybrid authors walk the line between traditional and self publishing by doing both.

It’s a question that thousands of potential authors are asking themselves everyday:

Should I try self publishing?

Or should I chase the dream of traditional publishing.

One answer is: do both! You’ll be hearing and reading a lot more from BookBaby about authors who do both traditional and self publishing. They’re called “hybrid authors” and they’re some of the most successful authors around today!

But if you’re just starting your publishing journey, you have to start with one or the other. It turns out I’m going to be speaking to a lot of writers trying to make this decision at the Storytellers Conference and Expo in Santa Rosa, CA. I’ve been searching for the easiest and best way to get my point across. And I think I’ve got it.

My explanation is actually three sets of numbers that best illustrates the road you should take, starting with $24,480 vs. $5,242.

This first comparison is borrowed directly from a presentation by Dana Beth Weinberg at the recent 2015 Digital Book World conference. Her points are so spot on that I’m compelled to present it as is and give her all the credit for this! Dana’s comparison looks at two different writing scenarios that take approximately the same timeframe.

She could decide to write and self publish four short books or novellas at 25,000 words each. Assume she charges $2.99 for each. With a 70% royalty rate enjoyed on Amazon, she would stand to make a little over $2.00 on each sale.

On the other hand, she could write and sell a 100,000 word novel to a traditional publisher – the same amount of work but closer to the length traditional publishers might expect. For the longer book she could expect to sell it for $6.99.

For both writing scenarios, let’s assume Dana has 3,000 fans who will buy everything she writes. Here’s her slide illustrating the side-by-side comparison:
Dana Beth Weinberg's slide
As you can see, these numbers give self publishing a huge edge – she’s able to equal 3,000 sales from traditional publishing earnings with sales of just 642 books.

Skeptics might point out how difficult it is for self published authors to find those 3,000 devoted fans, and they’re exactly right. But the same can be said for traditional publishing! Like it or not, it’s nowhere near a given that a new author will be provided the necessary marketing and promotional muscle to find those readers. Only top-of-the-list authors are commanding this kind of support nowadays.

There’s one other factor not considered in Dana’s comparison that gives an entirely new dimension to her self-publishing earning power. That’s in our next set of numbers:

2 vs. 20

Those are the average number of months it takes for self published (2) vs. traditionally published books (20) to come into the marketplace.

Once your manuscript is finished and you elect to self publish, you can expect to see your book it in all the online retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the rest within two months. And that includes the standard time needed for a thorough professional editing job.

Meanwhile it can take somewhere between 18 and 24 months for your book to see the light of day at the end of the traditional publishing process. (Of course that’s assuming you’ve already completed the time-consuming task of finding both and agent and publisher willing to take you on as a new author. That alone could take months or even years!).

Never has the axiom “time is money” been truer than in publishing. Think back to Dana’s comparison – just think of the additional novellas she could be publishing in the 18 months difference. It’s a slam dunk that her earnings would be 2x to 3x more as a result.

Speaking of slam a dunk, that’s the essence of my final set of numbers to help guide your choice:

100% vs. 5%

Unless you have the next 50 Shades of Twilight Hunger Games as your first manuscript, your efforts to be “discovered” by traditional publishing face long odds. For some of the most successful authors it took years to find agents and publishers willing to give a rookie author a shot. Traditional publishing is adapting much the same mentality of Hollywood in green lighting films – they want a sure thing! That’s why there will surely be a “Fast And Furious 28” in the years ahead. The Big 5 publishers can’t afford the risk of new, untested authors.

For many new authors, the fact is that they will never come close to a traditional publishing deal. Even the most optimistic outlook would put the average writer’s chance at landing a deal at five percent.

Meanwhile, self publishing is a sure thing, the proverbial slam dunk. Once you’ve made up your mind to go this route, it’s a certainty your book will be available to millions of potential readers. There’s nothing stopping you from reaching your goal.

All these numbers add up to one thing: self publishing is the best route for today’s new authors. So get that book finished soon and join the millions of writers who have made the journey.

Chalkboard image via


Hybrid Author Game 


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Steven Spatz is a writer, marketer, and the President of BookBaby, the nation’s leading self publishing services company. Spatz’s professional writing career began at age 13, paid by the word to bang out little league baseball game stories on an ancient manual typewriter for southern Oregon weekly newspapers. His journalism career continued after graduation from the University of Oregon at several daily newspapers in Oregon. When his family took over a direct marketing food business, Spatz redirected his writing and design skills into producing catalogs. The Pinnacle Orchards catalog was named "Best Food Catalog," received dozens of other national awards, and the business grew into one of the nation’s largest gourmet fruit gift businesses. After the company was sold, Spatz continued his direct marketing career with Fortune 500 companies including Mattel and Hasbro. He joined AVL Digital in 2004 to lead the direct-to-consumer marketing teams for music industry-leading brands Disc Makers, Oasis, and CD Baby. After serving as Chief Marketing Officer, Spatz was tapped to lead the company’s new publishing division in late 2014. In 2019, the AVL Digital Management team purchased the New Jersey brands, including BookBaby. The company is headquartered in Pennsauken, NJ (just outside Philadelphia, PA) and meets the printed book and eBook needs of thousands of self-publishing authors around the globe. Spatz lives in Glenside, PA with his two children, a demented cat, and some well-used bicycles. Steven loves to hear from authors, editors, and publishers in the BookBaby community with tales of publishing trials and triumphs. To tell him your story, write to


  1. The Indie Math comparison would be more accurate if it included the cost of self-publishing those 4 novellas. Also, for the beginner who doesn’t have 3000 fans, there’s the comparison of hoping for at least 642 buyers versus having an advance in hand.


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