E-Publishing and Self-Publishing: Two Different Concepts

Lately, I’ve noticed the terms e-publishing and self-publishing used interchangeably, however, the two are not synonymous. Self-publishing is a do-it-yourself method, whether it be in electronic format, paper format, or both. E-publishing, on the other hand, is exactly as it sounds: publishing in an electronic format, which may or may not be self-publishing.

Instead, the distinction should focus on traditional vs. self-publishing, both which have their pluses and minuses.*

Traditional Publishing

A traditional publisher buys the rights to an author’s work and pays royalties based on sales. The author must go through an official query process, sometimes through an agent, and as such, faces rejection. Although one thinks mostly of hardcover and paperback products with a traditional publisher, some publishers put out e-book formats only. They remain “traditional” publishers, however, because they assume the publishing process for the author, including cover-art design, editing, and formatting, and they pass on a percentage of sales to the author. The author does not pay any fees to a traditional publisher.


In self-publishing, the author completes the entire process independently, and thus has more control. Sometimes he or she may pay a company to do the work, but regardless, the author foots the bill, which may be minimal or sizeable depending on the publishing venue chosen. Furthermore, the process outpaces the snail journey of traditionally published books, as my daily wait attests (though I have received contact from my editor–yeah!).

Hey! Where Are the Laughs?

Oops. Sorry. Today’s post contains no humor. But the interchanging use of these terms nabbed my attention and gave me a chance to pontificate–something I never do.

Though my husband might say otherwise. And my kids. And my dog if I had one. And…

To find e-publishers who function in a traditional fashion, sffNet has a great listing. In fact, I believe I discovered my publisher there. Many offer a Print-on-Demand (POD) version as well.

Other Resources:

A Simple Guide to Publishing Types

Traditional Publishing Versus Self-Publishing

Electronic Publishing: Subsidy vs. Nonsubsidy

Book Publishers – Different Types of Book Publishers

Bonnie Mercure’s Guide to E-Publishers

*Note: I am being simplistic with these divisions, sticking to the barest descriptions, not differentiating between small presses, giant publishing houses, or strictly electronic publishers, all of which can fall into the “traditional” publisher category. Subsidy publishing also exists, where an author pays a fee for “extras.” See the resources above for more information. And feel free to clarify or expound on my thoughts. After all, for every opinion, dozens more exist.

Well, this is embarrassing. I can’t think of a concluding question to ask. Um…let’s see…watched any good movies lately? Read any good books? Hello? Are you still there? Probably not…

All images from Microsoft Clip Art

100 Responses to “E-Publishing and Self-Publishing: Two Different Concepts”

  1. aliceatwonderland

    Thanks for telling me about this post. I have been confused by the two terms. I know in my writing class they were pretty nose in the air about e-publishing, but you can’t deny its success. I’m not into self-publishing, but I think I might have a better shot e-publishing with a smaller press. I do know about query letters and whatnot from the class. I have written several books, in various stages (some need polish, some need finishing, some . . . who knows?). The hardest thing is deciding what to work on most, and of course, finding the time to do that. I’m amazed that you have a medical career, kids, and still got this book out. That’s very impressive.

    I’ve been writing since I could pick up a pencil. It’s not a choice. I have to do it. I love it. But yeah, I’m insecure about it. Only recently have I started letting more people read my fiction. I’m more confident about non-fiction stuff, like the humor on my blog. Even the blog, though, was a big step for me.

    By the way, I am loving your book. After 50 shades it’s like, OMG, a female with a brain? And she’s not falling over in orgasms over the hot doctor she’s working with? How can this be? It’s very exciting, and I found myself turning (well it’s an ebook but you know) pages. I love medical dramas – it’s my analytical side I guess. Of course they can creep you out too, because unlike Freddy, it’s possible! I will be sure to write a review on my blog and on Amazon and B&N or wherever when I am finished.

    Oh, and I’m bookmarking this post for later reference. I would love any advice you can give! Thanks!


    • Carrie Rubin

      First of all, so glad you’re enjoying my book! I appreciate you reading it and letting me know your thoughts. As you mentioned, it’s easy to be insecure when others are reading your work. And yeah, no weird sex in my book, nor will that be a focus in any future books I write.

      I don’t know if the stigma is against e-books per se but rather independently (self-published) books. People don’t seem to thumb their noses at a James Patterson e-book, yet they do to an independently published book, even if the indie book is actually better. I think this is why independently published authors need to continue to make sure their work is high quality–help improve the image it has. There is some great indie work out there.

      I’ve never had the struggle of knowing which project to work on–I only have one going on at a time! Good for you for having so many options. I wish you luck on your writing journey.

      Oh, and I’m currently not practicing medicine. I haven’t been in clinic for six months. My intent was to find non-clinical work in the field, but then I got sidetracked by my novel’s publication so took a year off to pursue it. I could never do all this marketing and blogging and such if I still worked at my job. That’s why it took so long to get my book out there (I have another post entitled “My Road to Publication is Paved with Yawns” that chronicles this).

      Thanks again for your interest. I’m learning as I go along, but if someone can learn from my experience–as I have learned from those before me–that’s wonderful!


  2. the curtain raiser

    I had a friend who recently went down the subsidized publishing route, which seems to be a cross beetween traditional publishing and self funding. For his money he got the art design, professional editing and some promotion and gets a cut of the sales. But you are right, traditional publishing does not negate the need for self promotion.

    Fixed my reader issues, hopefully you will now be regularly filling my inbox :).


    • Carrie Rubin

      For me, it’s a relief to have a publisher that takes care of all those issues. I’m not so sure I’d want to have a go at it myself. Well, except for self-promotion. I’m still stuck with that.

      Glad your reader issues are fixed. Mine still doesn’t want to update.


  3. Pink Ninjabi

    LOVE this! I was just chatting with a colleague of mine about this as he self published and soon found publishers banging on his door but he demanded higher profits as they tend to receive most of it compared to self-publishing profits. Thank you sooo much!


    • Carrie Rubin

      “publishers banging on his door”—Oh, how I bet many self-published authors would love that! Yes, there’s a trade-off to both routes, I suppose.

      Thanks for visiting!


  4. timkeen40

    I did self publish and, while it is quite fast and easy to do, the thing lost is the promotion. When you self-publish, you self-promote. I have found the journey both interesting and arduous, but one I am richer for taking.



    • Carrie Rubin

      Even with a traditional publisher one has to self-promote, though the larger the publisher, hopefully the more help one gets. My publisher is small, so I think I’ll mostly be on my own, but they do seek reviews and such on my behalf.

      Congratulations on your self-publishing venture! I hope it’s going well for you. Thanks for the comment.


  5. WomanBitesDog

    For me the terms are interchangeable because we can all be e-publishers now – a path that only a few years ago required an agent and traditional publisher. Self-publishing has lost its vanity tag and is shaking the publishing world. If I do publish my play, I will tell everyone I’ve e-published it – not self-published.

    By the way – hope this isn’t the second time you’ve received this message – my computer crashed! Must read a book instead.


    • Carrie Rubin

      You are right–the publishing world has definitely changed, and as such, the words to describe it have blended a bit.

      A computer crash? Yikes. Keep that bad juju away from me. It’s amazing how reliant we are on the things.

      Thanks for the comment.


  6. roastedkeyboard

    awesome! yay for you! :) when is the book going to be published? I WANT TA READ! yes I said ta! cause I feel all gangsta!

    See what I did there? ;)


  7. Jennifer Worrell

    YAY for the contract!!! Thanks for the info.–I have some decisions to make about my own path. However, if no editor picks me up, then the decision will be made for me, I guess. I keep falling asleep in movies, so I’m a terrible person to ask:)


    • Carrie Rubin

      Yes, I signed that contract several months ago, so it’s nice to finally hear from my editor. Makes it so much more real. And scary…

      I can’t remember the last movie I fell asleep in, though there are quite a few I yawned through.


  8. SodStar

    Thanks for the info. I have officially saved this post to my bookmarks, for future reference. Thanks again.


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