Development, content and copy editing
Traditional: An in-house editor offers feedback on early drafts and helps you revise. Some authors complain that today’s time-pressed editors aren’t as involved in this process as before.
Self-Publishing Service: You hire an editor independently or through your self-publishing service. (If you’re serious about bringing your book to the market, do not forgo this step.)
Cover and interior design
Traditional: Your publisher handles everything design-related and usually has the final say on cover and interior design, relying on in-house expertise about what sells and what doesn’t.
Self-Publishing Service: Varies. Most basic self-publishing packages include a template-based design. Some services offer upgrades for a fee; others charge you to control the process.
Traditional: Your publisher’s marketing and sales department, in collaboration with the editorial team, often has the final say over your title.
Self-Publishing Service: You have the final say.
Sales and distribution
Traditional: Most publishers have an in-house team that sells your book to national chains and other retailers, or a distributor to perform the task.
Self-Publishing Service: Your book is usually available for purchase through the service’s site, as well as Ingram or Amazon.com (sometimes at an extra charge). Otherwise, it’s all up to you.
Marketing and publicity
Traditional: Varies greatly. It’s common for publishers to rely on authors to market their own work and to let readers know it’s available. At the very least, most publishers send out review copies and include the book in their sales catalogs and promotions sent to retailers.
Self-Publishing Service: Completely dependent on the author, though most services offer marketing and publicity package upgrades. Some also select outstanding books for special marketing at no cost.