Much has been written as to how to get a traditional publisher, or why you would want to self publish. Here are the reasons as I see them.
* No money up front
* Less time and learning commitment
* Small royalties and none until advance is recovered by publisher
* Loss of control over final product - they bought your book and can make it into anything they want it to be
* Little say in the design of the cover or interior
* Ego of getting traditionally published
* Your book will come and go within 6 months unless it hits it big and you can’t do anything about it
* Other versions (audio, e-book, foreign rights, first serial rights, etc.) may or may not be worked by the publisher (although they will be contracted for)
* author is often contractually obligated to certain marketing activities
* Steeper learning curve - but you can pay for activities you don’t know how to do (editing, design, typesetting, marketing, print quotes)
* Author/publisher responsible for total costs - you are now in business for yourself
* You get to make all editorial and design decisions - as well as all business decisions - YOU control the process
* Your book will be in print much sooner - typical traditional time frame is 18-24 months from beginning of negotiations
* You get to decide how the book will be marketed and to whom, when and for how long
* The book can continue to be promoted and marketed for years increasing revenues as it gets "legs" and requires less hand-holding and marketing
* You get to keep all revenues - no royalties to deal with
* You see all sales reports - no guessing if you are being paid correctly
* If you like the business and want to write more books, the process becomes easier and easier - and your business framework is already set-up allowing a more streamlined operation with less cost and more profit
As to which is a better decision. There is a place for both, but with over 500,000 new books being published each year - and less than half of them through traditional publishing houses, you can see which way the pendulum is swinging. The traditional houses are taking less and less risk with unknown authors - if you don’t already have a strong "platform" - a celebrity, sports figure, entertainer, well known Dr. etc. - you have little chance of being traditionally published - there are exceptions, but they are becoming rarer.
The ironic part is, IF you have that strong platform, you really need the traditional publisher less than the unknown person! More and more speakers and celebrities are self-publishing because you can hire everything done on the front end, and keep all the revenues on the back end.