Traditional publishing route is one of the routes where the author of the content has little to work apart from his written content. For example, when you are writing either fiction or non fiction content, you have to send the initial draft to the publishing house. If the publishing house approves that, then you get to work with editor on content. Publishing house takes care of the design of cover, content formatting, editing, marketing and finally splitting the revenue. In case of traditional publishing the writers get anywhere from 43-57% of the royalty. If the publishing house is popular then the revenue split is going to be low like 34%.
In case of self publishing all the process of the book release is on your shoulder.
1. Content writing - You have to pass the quality of your own content here. The twist, cliffhanger, technical words at right point, all this has to be managed by you.
2. Editing - You have to take care of typo and tone change, grammar and other stuff. You can outsource this but it can be costly depending on number of words.
3. Book formatting - Publishing your content on sites like Amazon KDP, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble etc requires formatting and end result in file format such as epub, mobi, etc. You have to modify word document and use software such as Sigil and Calibre to convert into mobi, amzw and epub.
4. Cover Design - This process is tough as you have to select the right cover for your book. It can be tough to find such book cover designer. But fiverr and other places have shown some option of such good designers.
5. Marketing - One of the hardest part where publishing house performs better than self publishing. Here you have to network with people and the business. This way you can go ahead with marketing and start getting some leads to get reviews. More reviews that favors the book, more the sales.
These five points pretty much describe the current self publishing world. This is broken down into small steps. But it has lot of work in it. You have to outsource these steps to professionals. And you have to cut the costs down too.
Self publishing or Traditional Publishing?
If you are small time author, just getting yourself out there. It's better to go with the route of self publishing. The more popular get with some books, better approach traditional publishing. The reason is the royalty from traditional publishing usually helps writers reach retirement early. But it takes to reach that level.