Should You Self-Publish or Go the Traditional Route? How Do You decide?

 


by Katie McCoach

This question has been asked hundreds, even thousands of times over the last few years, and today with the self-publishing market as strong as it is, it’s a good question to STILL be asking.Should you self-publish or go the traditional route? And how do you decide?

Both options are equally viable. You can be successful (or not) with either route.

So, to simplify this, let’s look at the pros and cons.

Here are some of the pros and cons of Traditional publishing. I don’t think a separate list for Self-publishing is necessary, do you?

Pros

Cons

You have more time to focus on writing – the details are handled for you (decisions, editing, book design, publication) You may not have the ultimate say in how your book is edited, book design, etc.
You might receive an advance to help with marketing or anything else (ahem, bills) You still have to market yourself and your work.
Wider distribution Success and/or exposure is not guaranteed
Royalties Royalties
Your agent has your back It is REALLY difficult to get an agent, and then after that – to sell the book to the big houses

 

This decision ultimately comes down to what you want for your writing career. As you can see, there are pros and cons to both sides. Traditional publishing can afford you wider distribution, and you have someone invested in you. With self-publishing you have the ultimate control over your work – that means you pick your editorial team, book cover, and marketing approach. And it’s your money, not the publishing houses.

Either way, both routes require hard work and perseverance.

What other pros and cons can we add to this list? Have you made this decision for your own writing recently, and if so, how (and what) did you ultimately decide? 

 

 

 

Guest post contributed by Katie McCoach. Katie is a member of Romance Writers of America and the Editorial Freelancers Association. She has had essays published in TrainWrite and Kalliope and is currently writing a contemporary romance novel. For advice on editing, writing, and publishing, visit her blog and be sure to also follow her on Twitter.

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33 thoughts on “Should You Self-Publish or Go the Traditional Route? How Do You decide?”

  1. I would think that traditional would be better for someone who is putting out their first book. Better exposure and like you said, someone “having your back”. The biggest con I’ve heard is on the control side, though I expect that depends on who you are dealing with.

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  2. I decided to self-publish. Basically because I’m a rebel. I don’t want to sacrifice my creative control to anyone for any purpose. It’s a very personal choice, and one that should be made only after serious consideration of both options. Research is so important. I think a lot of debut authors want to put balls to wall after they’ve finished their manuscripts. There are tons of sources available, but you have to look for them–you have to dig for them. To any new authors out there, I suggest you reach out to other writers for information–join a writing community and build relationships with fellow writers. In my experience, authors/writers are happy to share their experiences and wisdom, especially those who are self-published. 🙂

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  3. *With traditional publishing, it can take YEARS before your book sees the light of day, if it ever does. If you indie pub, you can get your book out right away.
    *In the old days when you had to send an SASE along with your query letter, you would most likely hear back from agents and editors within 6 weeks. Now that we’re in the age of e-queries, most won’t bother to respond at all. If they do request your manuscript, it’s the same way– you may or may not hear back from them and the answer is almost always no. By contrast, every time I’ve had to contact someone involved with indie publishing, they replied within 24 hours. I don’t know how the other authors out there feel, but for me it’s refreshing to be treated like a professional and not like a fly that needs to be swatted away.
    *If your indie published book doesn’t “make it” right away, you can take all the time you need to grow your audience. No one is going to pull it from the shelves after 3 months because it isn’t selling.
    *It is a lot easier to get reviews if your book is traditionally published. Many reviewers won’t consider indie books at all.

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  4. The other option is “both.” Many writers I know, myself included, are hybrid published. I have had some combination of independent and traditional publishing for my entire authorial career.

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      1. I was hybrid almost from the start, to be honest. I had self-published an eBook edition of my debut novel, and was looking around for a publisher for the paperback edition. I was lucky enough to be introduced to a UK publisher, Turner Maxwell (Mr. Maxwell has now retired), who loved my book and published it abroad. That lead directly to a US publishing contract.

        I have nothing but good things to say about self-publishing as long as the authors take it seriously. That means professional editing, good quality covers, the whole shebang. The hard part is being in charge of all of that yourself! I was lucky to have artists in my circle of friends who could design great covers, a background as a newspaper editor that meant I could swap with other author/editors for services, etc.

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  5. I have always thought the traditional publishing route would be best for me, for long term career building and credibility, but I did recently (just a few days ago) self-publish a blog to book collection, because I wanted absolute control over the project. I am under contract with an established small traditional press for a historical novel and have been found about 2 1/2 years. The anticipated release date is, or maybe was, October of this year, but I’ve not been able to get hold of the editor/owner since January. Rumor has it her other authors are having the same issue, some of them running up against event dates with no way to get their books. One of her editors even contacted me to see if I’d heard from her. Again, this is an established small press with some successful titles and, up until now, a good reputation. I am so so frustrated! So, now I’m starting to wonder if it’s worth it. I know credibility is a hard thing to come by in the self-publishing world, but it might beat the stress of relying on a traditional publisher.

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    1. I’m so sorry to hear you are going through this. It sounds so difficult, and I hope you are all able to touch base with the owner soon and either publish your work, or obtain your rights back. Some small presses are great though, and it’s a good way to get your work out in a different way. Again, there are always pros and cons, right? I wish you the best with this situation!

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      1. Thank you. I’m sure she’d let me have the rights back if I can get hold of her. And I know there are fabulous small presses. They’re just, obviously, small so a little hiccup can cause big problems. No one ever said publishing was easy.

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  6. I’m a massive fan of making your own way in life. Although I’d love to be paid thousands of quid to sit and write each day, I know it’s not going to be possible until I have my own platform ready. I can’t wait that long for publishers to get back to me, so I’ll be self-publishing my 3rd book soon. When I’ve done the 5th, I may send the 6th to a publisher. I’ll be able to afford and sit back then anyway. Great tips.

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    1. Good thoughts here! It sounds like you knew exactly what you wanted out of the publishing experience, which is great. And putting out numerous, high-quality books is one of the best things you can do as a self-published authored.

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  7. I self-published my first novel and I love the control and creativity it provides. But if someone offered me a chance to go the traditional way, I would take it because I just want to focus on writing and also have someone in my corner fighting some of the battles.

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  8. It can be challenging to decide which option is best. You’re absolutely right that both sides have their pros and cons. Sometimes you’ll follow one route only to wind up on the other.

    I work in a bookshop, and sometimes certain publishers own the rights to the entire backlist of a famous author, except their latest title. And it turns out that the author decided to self-publish. And then there are authors like Matthew Reilly, who decided to self-publish and ended up being discovered by a major publisher.

    So you never know!

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  9. I took a third path. While I was writing to agents and exploring self-publishing, I also pitched directly to small presses. I did this mainly face to face at conventions, which has a much more personal feel than email queries. After a few invitations to submit, I landed a contract offer with fair terms. I worked with the editor I’d met and things followed a moderately tight schedule. They did a beautiful job on the cover and design, while I enjoyed plenty of input without any of the hassle. They don’t have the marketing power of the big houses, but they help with promotion and know where to nominate for suitable awards. Plus I’ve enjoyed meeting a few of their other authors.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This is a question I’m still struggling with. My current method is to pitch and query my existing novel while working on a couple of others. At some point, if it isn’t picked up, I will definitely self-publish it.

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  11. It’s a good post relaying the pros and cons… but it forgets one thing. Some of us never get traction with dead tree publishing for whatever reason, and so are forced to go the self-publication route.

    I’d believe it was just me sucking at writing to this day, if not for the fact that I have fans.

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  12. I sent off my manuscript to a publisher and almost immediately realized that the control and speed of self publishing would work better for me. I gave them their 3-6 months to get back to me, but as I haven’t heard anything I’m excited to go full steam ahead into self publishing.

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    1. Good luck with this. Self publishing still requires a lot of effort and ideally editorial input. I was fortunate to get this from the Silver Crow book brand as well as benefit from their links with self publishing partners. Cost is a major consideration as you will need to take on all the costs of production and printing as well as ‘additionals’ such as proof-reading, copy-editing, promotion and marketing.

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      1. As much as it’s nice to have a publisher take care of those costs I’m looking forward to overseeing the process myself. It will be a good learning experience.

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