5 Reasons to Pursue Traditional Publishing

I thought the response to Friday’s post was phenomenal and I loved reading everyone’s reasons for pursuing traditional publishing. These days, many writers feel bombarded from all sides by people screaming “Self-publishing is the way to go!” so I wanted to give everyone a chance to speak their minds, and your comments were full of wisdom and heart.

While many of you had your own unique reasons for pursuing traditional publishing, it seems the most common reasons are:

1. Wanting to work with a team of professionals (editors, designers, etc.) rather than be on your own.

2. Wanting to avoid up front financial investment.

3. Wanting marketing help.

4. Wanting to see your book in bookstores.

5. Wanting validation for your writing and a feeling of legitimacy.

These are all great reasons and we’ll be talking more about them in future posts. Today I want to mention a couple of things.

Self-pub doesn’t necessarily mean just e-books. Numerous commenters on Friday mentioned they wanted to see their books in print rather than just electronic. But keep in mind that “self-publishing” covers a variety of different paths to publication and includes the ability to have printed books. The e-book revolution is relatively new, but self-publishing printed books has been around for centuries.

It’s perfectly natural to want validation for your work. We all want our words to be read, and we want some kind of proof that what we wrote isn’t dreck. We know it’s subjective, but still, we crave the affirmation. Musicians want people to connect with their music. Painters want their work appreciated and enjoyed—and purchased. Those of us who write blogs want validation through our hit counts and comments. And most people who write books want that stamp of legitimacy that a traditional publisher brings.

I hope you don’t feel apologetic for admitting you want the validation. I think most writers, past and present, want this. Great writers like Hemingway and Steinbeck seem to have craved it. Most present-day successful authors admit to it. If you care deeply about your craft, your words, the message you’re sharing with the world, how can you not care about the world’s validation?

The method of getting validation is probably going to change over the next few years. For some, it won’t come through a traditional publishing deal but perhaps through more direct means—people buying your books and responding to them. For now it’s still reasonable to hope for a traditional publishing experience, but I also think it’s helpful and important to recognize your need for validation and begin to explore your assumptions about how to attain it.

Q4U: Given that most of you gave strong arguments for pursuing traditional publishing, what would have to change in order for you to feel like you could be happy with some kind of self-publishing arrangement?

© 2011 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


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  3. J.J. on September 8, 2011 at 10:01 PM

    I’m tired of submitting to agents!
    None of them want my work. It seems they want formula. Whenever I go to Amazon and check out some writer’s work that an agent claims to “love”, it’s some new formalic trash! I don’t buy it. For years my work has been rejected, yEARS! On top of that, racism sits on the board of traditional publishing. Fantasy written by or with African American protagonists are lynched with literary agented-goose-tied-nooses!
    Write because ya luv it…..luv it cuz yuh write it!

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  4. Bill Walker on April 20, 2011 at 6:36 PM

    >I started a publishing company that specializes in helping authors independently publish their books. I have worked with several authors and I believe that their books look and good as any book that comes from a New York Publisher.

    I'd like to comment a little on the 5 most common reasons you listed for pursing traditional publishing.

    1 – Wanting to work with a team of professionals – It's possible to self-publish your book and employ/create a team of professionals (editors, designers, etc) to help make sure your book is as good a product as possible. It can also be relatively affordable.

    2 – Wanting to avoid the financial investment – Well, no way to get around that one. However, you reap the rewards if your book is successful. Also, as a publisher, why would I want to invest in your book if you aren't willing to invest in your own book. If you treat your writing as a business, the cost of publishing a professional looking book is far less than starting many other types of businesses.

    3 – Wanting marketing help – Marketing help for first time authors is limited at best. You've only got 45-90 days to sell a significant number of copies or else you loose what little help you had. I have a friend right now that has a publishing contract with Random House. Her book is going to launch in June. Other then setting up a few book signings for her (She has to pay her own travel), she has to do the rest of her own marketing. They also forced her to create a Facebook page and start a blog. So even with a traditional deal you are not going to avoid the responsibility of getting out there and market your own book.

    4 – Wanting to see your book in bookstores – In todays changing market this is completely overrated. I can get books placed in bookstores but if they don't sell quickly they get pulled off the shelf. The majority of print books are now sold online. Amazon sells more print books then B&N and Border's combined.

    5 – Wanting validation and feeling legitimacy – for me that validation is when an individual has read my book and recommended it to others.

    One last thing to consider – publishing is a business. The big New York Publishers exist for one reason only and that is to make money. They don't care about making you feel good that they are publishing your book. The only care about how many copies of your book they can sell.

    If you're serious about traditional publishing then start thinking about your platform. Who is going to buy your book? How are your new fans going to discover you? How are you going to reach them? Creating a large platform will enhance your chances of securing a traditional publishing deal.

    Parting thought – regardless of publication method, authors sell books!

  5. Marianne Cushing on April 20, 2011 at 7:03 AM

    >As a debut novelist, I am in the process of making this very decision for myself. I have decided to give myself some time to find a publisher (how long I have not yet decided) before going the self publish route. I just started a FB page to document my journey. Come along and watch me as I try and figure this business out!!! http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mahalas-Lane-A-Debut-Novel/107520549331387

  6. The Pen and Ink Blog on April 19, 2011 at 11:09 AM

    >I'm new here so Hi!
    I'd have to be convinced there is a large audience for self published books.
    Currently Pen and Ink is conducting an experiment in self publishing. http://thepenandinkblog.blogspot.com/2011/04/pen-and-ink-blog-travels-amazon.html
    If you want to know about the espresso Book machine for self publishing, we just explored that. http://thepenandinkblog.blogspot.com/2011/04/espresso-book-machine-is-here.html

  7. Flower Patch Farmgirl on April 16, 2011 at 10:11 AM

    >My goal is traditional publishing, for many of the reasons you listed; however, I am open to the idea of self-publishing. I believe that since I have something to say, it doesn’t really matter how it’s heard, in the end.

  8. Claude Nougat on April 15, 2011 at 8:57 AM

    >Great post as always and very useful summary of the question.I would only add that self-pub was looked down upon by legacy publishers until the digital revolution came upon all of us – with Amanda Hocking making a splash on e-books and topping it off with a multi-million dollar advance from St Martin’s Press. A fantastic result in under one year since she started self-pub.So now self e-publishing has gained RESPECTABILITY! But I would say that Amanda Hocking’s experience notwithstanding, self e-pub is best for the back list of authors that have been already published by legacy publishers – people like Konrath that have several titles out of print (or titles that never got in print) because when you e-publish you need to have a STRONG presence and that can be obtained only through hard marketing/social networking on the web and taking advantage of a name previously established in the traditional way (through being published by one of the Big 6). Just think of it! Konrath’s blog gets 500,000 hits a year!So e-pub is not for everyone. And it remains true that self-pub is only mainly for self-satisfaction…Remember, that’s what “vanity” presses were for…

  9. Rachel on April 13, 2011 at 1:43 PM

    >I would only pursue traditional publishing for my serious work. I would only consider self-publishing for small print projects that were not intended for large audiences.

  10. makeithappen on April 12, 2011 at 10:38 PM

    >Some people are good with self-publishing. Others are not. I could never be happy self-publishing…

    It makes me think of my childhood. I always wanted a Cabbage Patch Kid. They were new and wonderful. I thought for certain I would get one on Christmas morning. Instead, I got a Flower Patch kid. Bahahaha… Now I laugh about how disappointed I was to be holding the “I wish I was a real cabbage patch” doll.

    To me self-publishing would be just like holding that Flower Patch doll instead of the real thing.

  11. Taz on April 12, 2011 at 9:18 PM

    >For me to self publish, I'd have to put my work under the nose of at least two English teachers, three friends who read copious amounts, and AT LEAST one author friend who has met with wide success. THEN I'd NEED help with the marketing side, because let's face it. Nationwide scope is huge.

  12. MarkC on April 12, 2011 at 7:17 PM

    >My prediction is that self-publishing companies will narrow the gap quickly with respect to the key reasons why people prefer traditional publishing. They'll soon figure out how to help authors market and build platforms and will then exploit their ability to get a book published in a matter of months. Having just completed my manuscript (2 years of my life), I thoughtfully researched and queried several appropriate potential agents. While some agents responded promptly and generously (liking my book and encouraging me to publish traditionally), the far majority of agents made no effort to convey ANY response. If the literary agency business continues to hide behind being "too busy" or "We accept so many queries we're unable to respond to you unless we like your work" and disrespects potential authors by ignoring them altogether, I suspect more authors like me will sour on the whole process and pursue self publishing. My advice to agents: no matter how many queries you receive, remember those submitting queries are human and deserve the respect of some response — even if that's only too say "we regret we're unable to take on more work but wish you great success." Just saying….

  13. Jessie Gunderson on April 12, 2011 at 6:09 PM

    >Ah, thank you for the clarification, Rachelle.

    That selection process and "team" mentality is what I want. 🙂

  14. Lauren on April 12, 2011 at 12:25 PM

    >While I think self-publishing has some merit, the whole do-it-yourself thing doesn't appeal to me. This is why I am pursuing traditional publishing. I like the idea of having a team helping me every step of the way.

  15. janflora on April 12, 2011 at 11:53 AM

    >I know I need professional help…in publishing, I mean! Honestly, I L-uuh-vvve books. A lot. And being the nerd that I am, I will feel more validation if my books are read in schools, enjoyed by students and recommended by teachers and librarians. I believe few self-published titles get there. At least, not yet. Of course, as you said, self-publishing has been around since Gutenberg and many classics that we read in schools were originally self-pubs. The times, they a'changed though, and naturally, are still changing.
    Frankly, I am too frustrated with my Kindle at the moment to even want to write an e-book.

  16. Anonymous on April 12, 2011 at 11:24 AM

    >I work for a small newspaper and we get one to two self-published books mailed to us a week. We refuse to review all self-published books simply because the authors are not showing enough care for their work. Countless spelling and grammar errors are unacceptable – and oftentimes the story itself is in desperate need of an editor. Sloppy plot lines are also unacceptable.

    Until it becomes the norm for authors to take care of their work – to hire someone to copy edit it and to tell them when something isn't working – until that time I personally will be looking at traditional publishing for my own work.

  17. David A. Todd on April 12, 2011 at 7:58 AM

    >For those worried about the quality of self-published books compared to traditional publisher books, on The Writers View 2 yahoo e-mail loop a member asked why there are so many errors/typos in Christian books. An editor responded, in part, "the rising incidence of typos is inevitable as revenues and time allotted for the final proofing stage decline, I'm afraid. The final proof is usually the last in a long line of missed deadlines, and all involved often have their hands tied. Those with responsibility for quality control before print often havetheir hands tied because of scheduling, lack of competent freelance proofers, or even incomplete collating of those proof edits in-house (if there were an uncommonly high number, some always get missed)."

    Seems, if what this editor said is the trend in the industry, the quality issue between traditionally published books and self-published books is going away or about to go away.

  18. CharmedLassie on April 12, 2011 at 7:34 AM

    >As I said in the previous post, it's not something I'd want to do with my writing esteem as it is. However, I think that a practical change would have to take place in my life before I could even consider it: I simply haven't got the time to devote to the process.

  19. Pat Monteath on April 12, 2011 at 5:01 AM

    Having viewed the many arguements both for and against self-publishing v traditional publishing I cannot accept the arguement that "wanting to see your book in bookstores" or similarly the arguement of "wanting validation for your writing and a feeling of legitimacy" as a reason. Surely if one self-publishes – and this is done in the traditional way i.e. in hard copy whether hard back or soft back – then there is a number of issues that subscribers in favour of traditional publishing have not considered and these are as follows:-

    (1) Books on shelves in book shops only gather dust until sold – generally they are on sale or return.

    (2) Validation for your writing and legitimacy only comes when people actually buy the product. What I am trying to say is because a book is in a shop it does not automatically give validation or legitimacy to the work, although it goes part way toward such.

    (3) Self-publishing can still, and often does, answer both (1) & (2) with one proviso, and that is, IF the shop purchases as an out right sale then both have been achieved, otherwise the same criteria apply.

    I think those in favour of the traditional form of publishing who state that they want to avoid 'up front financial investment' and 'wanting marketing help' are probably being the most honest because in self-publishing you can still work with a team of professionals such as editors, designers, marketeers, etc., but it costs money.

    Self-publishing does have certain advantages which are:-

    (1) You are in control of your project.

    (2) PROVIDED you have the skills to negotiate deals you can promote your work into bookstores to a greater or lesser degree. Don't forget that traditional publishers are not only pushing your title but have many others to promote alongside yours, and bookstores will tend to take those that they feel secure with, so it always comes down to – how good is the marketing?

    (3) Financial implications – these vary accordingly. Don't forget writing is creative, jacket design is creative so maybe you have the necessary imagination to come up with some pretty good ideas for a cover design. In addition using your negotiating skills the next thing is to talk to a printer – and many printers in the UK employ graphic designers. Hey presto you have now got a professional designer both on print layout and cover design for minmal cost!

    (4) Editorial – there are many GOOD proof readers out there who have the necessary editorial background and will apply it if you are prepared to ask – even if it is only as suggested alternative way of presenting something!

    (5) Many writers run away with the idea that by going the traditional route they will get an advance and have no financial investment to make!!! An advance is exactly what it says – an advance on royalties, which means that a number of books have to be sold for the publisher to recoup the investment (don't forget advance copies, copies for promotion and books on shelves in shops do not count as these have NOT been sold so no royalties are payable). In order to help in selling your work you will be expected to promote by way of book signings etc and should the NET sales cover the advance then and only then will you receive any further payment by way of royalties, whereas as a self-published author ANY sales – after deduction of costs – are clear profit i.e. a softback book in small print runs with full colour cover could cost as little as £2/3 each (say $4.50 maximum)so if the book is sold to the bookstore at £4.30 (say $6.45) with a retail price of £7.99 ($12.00) then your gross profit is between £1.30 and £2.00 per book NOT £0.10 or maybe £0.30 per book.

    I trust I have presented a balanced arguement within this post and shown that for some people self-publishing comes naturally, whereas for others, it is alien. However, both have their virtues and as such this arguement will continue to rumble on.

  20. Dianne Dykstra on April 11, 2011 at 10:33 PM

    >Better affordability like monthly payment plans. I’ve been looking at going with a company like iuniverse. The problem is that I cannot afford their package fees. Their basic ‘select’ package is $599 and they seem to go up with increments of $550. I understand that publishing is expensive and they do have valuable features but, unless I can save the money, this is out of my range.

  21. Ane Mulligan on April 11, 2011 at 9:56 PM

    >As editor of Novel Journey and its sister site, Novel Reviews, I've been approached to review hundreds self-published books. My experience has been that most are not well-written or edited. So my time is wasted. Until that changes dramatically, I won't consider self-publishing. I don't see it changing very fast, either.

    I do agree that some self=published books are well-written. Especially non-fiction. That's a whole different animal, really. But for fiction – not so much.

  22. Lisa R. on April 11, 2011 at 8:59 PM

    >I have always wanted to do the traditional publishing thing for the legitimacy of it. Also I've been trying to get published for years now and at this point, it is just the principle of the thing. But of course all you hear about anymore is self-publishing and all of its pros. It sounds very tempting but I'm still going the traditional route. However, if my first novel were to get shopped out, I would self e-publish it and try to get one of my newer novels published the traditional way. Of course if I kept getting shopped out, I'd just epublish myself. At least that way, my work is out there for readers to take or leave. All these years spent writing . . . it will be nice if someday, someone reads some of it!

  23. Anonymous on April 11, 2011 at 8:00 PM

    >David A. Todd hits the nail on the head. If you're just in love with the idea of being a writer, by all means, shun e-publishing. A small percentage of the very best of you will hit the right combination and make it into print. A small number of those will earn out their advance. But, if you are a writer with something important to say, someone with a story so delightful the world has to hear, query till your fingers bleed. Then, when you realize Publishers will take Snoookie over you every time, consider e-publishing. Sure, marketing is a pain, but unless you're an A lister, you'll be doing that anyway.

  24. Sra on April 11, 2011 at 7:21 PM

    >The same things that various other people have mentioned:

    A) I have no idea what I'm doing on my own. At all. It's like jimmy-rigging your plumbing. Sure, it gets the job done, but not as well as a pro, and there are likely things that you missed that will come around to bite you later.

    B) I'd never be done tweaking without someone outside of my head to tell me when it's good. There are things I just can't see on my own.

    C) If everyone self-published, you'd get a lot of junk. It's like blogs. Some are fantastic and others are just black holes of time wasting. But everyone can make one, so everyone does.

    I have a really hard time with the idea of the book world being thrashed like the internet world has been. I'd like to keep at least one thing in the world selective.

    In the same way, I don't want to add my ramblings to the pile just because I think I'm all that. I want it to be legitimately good. And if it's not, it doesn't deserve print.

  25. Tana Adams on April 11, 2011 at 6:39 PM

    >I want to be in a bookstore. I really do need the validation of a publisher, BUT not just any publisher. For me to pursue self publishing I would have to really believe I was going to succeed, in other words, I'd need a miracle.

  26. David A. Todd on April 11, 2011 at 5:19 PM

    >As one who recently chose to self-publish, I can tell you why I did so: based on the realization that, in traditional publishing, excellence of craft and story-telling goes only so far in whether or not you will ever be published. After that it's a crap shoot. Timing matters, i.e. if your query/ proposal/ manuscript hits the desk of an agent/ acquisitions editor/ publication committee at exactly the right time, with a hole in the publishing schedule a year and a half away for which your project is exactly right. Your idea matters, i.e. if your idea is different from other works, but not too different.

    But really, your craft and story-telling are secondary to the perceived marketability of your book, as judged by a publication committee composed of people who probably have a less than 1 in 5 record of picking winners.

    With this realization, I figured I had much greater chance of people reading my writing and maybe making a little money with self-publishing as with traditional publishing.

  27. Ashley Graham on April 11, 2011 at 5:18 PM

    >I think I'd only consider self-publishing if a) I had my book professionally edited, and b) if I had a substantial sum of money to launch an effective marketing campaign, including having a professional cover made.

    Otherwise, I just can't see anyone taking my book/series — largely because of its subject matter — seriously without a traditional publisher behind it.

    I have a vision for my book, but it would be best served with a traditional publishing team.

  28. Rachelle on April 11, 2011 at 4:59 PM

    >Jessie: Small presses typically fit within the category of "traditional publishers" so that's why you're not seeing a distinction here.

    If the publisher pays royalties; doesn't charge the author to publish; and has an acquisition process in which they're selective about what they publish (necessarily saying no to the majority of projects submitted to them) then they are traditional publishers.

    It's this selection process that's the key – that's where the validation and perceived legitimacy comes from. Anytime you enter an arena where everyone qualifies, you lose most of the cachet and the prestige that comes along with it.

  29. Kristin Laughtin on April 11, 2011 at 3:35 PM

    >There would have to be less of a stigma against self-publishing, I think, for most people to feel "validated" through it. I think this stigma is lessening given a few authors who have done really well for themselves without a traditional publisher, but the overwhelming majority of people still seem to view self-publishing as a cop-out for people who couldn't cut it. Personally, I would need to sell well or fill a niche market (i.e. fill a need/want that maybe only a small portion of the population wants, making the smaller sales figures OK) to feel really happy with a self-publishing arrangement), or I would just have to desire that only a few close people read the book, with everyone else being a bonus. (This could be the case for some of my work!)

  30. Lisa Hall-Wilson on April 11, 2011 at 3:32 PM

    >For me to pursue self-publishing, I would need to know that I have an audience interested in buying the books. If I had a speaking ministry, or other kind of public platform, where I could sell the books, then self-publishing is the better way to go as long as you do your research, hire good copy and content editors and have a real understanding of design.
    The beauty of self-publishing is that if you're able to do the marketing and have the saavy to oversee the publishing process, you're able to make more money per book that way.

  31. Jessie Gunderson on April 11, 2011 at 3:14 PM

    >It looks like many of you want a team. Marketing help, accountability, a good editor. That's my final answer too. A team of professionals could change everything.

    With that in mind, I have a question. Isn't that what small press does for you? Not self pub and not the publishers that make you pay but small legit publishers. Is that what Marcher Lord and orthers like them are? I really don't know. I've read the websites and tried to descipher the difference and I'd appreciate hearing your take on it.

  32. Garannamom on April 11, 2011 at 3:10 PM

    >I am going to self publish my debut novel as an e-book exclusively. I like the idea of having complete control of my work, and I like the idea of my book being instantly available to millions of readers. I am not out to make a fortune off of my stories, I just want them out there. So, it makes sense for me to go this route. I have no problem with traditional publishing. But I am not going to play the rejection game. I believe e-books are the wave of the future.

  33. Jesse on April 11, 2011 at 2:58 PM

    >I love self/indie publishing. I don't have to hit a dollar mark or worry about getting bounced. I don't have to put up with too many fingers in my own particular pie, making money off my words while I get precious little. And I control my content, my story. Yes, I want to improve where it needs to be improved, cut what needs to be cut, add where it needs to have added. But I don't need a trad publisher to do that.

    Yes, I would still love to have the Big Machine behind me and go trad publishing, because there are aspects of my working life that need the help–marketing and promotion being the top two. But I like my freedom. I like my control. And I don't have to toe a line other than the one that *I* draw.

    I'll stay where I am, thanks.

  34. K. L. Brady on April 11, 2011 at 2:53 PM

    >I originally self-published and I always tell people that if you aren't ready to really hustle to get your work out there, you should pursue traditional publishing. Even when I self published, I only did so after pursuing the traditional path first. What I would advise is that if you exhaust all possibilities and you truly love and believe in your work, then you shouldn't let your work collect dust in a drawer because you couldn't find an agent. Get it out there. Let the audience decide.

    With that said, I eventually got a book deal and I never knew how much it really meant to have the backing of a house. I figured it out when I walked into Target, Walmart, B&N, and Borders and saw my books sitting on the shelves…and some of them were even missing! That means they were bought (or stolen). LOL Either way I've reached an audience I probably wouldn't have if I hadn't take the deal with the Big Six publisher…but then again I wouldn't have my big six deal if I had stuck my book in a drawer like so many told me to do.

    Believe in your work. And then work you butt off to get it out there.

  35. Kaitlyne on April 11, 2011 at 2:08 PM

    >I would need two things: 1) enough money to afford the team of people I wouldn't have on my side otherwise, and 2) a big enough following to be pretty much guaranteed success.

    The low numbers sold by many self-publishers kind of terrifies me. I'd hate to think that I was solely responsible for finding ways to bring readers to the table. If I already had an existing fan base, I'd be more willing.

    I'm not actually opposed to the idea of self-publishing. I could see myself perhaps one day pulling a Konrath. I have no problem with the idea of publishing a backlist, and think it's a great way to bring in income when books go out of print. I can't imagine doing it first, though. I just don't think I'd be as successful without a built-in audience.

  36. Eric on April 11, 2011 at 1:44 PM

    Again, to self publish and be successful, I'll need some kind of marketing that is effective. This pretty much leads back to somebody with the expertise and money to effectively market the book. Without this, you're playing the lottery hoping to get noticed.

    I do care about the "validation" stuff — I understand where that comes from. But that's totally unimportant with regards to selling books. What is important is the validation of the product — it's passed the gates and is therefore a more marketable product. That can and should be leveraged.

  37. Melanie on April 11, 2011 at 1:41 PM

    >I've considered self-publishing recently, but ultimately decided against it for two basic reasons:

    I suck at sales and marketing. it's important to know your weaknesses, and this is definitely a big one (had a sales job once and NOT ONCE ever made my goal). So help in that area is vital for me.

    Secondly, I would want professional editing before I'd feel confident enough to put something out there that didn't contribute to the "stigma."

    Also, if I were to hire people to help me with the above issues (as well as having books printed), it would be too expensive to tackle.

  38. Amber Argyle on April 11, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    >Even the validation that comes from a publishing contract fades.

    As for self publishing, I've considered going that route after I've built up my audience. We'll see.

  39. Malin on April 11, 2011 at 1:08 PM

    >Emotionally, the biggest obstacle when pursuing self-publishing for me is the lingering doubt that I'm not good enough – that people will look at my work with scorn and laugh. But if I did believe my work was good enough, I'm sure I'd be certain to catch a traditional publisher's eye and then I'd rather take that.
    I don't think there's anything that woul "win the fight" against the opportunity of having a whole team of experts to back me up.

  40. Anonymous on April 11, 2011 at 12:34 PM

    >I had never considered self-pubbing until I met my critique partner. She is not even thinking about traditional publishing– and she doesn't consider self-pubbing a 'step-down' or something that only unpublishable writers do. She is doing it for the financial reasons and the creative freedom. After analzying what she said, I had to admit that she was right. She has certainly done well enough for herself, and she started out as a debut novelist, self-pubbling through CreateSpace.

    Many people pursuing the traditional route cite marketing reasons as one of their reasons. Wake-up call: Unless you are a top-tier author in their list, you aren't going to get much help in that area. You will be doing most of your own marketing regardless.

    So, I wouldn't use that reason. For me, I would like to see my books on the shelf at Barnes and Noble. Right now, the only way to do that is to go through a traditional publisher. They don't accept self-pubbed books because of the lack of book returns.

    I think it is a personal decision. The industry is definitely changing. And change is not necessarily a bad thing. People will adapt to the new 'normal'.

  41. Obe on April 11, 2011 at 12:06 PM

    >To be published and to see a book on a shelf is a dream. One of those goals that you hold up so you can keep trying. I've tried epub and I can say I saw little to anything from it other than heartache and public rants by the publisher about her ungrateful authors. There is only so much an author can take of that. E pub is going to have to be more accountable on what is being bought. There is too much of publishers "waiting" for information third party sales. I must step up my game. I must write a better crafted story. I must believe in myself more. I will reach my goal, however I recognize I have a lot to learn.

  42. Eliza T on April 11, 2011 at 12:04 PM

    >Amanda Hocking blogged about her thoughts on self-pub vs traditional-pub. She has now signed with both an agent and a traditional publisher.

    She said that what she disliked most about self-pubbing was the amount of time it took away from her writing. I can sympathize with that.

  43. Scooter Carlyle on April 11, 2011 at 12:03 PM

    >I don't think I could make self-publishing work for me.

    I have the graphic art skills of a fourth grader, finding compelling cover art would be expensive and frustrating.

    I can sell things I believe in, but I'd like guidance as to where and how.

    I'm self-taught, and I know having a good editor will be critical.

  44. Loree Huebner on April 11, 2011 at 12:03 PM

    >That’s a hard question because I still am actively persuing the traditional market.

    Several years back, I watched an author that I knew try the self-pub market after several rejections in the traditional market. He had sold a book (without an agent) in the eighties that did ok. He was quite computer savvy and understood about marketing. He spent a lot of money –taking the money from loan on his home. He knew how to advertise and started networking (keep in mind that this was about five years ago)building the online presence. He had a website, blog, and did local book signings…way advanced beyond me…still, he did not sell nearly what he had put into it. I thought his writing was good, but his book wasn’t my cup of tea. The last I heard from him, I visited his blog last year and found him blogging with one of his own characters.

    Of course, this is just one self publishing story. I didn't mean to be a downer here. I know that there are many successful stories. I was just a witness to this one.

    I think for me, maybe it’s the money thing. I always heard or read that in publishing, if the money is flowing away from you…well, you get the point.

    Thanks for the excellent post.

  45. Nikole Hahn on April 11, 2011 at 11:57 AM

    >No financial upfront investment where most of the time you will never recoup the cost of that book because of a lack of marketing that the traditional have at their disposal. Plus, it's been a dream of mine since age 16 to traditionally publish and I don't think traditional publishing will go bye-bye, but will evolve. I've also known people who self-publish because of some bitterness from rejections or a lack of willingness to have anything edited from their work or impatience. But I've known some and promoted some who self-publish because they just want to tell a story and their intended audience began with just their family and friends or ministry.

    Impatient decisions have never helped me in the past and I won't give up on my dream now.

  46. Staci on April 11, 2011 at 11:50 AM

    >My agent suggested I self-publish an ebook last year. She couldn't understand why she couldn't get any traction at publishing houses with a story she loved. She thought it might be a way to get traditional interest. I fired her immediately. I cried my eyes out. It wasn't my dream. I felt completely defeated. After I recovered from my ego, I realized that I had been waiting a long, long time to be validated as a writer by New York. But what's my goal? Why do I write? My goal is to carry on a dialogue with readers. And make a living at it. I've worked diligently for 18 years. Who cares how it happens? I did it. Friends rallied to support with proof editing. My sister designed the cover. It cost me very very little money. And I work my tail off at least three hours a day in marketing. It's my dream, so it's my responsibility. It's going really really well.

    I'm so glad I stepped out on a limb. I don't think it has to be traditional vs progressive. We're constantly evolving.

  47. jsfrog on April 11, 2011 at 11:43 AM

    >I have a question. If you get an agent, how do you then decide what form of publishing to pursue? Do agents typically have a list of preferred houses to pitch to or do they take input from the author? And if you are lucky enough to get a few offers, how do you decide which one to take if there is a difference of opinion somewhere? Like if one perfers the intimacy of a smaller house, but the other is just looking at the financial bottom line?
    I am an independent introvert so while I would like the validation before publishing, I worry about being overwhelmed by the process. That is one reason I might consider self publishing or by-passing a few of the steps with a smaller house that still has open submissions.
    Still, I maybe may be over thinking this and any insight you have would be helpful. I am editing my WIP and the next step scares me to death.

  48. Toby Neal on April 11, 2011 at 11:32 AM

    >Self publishing is my backup plan if my agent can't sell my book (and Rachelle, thanks for giving it a read, you passed but another picked me up after setting me up for a massive rewrite with a professional editor!) becuase I'm writing, now and forevermore. I have a series going, then another one, and a narrative nonfiction. I want my books read and out there and I won't stop if trad pub doesn't pick me up.
    What would need to change,what I would want, is to have some sort of marketing plan I could buy into that would give me exposure that I don't have time to work on myself, with two jobs and my writing. I'm doing the social networking thing with all the (little) time I have, but marketing is my biggest concern with self publishing. Perhaps joining a "collective" that screens books for quality then works to get exposure, would be the answer.
    Wish me luck! I appreciate you and enjoy being on your blog.

  49. Angeline Lajeunesse on April 11, 2011 at 10:55 AM

    >I see the e-book/self-publishing world like a bucket of fresh milk squeezed from the cow, still steaming on a cool spring morning.

    Someone above commented that they wrote a book and self-published it in a month. That makes me cringe. Because right now our bucket if full of clots, and our readers (including me) are loathe to drink. The cream has yet to rise.

    Inevitably it will. Our milk will separate, the cream will rise to the top and our readers won't have to waste money and time slushing through the ocean of poor and mediocre stories out there parading as books.

    Once the cream has risen, and a clear path for the writer of quality stories who spends time and passion studying the craft of writing and creating the best characters/plots/prose with a competent command of grammar/syntax and technique can benefit and be recognized for their efforts is the point in this industries evolution that I'll considering e-publishing.

    Until then I'll leave the bucket to the farmer and wait until it's ready for consumption.

    One commenter suggested a co-op of writers who pool their resources and skills as they pertain to cover art, editing, book layout, etc. If I ever win the lottery, that's where I'll spend some money. What a fantastic idea!

  50. Rick Barry on April 11, 2011 at 10:33 AM

    >What a cool question. I have nothing against self-publishing per se. Some authors have done fabulously well with it. (Bea Potter, who wrote and illustrated The Tale of Peter Rabbit and other kids' books, bucked the establishment and began as self-published. Generations later, her work is STILL in print!)

    I could be very happy on the self-publish track if there were a way to receive the same exposure and marketing assistance that the traditional route offers. However, when I do signings, many readers still flip the book over to make sure they've heard of the publisher (i.e., the book isn't self-published). My two novels (so far) aren't self-pubbed, but it seems potential buyers take reassurance in that. How and when will that attitude pass? Another good question!

  51. Cynthia Herron on April 11, 2011 at 10:30 AM

    >Everyone's goals and dreams are different. They have to choose whatever path they feel best suits them. Though I am pursuing the tradtional route and that is more in line with my vision for ME, I would never demean someone else's vision just because they are choosing a different path. Hopefully, we'd both be shaking hands under the same rainbow!

  52. Kelly Combs on April 11, 2011 at 10:18 AM

    >There are great self-publishing stories (The Shack, for instance). So I would self-publish if I felt that my book was awesome, despite being rejected by traditional publishing.

    I went to a book fair, and looked at many of the self-published books, and some were just not good. Even things like the punctuation being outside of the quote marks bothered me. I would have to feel very strongly that my book had real merit, and I wasn't just self publishing for the sake of calling myself "published."

  53. Laila Knight on April 11, 2011 at 10:15 AM

    >What would make me decide to self-pub?

    I'd definitely require someone to guide me in the marketting sphere. I've never had to promote myself before.

    I would also prefer to work with a team.

  54. Eileen Astels Watson on April 11, 2011 at 10:07 AM

    >At this time, I'm not sure I'd ever go the self-pubbed way, but my eyes may be opened to it some day, I suppose.

    I keep thinking that if I only wanted my family and friends to read my stories I'd just attach them in an email, or print them off my home printer for them with that wonderful DRAFT word stamped across the background on every page.

  55. Anonymous on April 11, 2011 at 9:57 AM

    >I know it's probably way too early in the self-pub game, but can anybody name a "classic" self-published book, or one that will be?

  56. Marcy Kennedy on April 11, 2011 at 9:40 AM

    >For me, I think I’d have to see a few things happen:

    1) Organization of a group of proven editors and illustrations who would affordably and reliably help my manuscript reach the same standards that a traditional publisher would. You can hire freelancers now, but it’s a bit like playing Russian roulette, and it’s a significant additional cost. There would need to be a system of apprenticeship and certification involved.
    2) A network of connections enabling self-pubbed books more shelf-space in bookstores and wider avenues for promotion. Unless you’re a big name, marketing is always going to be part of an author’s job, but traditional publishers have channels to direct us along where our marketing will have a greater impact.
    3) Removal of the stigma surrounding self-published books, which requires an increase in the consistent level of quality of self-pubbed work. Some self-published books are fantastic, but it’s probably still 25%-75% good to bad for self-published work compared to the 75%-25% good to bad put out by traditional publishers. Gate-keepers would be the quickest way to change this, but it may also happen organically as people realize that unless they’re good, self-publishing isn’t going to make them any money or fame.
    4) A regulating body with standards that members must adhere to for self-publishing companies to voluntarily join (much like the AAR). That would give authors a way to find a self-publisher who is going to put out a book that doesn’t look self-published.
    5) A topic that’s so urgent it would be old news by the time it came out with a traditional publisher or a topic so fringe/edgy it would never find a home with a traditional publisher. I think, though, that traditional publishers may soon be finding more ways to include both of those selections of work to remain competitive.

    Self-publishing does offer benefits, but for me, the above is what I’d need to see before I’d consider switching my focus.

    (Sorry, I know that was a long post.)

  57. Peace, Lena and Happiness on April 11, 2011 at 9:15 AM

    >I'm still undecided, although I've started to poke around in e-book publishing. I think a lot of people are going towards self-pub because they are frustrated with the industy or finding an agent. Amanda Hocking sought an agent for her books before self publishing, and no one can deny she's done fine without an agent/traditional publisher. Would her books be better with a team or agents & editors? No one can say that for sure, but they are good enough for her readers.

    The fact is, readers want to dictate what is available. They don't want to stop reading vampire books because traditional publishers say vampires are 'over.' Obviously they aren't over, or Amanda Hocking wouldnt be a millionaire. Readers want to control the market and get new books in a genre they like, whether or not publishers are sick of it. If publishers listened to that more, they might hold onto some of that horde of authors and readers moving to self-pubbed books–and a lot of the money, too.

  58. Susan on April 11, 2011 at 9:09 AM

    >I once published a book in cooperation with an organization that represented a niche. I wrote it, found people to review the manuscript, revised, arranged for cover design and printing. The organization covered the costs. The book was about a specific developmental disorder, and with this cooperative arrangement I was able to write the book I wished someone had handed me when my son was diagnosed. I chose not to take royalties but donate proceeds to the center where my son received therapy, but the real reward came in letters from people who said the book changed their lives. I think of this a form of self-publishing with a specific purpose.

  59. Julie Nilson on April 11, 2011 at 8:59 AM

    >For me to pursue self-publishing, there would need to be a better system for marketing and promoting one's book.

    I've been working in communications for 20 years, so I know that marketing/promotion is not my strong suit. At all. I've worked on some PR projects and I have hated them. So one of the big draws of traditional publishing for me is that I would get some guidance and advice on the promotion side of things. If someone offered a service to help self-published authors get their names and titles out there, that might sway me.

  60. Ruth Madison on April 11, 2011 at 8:52 AM

    >Oh, also, my book is available through amazon.com and barnes and noble's website too, so it's not like people can tell it is self-published unless they really know the industry.

    Before I went that route I submitted to two hundred agents and got rejected by all of them because of the subject matter.

    I spent ten years writing it and I needed to be done with that part of the process and on to the next part, so self-publishing was a perfect fit for me.

  61. Erin MacPherson on April 11, 2011 at 8:51 AM

    >I think I could be happy with a self-publishing arrangement. Right now, I'd obviously prefer traditional publishing but if I was at a point where I had books that just weren't selling, I'd consider it. Of course, on the flip side, if they just weren't selling, then perhaps I should be reevaluating the books, shouldn't I?

  62. Ruth Madison on April 11, 2011 at 8:49 AM

    >I achieved some of those same goals with my self-publishing.

    My book is POD, so it is a print book and looks like a "real book" (as people comment)

    I also submitted it to numerous contests after it was published, so the gathering of awards has given me that sense of legitimacy and the proof that it is well edited and well written.

    My subject matter was so unusual, that it found a small niche market and those people have been dedicated fans, using my book for book clubs and as a way to share their feelings with others.

    Seeing other people respond to and relate to my book has been the greatest experience of my life so far.

  63. Charity Bradford on April 11, 2011 at 8:44 AM

    >I'm one of those that want the validation, but as of this weekend I have another reason for wanting to be published traditionally. As my blog has grown, authors have sought me out to read and review their books on my blog (this is really new), and this weekend I started a self-published book.

    Holy cow! Thank you to all the agents and editors out there for what you do! This guy has a great idea, but even I could have done a better job editing and cutting the fluff in this book.

    I want to make sure when my book is published it is the BEST it can be. That means more eyes than mine on it and picking it apart. I know I'm too close, and a team of intelligent people who know the market will be invaluable. Having said that, I'm working with critique partners now so that team isn't overwhelmed. 🙂

  64. Laura Maylene on April 11, 2011 at 8:42 AM

    >I imagine I'd have to already be well established with a few book publications and a fairly sizable following ("fairly sizable" for a literary fiction writer) before I'd even think about self-publishing. Even then, it would probably be for a project that wouldn't quite fit into a traditional house's list for whatever reason. But in general, from my point of view today, it's not an option.

    Some writers turn to self-publishing only after they get rejected by every agent or editor they contacted. Sometimes, this can be a good idea, and they might find readers and success by self-publishing. But often, I think these writers have either given up too soon or haven't put in the time and work necessary to write the best books they can.

  65. Anonymous on April 11, 2011 at 7:41 AM

    >The problem with traditional publishers is that they are too… traditional. We've got a lot of new talent that is being ignored in favor of celebrity, so self-publishing is the only route left for many.

    Traditional publishers need to adapt, and I don't mean just to technology, they need to adapt culturally.

  66. Timothy Fish on April 11, 2011 at 7:33 AM

    >I don’t think I ever would have written a book if it hadn’t been for self-publishing. In part, I’ll give the create to PublishAmerica. For all their ills, an acquaintance published a book through them and that got me looking at the publishing process, just for my edification. During that process, I found a guy who was talking about having published a book through BookSurge for $99. His book was terrible, but at that point, I knew I had to try it. I came up with a book idea that was closely related to some volunteer work I’ve been doing, spent three weeks writing the book and I sent it off. I won’t say I’ve been hugely successful, but it has done better than I expected. So much so that it persuaded me to publish five novels and my latest book, Book Cover Design Wizardry: For the self-publishing author. Obviously, I had to self-publish that one. Few things aggravate me more than books on self-publishing that are traditionally published.

  67. Timothy Fish on April 11, 2011 at 7:14 AM

    >I think eBook only self-publishers are shooting themselves in the foot because some of the eBook enthusiasts have started checking to see if the book is also available in print form before downloading the book. This provides a quick filter for the eBook slush pile that Anonymous mentioned.

  68. Lawrence J. Caldwell on April 11, 2011 at 7:13 AM

    >Big ditto. My platform has to be huge, well-established, with my published works bringing in a steady cash flow with other projects progressing at various stages in the wings. In other words, the next time I self-publish, it has to be affordable. I did in back in 2000 for about $200 and XLibris produced a beautiful book. That was extremely affordable back then. But that was the limit. I had no budget, time, knowledge, or skills to market and sell. Now I know these things and understand the business model. I think it's best to learn that model to perfection in the traditional publishing world before I venture into deliriously happy self-publishing again.

  69. Anonymous on April 11, 2011 at 6:50 AM

    >I believe the two paths lead to the same destination. E-readers will be the new slush pile and growing numbers of online indie reviewers the aggregators. Climb the ranks of the e-reader world and traditional publishers will come courting. Technology has given us a choice, but neither path will be kind to unpolished writers bolstered only by romantic notions.

  70. Sharon A. Lavy on April 11, 2011 at 6:43 AM

    >1. Wanting to work with a team of professionals (editors, designers, etc.) rather than be on your own.
    2. Wanting to avoid up front financial investment.
    3. Wanting marketing help.

    Number two is included in number one and three in my opinion.

    Although there is quite a bit of financial investment needed just to be a writer and learn the craft. Nothing is free.

  71. Sharon A. Lavy on April 11, 2011 at 6:33 AM

    >When my sister-in-love asked me if she was ever going to be able to read my book, if it never got published I replied.

    "Maybe there is a reason it's not published."

    I am forever tweaking my writing. I need someone I trust to tell me enough, it is ready before I would be comfortable publishing it.

  72. Amber J. Gardner on April 11, 2011 at 6:13 AM

    >I will probably only self-publish alongside traditional publishing.

    It just comes down to the fact that I'm simply not confident that I can market and spread word of my book as widely and consistently as a publisher.

    So…I don't know…maybe if there was an e-book site that not only puts your book on sale or prints it or whatever, but also proofreads and promotes it (twitter and facebook have become the new bookstore lol), then I'd be more comfortable with self pub alone.

  73. Kate Larkindale on April 11, 2011 at 5:05 AM

    >I have no problem with the idea of self-publishing, but I just don't think I have the personality to sell my stuff on my own. I wouldn't know where to start, to be honest.

    With traditional publishing, at least you get people to help with that stuff. You may not sell any more books, but you're not on your own on the island.

  74. Crystal Jigsaw on April 11, 2011 at 5:04 AM

    >I used to think traditional publishing was the only option and if you aren't successful in seeking representation then there would always be self-publishing as a fall-back option. I recently self-pubbed my debut novel and have sold several paperback copies and eBook versions, too. I had the book professionally edited, formatted and a cover designed and I am pleased with its outcome.

    However, to see my book on bookshelves in popular stores would have been the icing on the cake.


  75. patriciazell on April 11, 2011 at 4:26 AM

    >I was totally against self-publishing, but I gradually began to realize that the content of my book is enough different from traditional theology that I would have not been able to find an agent and/or publisher. I have been more than satisfied with my experience, and if the book is as good as the electronic files are, my book will be beautiful.

  76. Rosemary Gemmell on April 11, 2011 at 2:50 AM

    >I'd always go down the route of a small, independent publisher first if the agent/mainstream option didn't work out. But a few of my writing friends have recently self-published their books on Amazon and one in particular is doing a great job with her marketing.

    I think that would be a last resort for me, but I know that age was an issue for a couple of people who wanted to see their books published while they could enjoy it.

  77. Judy Croome on April 11, 2011 at 12:50 AM

    >As an author who has chosen the self-publishing route (after a lot of consideration) I like the way you don't bash IP as a valid route for authors in the changing landscape of publishing. It's great to see both publishing paths working together instead of succumbing to the temptation of "us" vs "them".

    The reasons most people have suggested for choosing the traditional route were the very obstacles I had to wrestle with psychologically before taking the giant leap of faith in my writing and going the IP route.

    And I've discovered that, with that leap, came benefits that suit me as a writer (but would not necessarily suit other writers). The creative freedom, the marketing, the new paths (for example, I've just finished making my own book trailer – what fun it was!) and other benefits. The one thing I'm still struggling with is the desire (or need?) to see my book in actual print. Rationally I know it's not necessary, but there is a part of me that would like to smell and feel and hold my story!

    The best of this brave new world of publishing is that there is something to suit everyone's tastes and this discussion has shown that very well.
    Judy (South Africa)

  78. Ted Cross on April 11, 2011 at 12:31 AM

    >It will be years before I consider giving up on traditional publishing. I would need to have several books in my arc written, and not just written but completely polished to the point where I am truly happy with them. I have really high standards and am very self-critical, so I don't even know if I CAN be satisfied with one of my books. But, assuming I can reach that stage, if I couldn't get an agent to take me on, I would hire a famous artist like John Howe or someone equally amazing and get some covers done to my taste, then probably hire someone to help me get a good layout done. I could see doing it, as long as I can make a high-quality product. If I can be happy with it, I know a lot of readers can be also.

  79. The Desert Rocks on April 11, 2011 at 12:15 AM

    >Many famous authors had to be rejected 30, 40 or more times before they were published. With more readers in the world we have more options. I just wish I was younger.

  80. Katherine Hyde on April 11, 2011 at 12:04 AM

    >If/when things get to the point that there is no stigma attached to self-publishing in terms of bookstore placement etc., I could see publishing through an author's co-op, where members contribute skills in editing, design, and marketing to help each other, and publishing is done through ebook and POD so that the upfront investment is minimized.

  81. Aimee L Salter on April 11, 2011 at 12:04 AM

    >I would love to self-publish if I felt like I could do as good a job that way. But I'm confident that, at this point, the business model just isn't working for the vast majority of debut authors.

    I wrote a series of blog posts about that very fact, and wore a lot of conflict over it. But I stand by the statement.

    I don't believe the business model is as clean, proven or successful as traditional publishing for debut fiction.


    I do think it's a fabulous idea for established authors with the editorial, marketing and audience contacts to back up the risk.

  82. Andrew Ronzino on April 10, 2011 at 11:48 PM

    >When my MS is polished enough for me to begin the process of looking for an agent to pursue publishing, I intend to publish traditionally. I've had many people tell me to self-publish. But it's just not a option for me. It's all the way or nothing! I say there are pros and cons to both types of publishing, however, I believe that traditional publishing is the way to go. I want my name to be connected with a publishing house, not an unknown website.

  83. Carolyn Cordon on April 10, 2011 at 11:34 PM

    >I have self-published two books and am currently working on another manuscript to be self-published soon. I would like to be published by a major publisher, but feel that self-publishing suits the books that I have gone down that path with.
    It's important to think the issues through and decide which path will work best both for your book and for you.

  84. Sharon K. Mayhew on April 10, 2011 at 11:26 PM

    >For me, I just don't see self publishing as an option. I can see that someone who has a HUGE name could potentially self publish and be successful. But they would have to be established already. They would have the knowledge of the industry that I lack and the experiences I don't have yet. They would also have a following of potential customers built in already based on their prior sales.