Self Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing

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Okay, so you write your book, you edit your book, to edit your book some more, and finally you feel like it might, possibly, maybe, be ready for a publisher…?  If you’re like I was when I first began thinking about publishing, you most likely have no idea where to start.  Publishers that come to mind might be Random House, Harper Collins, or something along those lines, but how do get their attention and where on earth do you start?

I found out pretty quickly that unfortunately the big six publishers (wonderful names like the aforementioned Random House) don’t accept queries directly from authors and that getting an agent is just about one of the hardest thing in the world.  Not to say it’s impossible, just hard.  So, I looked into other alternatives.  Self publishing is huge.  Beyond huge.  Gigantic.  Thousands of authors decide to self publish and many of them are quite successful.

As an author of a self published book and a soon to be traditionally published book, I have a pretty good idea about what goes on at each end, so I’ll briefly be outlining the basics, pros and cons, and other relevant information.

So the start off: traditional publishing – the way to go, right?  The answer depends on you.  Traditional publishing does give you more options, presumably more sales and basically someone to help you with the editing and marketing of your novel.  But, like anything, there are downsides as well.  You don’t have as much freedom with a traditional publisher.  For example, the cover is basically their decision.  I worked with a publisher who came up with a cover I hated and there was nothing I could do about it.  But then, I found a different publisher who made a cover that I love.  To me, the cover is super important, so I struggled with the idea of letting someone else design a cover for my “baby”.  Also, depending on how much you give away in your contract (a discussion for another time) your publisher may have the right to basically tear your novel apart.  Thankfully, I’ve never had to deal with this, but I’ve heard he horror stories.  Overall, though, in my experience, working with a traditional publisher has been fun.  Another group of people to eye your book, inside and out, and give you feedback is great!  And ultimately, a publisher liking and then signing your book is one of the best feelings in the world.

Now, self publishing.  Self publishing is great if you like to be in control.  You decide the final revision, the cover, the size, the price, where it’s sold etc.  In self publishing, you have a lot of freedom.  I self published my first book through Createspace.com and it was a great experience.  It’s quick, easy, isn’t overly priced and the quality is good.  (FYI, Lulu is another self publishing site, although I’ve never worked with them)  And it was fun!  But the downside is that your book is just another book in a sea of novels and how do you make it stand out?  A publisher’s job is to market your book and without a publisher, that task is left up to you.  It’s daunting and scary but you have to start somewhere.  Getting sales without marketing is basically impossible, so getting the word out about your book is crucial.  Without turning this blog post into a novel-length rant, some quick tips would be things like: Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, websites, blog, local bookstores and libraries, and book signings.

Either option is going to require work on your part, but depending on what kind of work you’re willing to do will help you decide which way to go.  Building a platform (followers, and people who will hopefully buy your book) is key for each way.  In a nutshell, self publishing is super fast and super easy if you just want to hold a printed copy of your book in your hands, smile at it, flaunt it around, and share it with family and friends (which is basically what I did with my self published novel).  Marketing a self published book is considerably harder than marketing a traditionally published book.  Traditional publishing will most likely come with more editing and more work on the book end; your editor decides when the book is ready, not you.  But marketing is mostly left up to them.

Instead of picking a side, traditional or self publishing, I think it really depends on who you are and what fits your interests and goals.  Try self publishing and see how you like it.  Try to find a publisher and see how that goes.  I’m still experimenting with different types of publishing, and every angle, good and bad always comes with it’s advantages and lessons.

So, thanks for reading and good luck with your publishing endeavors!

Have a wonderful day!

~ Pauline

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