The Traditional vs. Self-Publish Debate (Part Three)

Whew! We made it. Welcome to part three, the conclusion of our investigation into the publishing industry. I don’t know about you, but I still don’t really feel like I have an answer. My long-winded ramblings of the past two weeks may have solidified what some of you already knew about the avenues of publishing, but for others, like myself, they’ve left us standing at the fork in the road, vacillating between one branch or the other. And I really have no advice to offer as to which path is best. All I can say is that you’re not alone. I’m just as confused and scared of making the wrong choice as you are.

The thing I think we have to remember is that writing, above all, is a business. Yes, it’s an art, a form of expression, a cathartic release of creative energy, whatever, but it’s also a career. And a career is something you make money at. If you are serious about becoming a successful writer, about finally being able to quit that dead-end day job you hate and make a living doing what you love, then you have to think of it as a business. Whatever move you make should be with an eye for advancing your career and maximizing profits. Working for art’s sake is idealistic; the whole starving artist thing is highly over-rated. I’d much prefer to keep a roof over my head and food on the table. Wouldn’t you?

As with everything business related, either method of publication is a gamble. Neither can guarantee success, or even a steady paycheck. And no one can tell you which method is right or wrong (as much as we might wish someone could). Because there is no right or wrong. At the end of the day, you can read as many testimonials of success as you can find, research every minute detail of the publishing industry, follow every golden piece of advice you stumble on, but you’ll still have to make the difficult publishing decision on your own. Even if you mimic someone else’s journey, your experience will probably be drastically different. There are simply too many factors involved to be able to predict, with utmost certainty, what will turn your book into an instant fortune generator. Trust your instincts, take a chance, and hopefully it will work out in your favor. If not, well, at least you can say you tried, right?

For myself, I’m taking the risk. My plan is actually to pursue both methods. Why? Well, I mentioned in my post on Author Branding that I have a dilemma involving crossing genres and a dislike of pen names. I also have a few previously published short stories that I’d like to make available under my married name for consistency’s sake. And since I can’t do anything else with them, (re-publication of short stories seems to be darn near impossible unless you’re famous), I’ve decided to offer them as stand-alone eBooks, and possibly even POD versions. (I recently stumbled on, and then quickly lost an article about using Createspace to make physical books out of short stories that has me intrigued.)

My longer works will be split between the two methods. Since my Urban Fantasy series is the smaller of my writing identities currently, that’s the one I’m going to try self-publishing. Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance seems to be very popular in the eBook world, so they might even do well. (Fingers crossed!) Plus, I’m not really sure the first book will make it to full book status– it might end up as more of a novella/novelette, and those are impossible to publish traditionally if they’re your debut title. Since the entire series is intricately tied together, each installment linked to the previous books, I can’t publish them out of order. I also don’t believe in writing fluff just to boost your word count, so self-publishing is my best bet. The rest of my work, which is more Traditionally Fantasy/Dark Fantasy, I’m going to try sending the traditional route, because I just can’t quite let go of that dream of seeing my books on the shelves of bookstores. This strategy would present me to the traditionally published world under the genre I am most likely to work in, and will support reader/publisher expectations for future titles being in that genre, while allowing me to publish the anomaly that is The Synchronicity Series on the side.

Now I know I’m being wildly optimistic here, assuming that I will be able to find at least some success with self-publishing, and that I will be one of the lucky few to hook an agent and then a publisher, and even that I will somehow magically get my butt in gear and suddenly become prolific. It likely won’t pan out the way I’m hoping, but it will definitely make for some interesting experiences. Which, of course, I’ll share with you fine folks, so you can avoid making all the mistakes I’m sure I will. 😉

But now it’s your turn– which method will you be pursuing? What’s your master plan for finding success? Below is that handy list of pros and cons for both traditional and self-publishing I promised at the start of all this, (in case you haven’t made a decision yet), followed by a list of links that I highly suggest you check out. The lovely people who wrote all those articles and blogs are much more knowledgeable about the publishing industry than I am and I gladly defer to their expertise. Who knows, maybe you’ll learn a secret from them that I missed. If so, please come back and share it with me!

The Pros & Cons:

Traditional Publishing Pros:

  • Prestige/Bragging Rights
  • Team of experts to help you shape your book
  • Better exposure/Inclusion on the publisher’s catalog to booksellers
  • Advance Payment
  • Agent to help you negotiate contracts

Traditional Publishing Cons:

  • Smaller Royalty Rates: 8-10%
  • Delay to publication (2-3 years on average)
  • Loss of control
  • Agent Commission: 15%
  • Higher pressure to earn out your advance
  • Low marketing budget for debut authors
  • Expectation to stay within your genre

Self-Publishing Pros:

  • Complete Control
  • Higher Royalty Rates: 20-70%
  • No delay to publication
  • No contracts
  • Freedom to write across genres

Self- Publishing Cons:

  • Success tied to prolific-ness
  • Greater financial investment
  • Marketing falls entirely on the author
  • Stigma of self-published = lesser quality
  • Smaller audience: eBooks are only 25% of all readers
  • Brick & Mortar Bookstores reluctant to stock self-published titles

Helpful Links:

Specific Articles:

Generally Informative Blogs:


2 thoughts on “The Traditional vs. Self-Publish Debate (Part Three)

  1. Very useful information!
    Marketing and promotion are two concepts I need to learn more about.

    Something I’m considering is doing business as an LLC. I’m not sure how often authors are sued – but support with legal issues may be another plus for the traditional road. There’s also the matter of reaching foreign markets, although that may be another area made more accessible with E-books.

    • I’ve seen quite a few mentions of self-published authors working under the protection of an LLC for the very reasons you mention– legal protection for personal assets. So it is actually pretty common, I think. Personally, I think it’s smart for traditionally published authors as well. Usually lawsuits involving copyright go the opposite way– with the author the one filing suit, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. And no one wants to lose their home and life’s savings in a lawsuit.

      Thanks for commenting! I’m glad you found the information helpful. I’ve got a few posts coming up in the schedule discussing marketing– namely whether or not using sites such as Wattpad is a good idea or not. If you discover other good marketing strategies, please come share them so we can all learn from each other. 🙂

Have Comments? Please leave them here! :)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s