Traditional or Self-Publishing?

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    Hi all,

    Hope everyone’s holiday season is going well.

    Right now I have two novels. I put one up on Amazon a few years ago, but when I re-read it a while later, I withdrew it in horror. And this was a book I’d had critiqued. Since then I’ve torn it apart and put it back together.

    The other novel I’ve just about completed, and is patiently waiting on the shelf.

    I’m considering two options for the new year: seek a traditional publisher, or stay in business for myself and hire a pro editor, then a pro cover artist.

    What does everyone think? I’d appreciate hearing about your experiences with publishers, or if you think it’s better to keep running my own show.

    Best wishes,


    @janeshuff said much of what I would have done. Basically, going it alone means a biggish up front investment by you, and it also means you have to be prepared to invest the time into marketing and promo without the support of a publisher. The plus is that you have full control, and don’t have to wait/hope/get lucky enough to find a publisher/agent who falls in love with your book enough to take you on.

    I’ve had an agent (briefly), and I’ve had a couple of experiences with contracting directly with independent presses (a couple not so great, one wonderful). Either route involves a lot of rejection & a lot of time (and the need to do a lot of research). Personally, I think independent presses are doing far more for diversifying the industry, both in terms of who the authors are, and the stories being told. If your writing doesn’t fit the big publisher marketing brackets, an agent & big pub are less likely to take a risk on you. Where-as a lot of smaller presses are actively looking for writing that crosses genres, tells new stories, etc. THat said, they also have a lot less to invest in you, so you are less likely to sell millions (!) or see your book on a shelf in waterstones.

    Personally, even though my current publisher is amazing & I feel like they are the right home for that book, I would still rather get an agent again as I want the security of knowing I have someone in my corner to advise me and negotiate in my best interests. I am not brave enough, business savvy enough, or willing to dedicate the time or money into to self pubbing, but people who approach it in the right way are definitely able to do amazingly well.


    Hi Doug, @raine and @janeshuff have both given you great feedback and I agree with them both (though Jane’s reply keeps vanishing! It’s like a hall of mirrors in here sometimes).

    Thought I would jump in and give my ha’penny’s worth – I was lucky enough to be signed up by an agent and get a deal with a trad publisher (Penguin Random House) which was my personal dream mainly because I didn’t want to invest all the time and energy into marketing, promo etc that I know you need to do to make self publishing work. Which it most definitely can and maybe I will feel differently about that for another work, because it also gives you freedom and flexibility. However right now I am very happy to be guided and supported by the big ponderous publisher machine because I am less interested in DOING the business and marketing side – though I’m learning about all that and again might feel differently another time. Eg another local author who had a debut with Scholastic a couple of years ago told me how unsupportive they were and how dismal their publicity was, so he ended up rushing out at the last minute and doing a whole lot himself. He advised me to do as much as possible myself alongside the publisher – and to start doing this months in advance of release. A debut author has a 3 month window to make real sales and you won’t get that window again. Good advice – even though so far my publisher have been fantastic and really responsive and supportive.

    I really wanted an agent to guide me, to be in my corner, to have a vested interest in my work and for me the 15% was worth that. Also she pushed back on my contract with Penguin and got me a better deal. I love my agent but I am VERY aware that other people have different experiences.

    And I’m really interested in these indie publishers who are publishing more diverse, interesting and ‘risky’ books – ie those not fitting a more cookie cutter model of saleability – and I’m finding that all really heartening.

    So there’s lots of options and it really depends on you and what you want to put into the mix.


    Thanks, everyone. And Karen, well done on getting with an agent and Penguin Random House. For my part, I’ve rejoined Duotrope and will start the hunt for an independent small press. The challenge will be to find an honest one–from a rather extensive cautionary article from SFWA, it would seem like for every honest one, there are a dozen sharks out to eat authors! I’ll include the link here for anyone who’d like to see it:

    Small Press–Authors Beware

    If anyone else would like to weigh in, I’d welcome your feedback as well.


    • This reply was modified 1 year ago by Doug.

    Good article @dougk.

    For anyone looking to submit to Indie Presses in the UK and Ireland, the Indie Press Guide produced by Mslexia is a good place to start. Also, if you don’t have an agent to check a contract for you, the Society of Authors in the UK will check it at no charge. I’ve found them VERY thorough!


    @dougk if you’d like an alternative to a sedative, you can read the exhaustive cautionary tale of my small press experience here

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