Traditional vs. Self Publishing

Ever since I decided to self publish These are the Moments, I've gotten a lot of questions. Mainly, what's self-publishing and okay, so how does it work and when are you going to finish your book, because frankly, that's a universal question that JUST NEVER GETS OLD. (P.S. I'm getting more creative with my answers to that last one. Like, when tap dancing space cows descend from the moon.)

So why self publishing? Or why traditional publishing? Traditional vs. self publishing is the big question these days, with self publishing on the rise. Before we dive in, here's the most important thing to remember: each and every book has a unique calling, and it's your job to figure it out. There is no "right" or "wrong" way. Publishing is what you make of it.

A Brief Glimpse into My Publishing Journey (which has barely started)

My first manuscript — still unedited, waiting to be picked up again — was a middle grade science fiction/fantasy. I could see the whole thing in my head: writing the query letter, including the words "with series potential," landing an agent, selling the book to a publishing house.

I bought the books about how to write a query letter and the ones that list all of the literary agents and what they look for. I was so excited for this process that I could practically watch it like a movie in my head.

When I moved on to my second novel, I found that it wanted to talk right to the reader. For whatever reason, this book was as stubborn as the characters in it. These are the Moments wanted me to take full responsibility for it; should it fail or succeed, I would be the one to handle it all. For me, this is exciting. This makes sense.

Traditional vs. Self Publishing

There are a few key factors to consider when you're choosing your publishing route. Are you an entrepreneur? Are you a marketer? Do you like to work on teams? Do you want to see your book on the shelf? Do you like the idea of distribution? Okay. Got your answers? Good.

Writing is a business. 

Whatever you choose, once the creative, peace love book phase is over, and you're holding an edited, pre-published baby, you gotta sell that ish. For traditional publishing, you've got some obstacles.

First, you have to query. Then your new agent friend helps you sell it to a publisher. Then you get an editor friend and a whole bunch of people. Then, they help you sell it to the world WHICH IS AWESOME. In self publishing, you've got to be all of these people. You are your own little friend. Oh, and readers. LOVE YOUR READERS.

Things to think about: Do you want to a have a team? Great! Just remember, that team gets a big say. A team also means less money. A team means answering to people. Do you want to work on your own? Cool! Just remember you need to reach out to freelance editors, cover designers, formatters, etc. Remember you have to put in 1,000 percent. You don't get to sleep.

It's all about the details. 

With self-publishing, you've got to be everywhere and everything at once. Say you've got the whole platform and cover designer and formatting thing down. Say you get your book out there. Then what? MARKET, MAN. I cannot stress enough how important social media/marketing is for writers.

Even in the traditional world, writers are now expected to support themselves on the web. In fact, a social media presence can even help you get published. Think strategy, people. Blogs. Social media accounts. Twitter accounts for your main characters. Freebie short stories to get an audience before the book.

Things to think about: Can you see yourself as a marketing cog? If not, traditional might be the best choice. Remember, either way, you'll need to self-promote.

What's your poison? Risk-wise? 

The thing about writing/publishing is that there's always a risk. (Insert groans of discouragement here.) For traditional publishing, there are levels of risk.

  1.  You might not get an agent. Solution? Write another book. Keep querying. Get a freelance editor.
  2. You might not get a publisher. Solution? Ask your agent. Write another book.
  3. Your book might not sell. This one's a tough blow. Solution? Write another book. Hope like hell that they don't drop you.

In self-publishing, the risk is simple. Your book might not sell. Maybe, you suck at being a one-man team. Maybe, your writing is terrible. Maybe, if you want to move to traditional, no one takes you. Solution? Write. Another. Book. Keep writing until your fingers fall off. Wait, what?

OKAY. What a meaty post this week, huh? P.S. I hate the word meaty. Traditional vs. self publishing is a big choice. Monumental. HUGE. (got that?) No one can tell you what the right choice is. So instead, do the research. Read this post and this one and maybe this one if you're an overachiever.

What do you think? Traditional or self publishing? Leave your comments below! For more writing tips, subscribe to the newsletter.