Self Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing (Tips on Writing #10)

First off, lets describe what it means to be published.  Simply put – your book makes it into print.  Period.  That is the definition of publishing in its simplest form.  Somebody has taken the financial risk, the time, and the energy to believe in your work enough to at least pay an editor, cover designer, and printer to bring your book to the world.  That is the publisher.

If you did those things, then you are self-published.

If you had an agent, who found an editor at a traditional publishing house who did this for you (or you shimmied your way into a traditional publishing house on your own, sans agent) then you are traditionally published.
That’s it…easy breezy; but the discussion usually doesn’t end there.  The questions usually start flying after that:
“Which one is easier/faster/better/will make me more money?”
Unfortunately, those are all the wrong questions.  Some of the right types of questions should be:

– Do I want to handle ALL of the business aspects of my book on my own (i.e. marketing, shipping, account tracking, etc.) along with the time I spend writing? (if so, then you have the diligence and patience to try and self publish your work)

– Am I willing to take rejection letter after rejection letter and, more importantly, am I willing to listen to industry professionals, to make my work more marketable until I find somebody who is willing to take a risk on me? (if so, then you have the diligence and patience to try and get published traditionally)

– Is it important to me to really build a following of loyal readers or am I just writing books, so I can get them in print, so I can say that “I am a published author”? (if so, then self publishing is just fine)

And there are so many more questions to ask.  Ultimately, deep down, I think 98% of authors want to be traditionally published, but for a lot, self publishing is either perfectly acceptable or just a springboard until they get traditionally published.  Personally, I self-published my first book after a few rejection letters because I wanted the challenge.  I wanted to prove the book was marketable and then get picked up by an agent/publisher.  It didn’t work, but I enjoyed the experience…and learned a TON.  For my next novel – a YA adventure novel with a hint of romance called Maiden – I am most definitely trying to find an agent to help me get traditionally published.  But that’s just me.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how you publish unless you actually have something to publish.  Too often I hear “writers” talking about the pro’s and con’s of which publishing track to take, yet they have no product…no story…no finished manuscript ready to share.  Nobody in the traditional publishing world cares about you if you haven’t put your best effort on paper and even the vainest of self-publishing sites online can’t print your story for you if you don’t have a story to tell.

Finish your story…then there are a GAZILLION blogs, sites, articles, etc. (just like mine, some better 🙂 you can check out to figure out what to do with what you have written (sidenote: I found a great post by Anne Allen that goes into a lot more depth about each kind of publishing.  Check it out!) .  I can promise you, someone will want to read it.  Be patient and figure out the best path to take.

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