Writing Workshop Basics: Traditional VS. Self-Publishing

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“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” 
― William ShakespeareTwelfth Night

Today, to publish or not to publish is not the question. The question is: how are you going to publish? Now it’s not that easy. Both ways, traditionally and self, are loads of work. However, if you’ve slaved away at your manuscript and finally have the satisfaction of seeing it finished, then why not follow through and see it published too? Don’t let it get dusty on a shelf.

On that note, let’s take a look at publishing options.

Traditional Publishing: I haven’t published this way, but here’s what I know from my own research. First, naturally, you need an agent. If you’d like to know more about querying them, please read my last post. Personally, I am incredibly impressed with many talented agents out there, and I would love to work with many of them. Let’s be honest; if you had the opportunity to work with an amazing agent, why wouldn’t you? However, this does require the arduous querying process, patience and time. Don’t get hung up on rejection. Throw on your armor and look at it like an incredible learning journey.

Pros: The perks of landing an agent and finding a publisher through them can be very worthwhile, money upfront for one. I’ve read a lot of agents’ posts and blogs and most of them have a similar timeline. If you have a signed contract and have been offered money upfront, that can mean that 30-45 days later you receive your first paycheck. I think that would help with the amount of time it takes to get a publisher and see your book on a shelf, which can be a year to eighteen months after that signed contract. That seems like a long time, but there’s also a benefit with traditional publishing because of the help you get with marketing. You have a powerhouse of publishers and agents that back you up and help you to get your book known.

Cons: Now there are also some downfalls. I’ve heard more nightmare stories about agents than I’d like, but I guess that should make anyone more cautious of who to query. You also give up some of the rights to your book. You may be asked to change the title or even a good chunk of your story. How much are you willing to bend? When it comes to your book, can you be a team player, or do you want the control? 

Self-Publishing: If you’d like more control over what you’ve written, aren’t up for the querying process or would like to see your book published sooner, self-publishing is a viable option. When I started to query a few years ago, and I joined various online sites; I was surprised to see so many sad faces. When I told people I was querying, I got the “poor you” response along with an offer for consolation. Even though I looked at the process in a positive light, I found others didn’t feel the same way. I am happy to say that I don’t see so many sad faces anymore, because writers are taking the initiative to self-publish.

Pros: With technology always advancing, I think this is a great step and a lot of fun. You can have the opportunity to go on sites like smashwords and lulu to create every aspect of your book. There are also numerous self-publishing companies to choose from that offer wonderful packages dependent on your needs. Westbow Press was my favorite choice for many reasons. I’ve seen incredibly beautiful covers and read terrific and engaging stories from self-published authors. It’s a growing market and one to be excited about.

Cons: Of course there are pros and cons to just about everything in life, so self-publishing comes with cons too. One con in self-publishing is credibility. Personally, I think this is a false presumption for many authors out there who are talented, but the fact of the matter is: people do think if you self-published you must have not been good enough to traditionally publish. So, how do you prove yourself? Time. Keep writing. Don’t give up. It’s also helpful to hire your own editor (I’ll post about that soon). Another pair of professional eyes to analyze your work is highly beneficial and worthwhile. For self-publishers, unlike traditionally publishing, marketing can also be a con, especially if you’re unknown. You have to market on your own or pay someone else to do it for you. I think the key here is to relax. If your book is “out” there, it’s not going away. If it doesn’t take off right away, it may take off later. This is true even if you traditionally publish. Just make sure, no matter how things are going, that you’re not shy about telling people about your book. Make sure you continue to get the word out there.

Keep in mind, no matter which way you choose to go, your book may take a flying leap or a flying flop. That’s okay. If you love to write and you want to be great like Shakespeare or so many other writers, prepare to work hard and don’t give up. Most importantly, have fun writing!

If you need a great reference, check out Writer’s Market 2014. It’s loaded with almost everything you need to know to help you with your publishing quest. Good luck and if you have any experiences you’d like to share, please leave a comment. When it comes to publishing there’s so much to talk about.


About jvcarrwriterauthor

Everybody has realistic dreams, ones that start with a seed in the heart, are watered, then grow. Well...I finally published my dream, my young adult novel entitled Username: Bladen. The idea to write it literally struck me in the darkness of the night. I began this project not too long ago, though now it feels like forever. This book, in its original manuscript form, meandered down a typical publishing path in many ways, until it recently settled (Yay!) on the shelves of cyberspace. Soon, I hope it will find a happy home on the shelves of many book lovers, in a real home not just a virtual one. After all who doesn't like to see their dreams come true? Today, with the technological advances that we enjoy, dreams of publishing are well within a writer's grasp. Every mom, much to their chagrin, experiences sleepless nights. With six kids, I honestly can't remember the last time I slept through the night. Typically, when I wake up and can't fall back to sleep, I think too much about things, meditate, or pray. One night as I was praying, the plot for Username: Bladen literally flooded my thoughts. I got so excited about it that I decided to sit down and write and write and write. I spent a lot of time learning about publishing. I joined forums and writers' groups. When I finished my manuscript, I entered it into The Sandy Writing contest, which was a terrific learning experience. I didn't win, but one judge loved my story and gave me almost a perfect score. That gave me a lot of encouragement. I also queried it a little, and am amazed by how much I learned and loved the process. I know nobody likes rejection letters, but I appreciated the personal letters I received from agents that gave me insight into why they rejected my manuscript. Then finally, after I learned that publishers don't have a lot of shelf room for young adult novels with a male protagonist, I decided to stop querying and publish through Westbow. I found an extremely talented editor, and rather quickly finished the process of publishing my book. I couldn't be happier with the final result. If anyone has a story to tell, are willing to be diligent, and have a dream to be a published author, you can do it! Believe in yourself and make your dream come true!
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4 Responses to Writing Workshop Basics: Traditional VS. Self-Publishing

  1. Really interesting post and its great that writers have the choice these days but for many of us it’s still a minefield – just going to check out your post on querying.

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