Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing

First and foremost, this post isn’t about the differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing. There are already plenty of blog posts, books, and articles about the various methods of publishing.

Today, this post is about which path I should take for my stories. As Clash of Tides goes through beta, rewrite, and then editing, I’m getting ever closer to the publishing phase. For the past few weeks, I kept thinking about what route I want to take. Honestly, I already know the benefits of both, but the scary thing is knowing which one will work for me.

With self-publishing, I’m in control of everything, so I do like that aspect. When I originally wrote Clash of Tides, it was for New Adults, especially for other black women who don’t see diversity with lead female characters. I know for a fact that publishers will have writers change their stories to fit more of a Young Adult audience. For Clash of Tides, I want Elena to be in her 20s, period. Personally, I don’t like how publishers will force writers to change their work, but I get why they do it.

Then again, maybe I’m just scared. Submitting a query letter to an agent isn’t has nervewracking as self-publishing. Sometimes, I wonder if I want to spend all that money myself – cover design, editor, marketing, etc.

Basically, all the below:

publishing

(taken from giphy.com)

Right now, I’m tired of feeling the disappointment and failure with my work. It feels no matter how hard I try, I never get a payoff. The thoughts of self-publishing and then barely seeing any reviews on my work would probably depress me, especially after all the money I spent. Then again, I know other writers go through the same things all the time. However, there is just something unsettling knowing that writers who write fanfiction online get paid more than a writer who actually tried to self-publish decent, original work. I mean, I know for a fact that some fanfiction writers get $300-$600 every three months from ad-revenue for stories that aren’t their own. And yet, a self-published writer who got betas, paid for cover art and an editing service won’t even crack $50 a month. Maybe that’s just the age we live in, but it doesn’t make me want to jump on the self-publishing thing. Mostly, it makes me want to quit writing and just learn something else.

Also, with how readership is these days, most readers don’t want to buy books. They want everything for free. I question how I would feel posting my hard work for only .99 cents and not getting one purchase. Sadly, readers rather pay $5 for a Starbucks drink than a writer’s story.

Ultimately, it’s a tough decision, and me, and you, as a writer have to decide. I’m at that point where I don’t even want to post my work online anymore. I mostly just want to write the stories I want to read and then store them on my hard drive for my eyes only.

As a writer, I know it’s not good to think that way, but the road taken has already broken me, and the road not taken may destroy me. Decisions Decisions. Well, at least with traditional publishing, if my stories got accepted, I would be overjoyed!

Now since Clash of Tides is almost put to rest, I have so many new stories I’m working on. All characters will be in their 20s, so New Adult to Adult stories. I don’t want to change that. There is already enough YA stories, and sadly, I feel most of them are the same. They are pretty much different settings, different characters, and the same storylines. A special teenage girl snowflake goes on a journey, meets a hot guy, defeats the villain, and then has a happy ending. I feel it’s time for something new to come along.

Whoa! That was longer than I thought it would be. Sorry if this came off like ranting, but I felt these are important things to consider. Thanks for reading, and I want to know,

“Do you have any fears about self-publishing or traditional publishing? If you already have done either, what was it like?”

 

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43 thoughts on “Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing

  1. I go through the same thing and thought process every time I start a new book. Our novels are our babies right? My major concern is that I rely on my day job to pay my bills. If I receive a publishing contract, I may need to quit that job to meet the deadlines. My biggest fear is the inability to pay my bills. For now, I chose to table the idea until I have 5 books published, and am focusing on my love for writing and keep on advertising in my own way. Once I have 5 books published, I’ll seek out a literary agent.

    What are your thoughts on literary agents?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hello, A. M. Bradley. We first met each other on Wattpad but it’s been a couple of years since I’ve stopped using the site. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I believe all writers at some point or other face the same concerns when the time for publication comes.

      I want to comment on two issues though. First, publishers do not force writers to comply with their wishes. Writers are adults and fully responsible for their work. The editor who goes over a book merely offers advice and suggestions. In no way these are an ultimatum. The crucial part is whether the editor and the writer can make compromises and arrive at a mutually satisfying result. If they cannot and the writer is adamant to keep the writing as it is, then he/she has other options like self-publishing or looking for another agent/publisher. It’s not the end of the world.

      The second thing that stood out for me was your remark that ”The thoughts of self-publishing and then barely seeing any reviews on my work would probably depress me, especially after all the money I spent.” Why would you feel that way? Creating a blog is an excellent way of marketing. I noticed you have a lot of followers. If all these people follow you and read your stories and posts, why wouldn’t they want to buy your published books? It only makes sense. If you have already established a loyal readership, I’m sure you can ask people to review your book by sending them a few free copies just to generate the first wave of traffic. These readers will get the word out to their friends and acquaintances and you will get more verified purchases and reviews.

      If you worry so much about that, you can even request reviews from writers you know and have already published books similar to your genre. Whatever route we choose though, establishing a loyal audience is of paramount importance. Don’t even think for a minute that publishers will do the marketing job for us. They already want to know that writers know how things work in the writing business.

      Anyway, good luck with your work!

      http://lilaiamoreliwordsaresacred.wordpress.com

      Liked by 3 people

      • Thanks so much for commenting on my blog and offering your thoughts. I agree I may be worrying too much about the traditional publishing thing, and I really appreciate the advice you’ve given me.

        Publishing isn’t an easy road, and there is soo many things to think about. Wattpad ended up being a disaster for me, but WordPress and all my followers here are my saving grace.

        I’m sorry I can’t remember you from Wattpad, but can you tell me more about yourself? Are you a published writer?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Don’t worry about it. My name was blue_wave on Wattpad. You had read a fantasy novella I had posted there, ”The Bite of Spice.” I was the one who advised you to create an account on Critique Circle. Wattpad was never a site for serious writing, something easily explained if we look at the demographics. Personally, I believe you gave it too much worth and wasted too much of your time when you shouldn’t have. However, I’m glad you broke free from all the juvenile drama and moved on with your writing. I abandoned the site more than a couple of years ago and joined CC.

        I’m not a published writer yet, but CC has helped me improve my writing by leaps and bounds. I’m currently working on a collection of erotica and erotic romances, a fantasy novel, a historical cross-genre novel and some poems. Since I’m still working on my early drafts, I believe I’ll need 2-3 years, at least, before any of my writing sees the light of day. I want my books to be as engaging and refined as possible , so definitely I’m in no hurry to get them out for public consumption.

        If you need help with critiquing and beta reading, don’t hesitate to contact me . We can even swap stories if you like.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Ah! I remember now! “The Bite of Spice” is one of my favorite stories. I really admire your writing and how descriptive you are with your words.

        I’m glad you moved on and stuck with CC. Ah, yes, I do agree with you. I did give that website too much of my time, mostly because I was hoping it would lead to something. I knew other writers at the time that lived and breathed Wattpad, and they gave that website their utmost attention. That’s probably why I wasted so much time on it.

        Your WIPs sound interesting, and I would love to read them. Your writing always inspired me to improve and be a better writer.

        Thanks so much! If you ever need critiques, just let me know. I would love to beta for you =)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks! I’m greatly moved by your kind words. It’s an honour.

        Yes, I’d love for us to become critique partners. Your willingness to help me out means a lot to me.

        I’ll let you know when I have something ready. Please, send me a message for anything writing related.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Do you have suggestions on building a loyal audience? I’ve tried many suggestions and I don’t know why it doesn’t seem to work for me. I am gaining followers on Facebook, but ….. I’m missing something. Suggestions?

        Like

      • Natali, I admit I’m not the most experienced blogger. I started my own blog a couple of months ago and only have 10 followers for the time being. It’s not bad at all. To tell you the truth, I expected to have fewer.

        I’ve read posts from much more experienced bloggers. The consensus is that it takes at least 1-2 (sometimes even more) to build a loyal readership.

        One of the worst things one can do is have false expectations. Many beginners think that people will magically find them and will rush to read their posts by hundreds.

        No. It falls on us to lure people to our blogs. I don’t know when you started your own blog or how often you post or even the quality of your writing. But here are my tips as well as those from successful bloggers.

        1. We have to post systematically. I’m not saying we should blog every day (we know very well how time-consuming writing and rewriting is), but we have to make our online presence frequently. I usually take the time to post 3-4 times every month.

        2. I don’t know what other bloggers post about, but for us writers it’s very important to post things related to our craft. Here’s my take on that one. I see many writers posting about technical stuff. But do readers really care about that? I don’t think so. Most of the readers do not care about showing vs telling, about the way to creating interesting characters, about the workings of the publishing word, about filter words, critiquing etc. I’ve found that what readers do care about are

        1) book reviews. You can post reviews on books you enjoyed reading.

        2) excerpts from our own writing. Post some teasers from your books in order to entice readers.

        3) discussions about our books. You can discuss about your characters or the inspiration of your stories. Readers want to read about the genesis of a story. It gives them another perspective.

        4) general things that are relevant to writing, literature and fiction.

        5) Sometimes, posting technical stuff is fine. Connecting with other writers is both practical and helpful. However, we shouldn’t overdo it. The vast majority of our readers are not writers themselves.

        I believe the most important thing is to interact with others. That’s the most successful way of increasing our audience. We have to find bloggers with interests similar to our own and leave genuine comments on their posts.

        Since you have gained followers on facebook, why don’t you invite them to have a look at your blog? I bet some will be interested.

        Hope this helps you.

        http://lilaiamoreliwordsaresacred.wordpress.com

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for understanding! Sometimes while I’m writing a book, I worry too much will it do well, is the writing good enough, did I do enough world-building and more. Honestly, it’s so nerve wrecking.

      That makes a lot of sense. I’ve heard from a lot of people that writers can’t quit their day jobs, even if they do get published. That’s a good way to be! I need to focus on my love for writing and nothing else, but it’s a hard struggle sometimes.

      How many books have you published so far?

      I haven’t researched agents enough yet, but once I do, I’ll probably do a blog post about it.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

      Like

  2. I chose self publishing because of the freedom it gives me. With a publisher you have deadlines and meet and greats, etc and I don’t have that kind of time. I like writing when I want, publishing what I want and choosing the marketing material. It’s expensive yes, but the freedom is worth it to me.

    Liked by 4 people

    • That makes sense, and I always tell people they need to do what works for them. Through my writing journey, I’ve definitely learned what I need to stay away from. Especially a particular website that makes me rage quit writing hahah.

      Even if it’s expensive, if it works for you, that’s all that matters. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

      Like

  3. Creative freedom is nice, and you bring up some sad truths about ppl wanting everything for free these days. I think when I get to this stage in my writing, I will feel as tied as you do about which path to choose. Writing can be such a discouraging path with all these websites that allow readers the ability to never have to pay for material, even when some of us pour our souls into our work. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t a writer, but then I would miss it too much to stop. For now I’ll work as a nurse and continue to write my stories, and see where the future will go.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks! These days, it feels more and more websites are offering stories for free, so readers don’t feel they need to pay for stuff. It’s discouraging, but eventually, those websites will have to provide compensations to the writers or charge the readers somehow.

      I feel that way sometimes, too – I wish I had a skill that paid well, like programming. Alas, writing stories are just too much fun. Thanks so much for commenting and reading!

      Like

  4. Oh, Aka, I hear the discouragement in your post. I feel like you dread either route at this point. I think you would do well in the self-publishing world, because you already have such a great online presence and have tried many different writing communities, so marketing yourself probably wouldn’t be an issue (that’s something I would personally dread). And it seems like you know where to go to get your editing, cover art, etc. done.
    Here’s my suggestion if you go the traditional route. Come up with a routine of sending a number of queries out at a time. Say 4-5 a week, and only to places that allow simultaneous submissions. And hope for the best, but prepare yourself for a lot of rejections. That’s unfortunately how that system works. Look up the number of rejections some of the best-selling authors first dealt with when entering the business, it might help to mentally prepare yourself.
    Regardless of which way you go, Aka, don’t let all your worth as a writer rest on the outcome. You have plenty of people who have faith in your ability. Let publishing Clash of Tides stand as an accomplishment of seeing the project all the way through. And then get excited about your next project, which probably won’t take as long, will go a little smoother, and will be even better than Clash of Tides, because all through Clash of Tides (and your other writing projects) you were learning about yourself and the writing process, so you’ve continued to grow as a writer. And then one day when you look back, you’ll realize Clash of Tides did better than you expected, and you’ll be working on publishing your third or fourth book.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, Mandie! When I originally wrote this, I was discouraged, but after reading everyone’s comments, I felt a lot better.

      So many writers offered advice and told me about their own struggles, and it helped put some perspective in this whole publishing game.

      Thanks, Mandie! I’ve been on many writing communities, but sadly, I didn’t always sell myself well. However, self-publishing is something that I’m going to consider. For now, I’ll try the trad route and see what happens. Aww, you’re so kind. I do try hard to find good artists and cover designers for my work.

      Thanks so much for the advice! I do plan to see this project through to the end, so I don’t want to give up. The road is long and hard and full of heartache, but it’s something I need to finish.

      I really appreciate your supportive words and comment on my blog post. I hope your writing projects are going well. What are you working on now?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m glad that you’re feeling better, Aka. I think the traditional route is a good choice, it’s the one I will try when I get my novel to that point. You have a special skill set that will work for you though if you ever decide to go with self-publishing. I like the idea of several sets of eyes on my work before it gets published, and although publishers rely on authors to do a lot more marketing now than before, at least they can push me in the right direction. I guess I’ll have to figure that all out though if I change my mind.
        What am I up to now, you ask. Well on the exciting news front I just received a copy of a magazine where one of my stories was published last month. So that’s awesome. 😀 I started a new short story yesterday that I’m excited about. I’m supposed to be editing my novel (I add this so I’ll feel guilty about not doing it). I started a Facebook group to try to gather the writers in my community together. I’m trying to start a literary open mic in town. I’m also trying to create a quarterly writing event (with the help of my writing group) for local writers to come together and find writing groups, beta readers, network, and overall find support and encouragement. And I’m trying to make it look like all of this isn’t an elaborate ploy to avoid editing. Haha No, really I’m not sure why I’m not editing, but it’s creeping up on my to do list.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. The best self publishing advice I read was something like what follows.

    It’s not 1945, you can do everything the traditional publishing companies can, but you can’t skip steps. Up to and including being honest with yourself about the quality of the story, and if it’s saleable.

    Hire actual editors, like actual editors, not your friend who says he or she can edit.

    Self publishing disasters arise from skipping steps in the process. There is substantial investment involved throughout the process. Don’t let that discourage you.

    A wise man once told me, “Find your people, pay them well, and they will chase you for the work, and most of the time, do better work for you.”

    That applies to all manner of independent professional, from editors to illustrators, and lawn care to pool maintenance. And guess what, it is working for me.

    And during all this time keep working on your next project.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for the advice, and I agree we can’t take short cuts with our work. I also agree to keep working on our next project, and that’s what I’m trying to do now.

      I’ve gotten a lot of support from other writers, and I want to thank you for commenting on my blog post.

      Have a wonderful day!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. So many things I want to say but it won’t fit in a comment box. Like Mandie says, I sense discouragement in your post and that’s okay. We all go through that, especially as writers who write what we want to write, not what we think the public wants to read. Let the fanfic writers earn their money. Let them and take your eyes off what they and others are doing. You can either look at what they claim they’re earning or look ahead. Only one direction at a time.

    Only you can forge your own path whether it’s sending out queries and as some expert claimed, only when you receive 100 rejections can you call yourself a writer. I call bullshit on that (sorry for my French) but others can take that route all they want. You only have one life to live and I don’t have time to read through a hundred, or even ten rejections to get that one agent to validate that I am a good writer and the stuff I write does resonate with people – not everyone – but some. And that’s what matters to me. I can’t say any more about trad publishing but that since I didn’t query until after I self-published and even then, it got accepted right away and I was the one who declined because I knew I could make more money on my own and I hate handing my rights over to someone who will only then focus on the next new writer they sign on.

    When I self-published my first book, Finding Sam, in late 2014, I did it without telling anyone and I felt like such a fraud. My first royalty check from Amazon was for $5, the equivalent of two books sold and it was so embarrassing it was laughable. And who knows? Maybe one of those purchases was mine. I saw everything wrong with that book – too long, too whiney, too emotional, typos galore – and even unpublished it until someone on a podcast recommended it because she said it was amazing. Only then did I publish it again but never advertised it because it still wasn’t worthy to me. But I didn’t linger there; I kept going. I kept writing the next book and the next book and the next one after that. And with each book, I became more confident and I am proud to have made that first $5 check even when new authors now boast that they made four figures with their first release. Be proud of your story. Who cares if there aren’t any reviews? Four years later, my first book still has about 19 reviews although new ones are coming in slowly but surely.

    Anyway, the only other thing I can say is to stop comparing yourself to others. That’s the road to quitting because you’ll never be better than whoever it is you’re going to think is doing much better than you are. Never. So whether you choose trad or self-publishing, also know that you’re going to do the same amount of work you have in your infographic. SAME EXACT THING. Why do you think Neil Gaiman does his blog posts and tours, Stephen King his tweets and FB posts. It’s engagement and marketing, something no trad author will never be able to avoid just because he/she got signed by some pub house. The pub house can only do so much for you and they need to go after more talent anyway; you still have to do the marketing yourself. Good luck with your decision and much much love 💗💗💗

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Hey, my advice is this: always try going traditional before you try self publishing. I totally get the feeling of disappointment in yourself, or feeling like your efforts are worth nothing. I can personally attest that, most of the time, that’s the story of self-publishing. A lot of effort hardly means anything when you self-publish. You have to fight for every inch.

    Look up how to write query letters and research the perfect agent for you. Maybe you already have. Either way, just TRY going traditional. Depending on which publisher you get stuck with, I don’t think you should worry about the publisher “making you change the story”. That might happen to a degree, but changing the age of your characters? I doubt that will happen.

    So basically my decision is to try traditional publishing first, and then if that doesn’t work, try self publishing. I hope this helps!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Dominic! I actually plan to try traditional publishing first and see what happens. For me, I feel like I have to adjust my expectations a bit, or I’ll always be disappointed in myself. Oh, and my fears of traditional publishing went down some when I started talking to other writers after this post lol.

      I appreciate the advice and thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well good i’m glad! Yeah, I think it’s definitely worth trying. I mean, why not?

        You’re totally welcome! Any time!

        Like

  8. I greatly fear the traditional publishing route since in my country, it’s barely developed. There are no agents, you can easily send it to publishers on your own. But in return, the book would only be published locally. And I can see why, even though for my case it’s a totally different issue on its own. So, traditional publishing doesn’t seem so attractive upon closer look and scrutiny. But I’m not too confident at the self publishing route either.

    Since I would need to edit and promote it on my own. And well it can be rather demoralizing to spend money only to have nothing in return.

    I probably think that going traditional would be a good thing, since ultimately even if you’re rejected, you can still self publish.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. What I got hung up on was the people making money on their fanfiction. I was under the impression that it was covered legally until you were making money off of it. I’m no lawyer, but it seems like those doing that will have to pay the piper eventually so why not focus on what you can control; you. Trust in your writing, in your story and do what your gut says is the right answer. And yes, there is a subset who want everything for free but those aren’t your audience. The Kobo, Barnes & Nobles and Amazon readers are your audience. And yes, a 99 cents sale gets you about 33 cents from Amazon but done strategically you can still make money. Writing can still be a fiscally viable route, just hook up with the right genre, readers and authors who offer only positivity and constructive criticism. Ignore the Negative Nellies and move on to your next book!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. As you know I’m a hybrid–both traditional and self published. Having gone through several publisher contracts in my time when I had multiple offers, I will say that they do have in their contracts the right to change things if they want whether the author agrees or not. How often they exercise this is unknown, but I do have experience with it. My editor didn’t want an ending chapter in my first novel and even though I wanted it, she had the final say and it was cut. She put a paragraph of it in as a snip-it and it’s awkward and I’ve had bad reviews because of it. Once you sign that contract, the book is theirs. Period.

    Speaking of reviews, whether your are traditional or self, that isn’t going to have any say on how little or how many reviews you will receive. I remember a time when I was comparing the sales of one of my books that I’ve sold to the number of reviews it has when it dawned on me. Look at books like Twilight and the rest of the series. How many books has that woman sold? Millions and millions. And how many reviews do they have? Twilight only has a little over 11k, New Moon only has 3500, and Eclipse only 3200. Out of millions! People just don’t leave reviews. That doesn’t mean the book isn’t selling or that people don’t like it. Also, remember Amazon has a tendency to play “big brother” and they either delete reviews or reject them completely.

    I will say that if you are in this to make money, then no matter what route you will take you will be disappointed. I make no more on my traditional titles than my self. Actually, I make more on my self just because I don’t have to pay the publisher her percent, but sales wise, they are all consistently the same. And they are that way because of me, not my publisher. She does nothing for marketing, as most small publishers don’t do. Sure, there are breakout novels and writers that suddenly are making big bucks, but the hard truth is that they aren’t common.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. This is getting into nitty gritty territory now and everything you’ve expressed has been the same for me and many other writers I suspect. I spent a year trying to get a traditional publishing deal, whilst doing some prepping for self-publishing. Now I’ve finally self published my novel, my baby, my first ‘love’, what comes after won’t be quite the same in this respect. I don’t expect to make much money at all and I’m fully prepared for negative responses (we can all handle the positive ones!). Luckily, my husband does graphic design, so he did my cover for me, and I did my own editing, proofreading, with a little help from one or two others, so it has cost me nothing, and I’ve being able to have full creative control over it,for which I am very grateful. I’m now in the very early days of the aftermath of my novel now being out there and the uncertainty of that. But I am so glad I have done it!

    But the one thing I want to say, is if we are writers and enjoy it with a passion, we have to do it irregardless of the publishing options/dilemmas/conflicts, and the making money thing. I’ve been discouraged many times, but we can learn to be tough, take the self doubts and discouragements and carry on writing…its then, that you’re really free, and that is the approach i’m going to try hard to take.

    Wishing you all the best, Akaluv!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing your story with me. Writing isn’t an easy route to take, but I feel that happens for everyone who tries to build themselves up to something. I’m happy to hear you published your book and kept pushing past the odds.

      Thanks again for stopping by and commenting!

      Like

  12. Contact me. I’m curious. Don’t give up. I’ve never read anything as a beta. But if you like a second or millionth opinion… I’m here. One thing I’ve tried to do when writing my first novel is not to read too much elsewhere. My mind is 100% full of fiction for the most part. If I read something it almost always details me so… Don’t give up and get your head out and away from blogging or looking at the monitor for a few days. Take pen to paper and write your thoughts. If you like what you read then who cares. Something like “if you stop looking for love it will find you”. Don’t give up if this is your passion.

    Liked by 1 person

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