Monday, September 15, 2014

Is Self-Publishing for You?

Whether to go self-publishing or traditional publishing is a question every writer contemplates. The quandary has become more difficult in recent years now that self-publishing has become so widely accepted and easy to achieve. While there are many advantages to self-publishing, I don't believe it is for everyone. And here's why:

Self-publishing may not be for you if…
You're looking for a shortcut to getting published. The same amount of work, if not more, needs to go into a self-published book. Multiple drafts still need to be written, critique partners still need to read it, the book still needs to get edited. Everything a traditionally published book goes through needs to happen to your book as well if you want a polished product.

You want to stay isolated and think you can do it all on your own without any help. As a self-publisher, you'll still need to find a cover designer. Please don't try this yourself unless you have extensive graphic design experience. You'll also need to find a professional editor. Nothing screams amateur louder than an unedited book.

You don't want to pay upfront costs. A good editor costs money, as does a good cover designer, along with advertising. On top of that, if you want to go down the print avenue, then printing and distribution will also cost money.

You want to see your book in a major brick and mortar store. A self-publisher doesn't have the same clout as a traditional publisher who can give your books a wider distribution.

Just because anyone with a little know-how can self-publish doesn't mean they should. On the flip-side, self-publishing definitely is for some writers. And here's why:

Self-publishing might be for you if…
Your book is time sensitive. That is, if your book covers a world event or a current news story, then to get it published while the topic is still relevant might require the speed of self-publishing.

You want to keep control over every aspect of the publishing process. Not everyone likes to have to deal with multiple points of view about which direction the book should take. Traditionally published authors often don't have a say about the cover or the title. As a self-publisher, you make every decision.

You enjoy doing the marketing on your own. Having a strong media presence and a love of social media is a massive bonus for any writer. However, a self-published writer needs to be even more proactive with marketing because they won't have any help from a publishing house.

You like the higher royalties. Self-publishers are well rewarded for their hard work and initial outlay because they don't have to split their earnings with an agent and a publisher.

You write outside the standard topics. In the risk averse environment of traditional publishing, you might have a difficult time selling a book that covers a genre that's been labelled as done-to-death, a story that doesn't fit into any particular genre, or a book that covers a controversial topic. If this is the case, then self-publishing may be your solution.

There are many more pros and cons to both self and traditional publishing. Of course, to pick one style of publishing doesn't mean you can't pick another as well. Hybrid authors—writers who go both indie and traditional—are becoming more and more popular.

What do you like more about one form of publication than another? Why have you chosen your particular route?

Lynda R Young


  1. I'm small-press published, and I think it combines the best of both worlds (higher royalties/more freedom, but without the upfront costs). But I'm planning to self-publish in future, and also querying a MG book (as I think traditional publishing is still the best route for middle-grade fiction). Authors have so many options these days! :)

  2. Small press is definitely more personal.
    I'd say don't go the traditional route just to get validation of your work. There are other ways to accomplish that besides having an editor or agent say the book is marketable.

  3. I definitely write outside the standard topic with my self-help book. That one will be self-published for sure!

    Great tips as always, Lynda!

  4. I'm happy to be with the small presses I work with. They're not all created equal either but it's better than doing it all by myself. There's still plenty to do and I can spend more of my time writing by not doing it alone.

  5. Very true, never try making a cover yourself if you suck lol and there is a ton of work that goes into self publishing indeed.

  6. I've recently self-published, and have had a great experience so far with my printing co. They did the cover design. It is a lot of work, but I think you would end up doing a lot of the same if you went the traditional route. I now have some books to sell, so am looking at book signing possibilities.

  7. One can do self publishing in that there is no fear of non publication. One decides on the ways and wherefores and the pricing and there is no rejection. One can even plan the time frame and decide on the release date.It is a boon to the amateurs on the road to being a pro! Thanks Lynda!


  8. I decided to self-published because I just couldn't do the submit and wait game any more. I'm getting too old and life is short.

  9. Great analysis of the major pros and cons of each. As a self-published author, I enjoy the freedom of being able to write the story I want to write - my books don't fit neatly into a standard genre. They lap over into two or three.

  10. Self-publishing is best for complete creative control. I'd be furious if I were traditionally publishing and I had to accept yet another headless bare chest or almost-kiss on a cover, having my title changed to something I hate, and being made to make drastic edits which went against everything my characters and storylines represent.

  11. Beautifully-balanced, Lyn. I thought this was a very good post.

  12. Emma, It's brilliant all the options we have now.

    Alex, I agree. Totally.

    Elsie, and it's great you have that option.

    Susan, yep they're definitely not created equal.

    Pat, I've seen too many DIY covers that make me weep.

    Linda, yes, traditional publishing requires a lot of work too. More than some people think.

    Hank, the 'no rejection' is a big drawcard for many.

    Bish, submissions do take a long, long, loooong while.

    Carol, I'm so glad you did go the self-pub route because while your stories may not fit in a standard genre, they are such great reads.

    Carrie-Anne, I hear you about the cover, though titles are not my forte, so I don't mind someone else coming up with something better ;)

    Suze, thanks so much. It means a lot.

  13. Great list!! :) I do like that control so i think I'm leaning that way!

  14. Lynda, I like the angle you took to explain self publishing and traditional publishing. I don't think anything would make me self-publish, but something could change.

  15. Thanks for the pros and cons, Lynda..

    When the time comes, I'll most likely be a hybrid. I'd like my Y/A traditionally published and I'd like to self publish my m/g series. I am also a cover designer and illustrator so the m/g would be a good piece for self publication...

  16. Having done both, I went back to the self-publishing strictly due to the length of what I write, which are novellas. A lot of traditional publishers really don't handle that size much, and the ones that do have narrowly defined what they'll accept for genres.

    Father Nature's Corner

  17. An editor is a necessary expense and I cringe when writers skip that step. Writers also shouldn't do their own covers unless they are a professional artist and designer, which most aren't.

  18. Great post! I love the control you have with self-publishing, and it's nice to have that extra help with a publisher. I've had good experiences with both.

  19. Right on. There are definitely perks and difficulties that go along with both avenues, and no route would be exactly right for everyone. Isn't it great that we live in a day and age when you have the choice?

  20. I've been in both camps. The first two times, I was traditionally published, but it took a long time to see that happen.

    Then I decided to self-pub on of my middle grade books. Wow! That was a learning experiences, but it was out in a short time and I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Loved that.

    I'm back to using a publisher this time around, and I have to say that I feel good about this experience. They've been fast, efficient and supportive.

  21. Thanks Lynda for telling us both the pros and cons of self-publishing versus traditional publishing. Though I have been traditionally published, I am considering self-publishing a collection of short stories as I have heard that short story collections are a hard sell.

  22. Hi Linda! Thank you for this informative and succinct post on publishing. I'm not sure which way I'll go when I have a finished manuscript. My memoir may very well be controversial, and I definitely want to write it my way, but we'll see. It will have maps and photos, and Lord knows what else. Have a good one!

  23. Great points for and against.
    So many options available now, and I always say it's good to make well-informed decisions.
    You've definitely given me something to chew on...

  24. Great emphasis on just how many things to think about when self-publishing. Surprisingly, an author is expected to do so much on their own nowadays, and I think the line between self-publishing and "traditional publishing" will continue to blur.

  25. Excellent post. I think the freedom to do whatever you want is very attractive with self-publishing, along with setting your own time frame. You can publish novellas, or collections of shorts, which traditional publishers wouldn't necessarily accept from a newbie author.

  26. Jemi, having the control is a good thing.

    Theresa, my thoughts on self publishing have softened over the years.

    Michael, isn't it great how many options we have now?

    GB, novellas work perfectly for self publishing.

    Diane, I cringe as well, in fact, whenever I see a SP book that didn't get a professional edit or cover, I die a little on the inside.

    Christine, both sides of the coin have their benefits.

    Crystal, the choice is awesome and it means a whole lot more stories get to be read now.

    Lee, it's nice to find a publisher like that.

    Rachna, self publishing story collections is a good idea.

    Fundy, best wishes for your project.

    Michelle, well-informed decisions make the path forward a lot smoother.

    Mark, I think you are right.

    Nick, novellas and short collections make the perfect subject matter to self publish.

  27. I'm sending this out to my network because the list is so vital to anyone considering s/p. Thanks, Lynda for making sense of it and clarifying so much of what one would never consider.

  28. I'm going to agree with the advocates of the small press compromise. It's extremely hard to get a contract with one of the larger presses, but small presses give you a chance without a significant outlay of money, and their editing feedback helps. I see too many people self-publishing without hiring an experienced professional editor and that's not the way to learn and improve.

  29. Joylene, Thanks so much for your kind words and for sharing the article.

    Lexa, I see it too and it's rather upsetting because many of the stories out there don't reach their potential because of a lack of professional editing.

  30. I've tried several publishing platforms and I think my personality is made for self-publishing. I think it's actually harder and requires more work, but I like having the control.

  31. Great points! You definitely have to have a polished project, and know how to market it it in order for self-publishing to work.

  32. Indepedence - that would be the number one reason for me to ever self-publish.

  33. Toinette, it does require a lot more work, but if you like having the control, then it's well worth it.

    Sherry, exactly right.

    Blue, I think it's a strong motivator for many who choose the self-publishing path.

  34. Okay, I didn't find your Shelfie but I stumbled upon this article! Fantastic!
    Before I self-published my children's book, I had a lot weighing on my shoulders. I knew, in my heart, I wanted to thrust myself out there by visiting schools and telling stories at bookstores and libraries. I didn't want a publishing house telling me whether or not I would be doing this by receiving rejection and rejection. I love inspiring our kids to be better educators, leaders, writers and kind advocators. I also wanted control of my own business which is what I enjoy today.
    BUT with that being said, being self-published is HARD WORK. I am my own marketer, promoter, assistant, and writer. No one helps me... NO ONE. I have to continuously build my brand, make strong connections with schools and throw myself out there. Yep, it's a tough business but I love being with the kids so I wouldn't trade it for the world.