Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing


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I’ve been thinking a lot about this subject over the past fourteen days of the month. I mentioned in my January Dares post that one of my writing-related goals was to get a lot of different opinions on self-publishing vs. traditional publishing…and also to do some research of my own. Not just to know about it, but so that I could hopefully decide which one I want to do.

I still have several people to ask, and so there may be a part two of this at the end of the month, but today I was thinking about it a lot and looking through different websites and trying to pinpoint what exactly my goal was, and you know what I found out?

Self-publishing isn’t the easy way out.

Okay, yes, you can write a novel and put it on CreateSpace with minimal effort, but making an actual career out of self-publishing? It’s hard. Way hard. When you traditionally publish, the choices are left out of your hands. You don’t have to worry about talking to libraries and bookstores and managing how much your book is priced, and all of that, because the publishing company takes care of it.

But then you lose control, which seems to be the main reason that authors choose self-publishing. That’s why it’s hard–it’s an entrepreneurship, where you deal with the repercussions if your book doesn’t sell out; you have to be the one to make the hard decisions; you have to be the one to revise your book; you have to be the one to do every single little thing.

And that’s the reason traditional publishing is so wonderful, as well. Because all you have to really do is write and revise and have an online presence, and write some more. And if that’s all you want, then that’s great.

I still don’t know which I want to do.

I love the idea of self-publishing and being able to market my own book. I love that I can write what I want, when I want. I love that I reserve all the rights. I love that I’m the one who can be in control.

When I was younger, I created my own massage business around the house (mainly geared toward my dad and mom), which led to my older brother also creating his own, competing massage business, which I responded to with a ferocious increase in marketing.

I liked getting paid, but, more than that, I loved convincing people to buy from me. I loved creating little massage cards that I could print out and cut out in nice little stacks. I loved making posters exclaiming about me giving the massaged person an M&M or a skittle for every minute they were massaged. I loved marking down star ratings of my massages (though I can’t say I reacted well to the not-so-good ones) and calculating the overall rating of my business. I loved creating specials where people could buy certain things from me and get something else free. I even created a newsletter partnered with my brother’s business, with my dad as the editor, to inform my parents of important massaging information.

All this points to me choosing self-publishing, and I admit that today, looking through all of the options that were open to me, the same sort of excited feeling washed over me…but I’m also terrified.

I’m terrified of having to do things I’ve never done before, and, yeah, you still have to do that with traditional publishing, but I’m terrified of the idea of having to do it on my own.

I love to improve myself, but there are times when I feel so alone trying to do it on my own, and I desperately want someone there to help me, to give me advice, and to carry me through those hard times.

That’s why traditional publishing is so tempting. It’s so safe, so easy, but it’s also stagnant to me. I want to query so I can be rejected, I want to query so I can be accepted and know that my writing really is good enough, but I don’t know if I actually want to be traditionally published.

The choice is obvious; I know it is. I know you can see it–if self-publishing is going to be hard but rewarding for me, then that’s the road to take, isn’t it? I can see it, too, but that doesn’t mean I’m not afraid. Even though I know I have years and years ahead of me, and that I can change my mind, and that I could even do both if I wanted to, something seems so final about saying that I’ve decided to self-publish.

Gah. I need to stop doubting myself, but I’ll wait until the end of the month–part two of this, probably. Until then…if you have any opinions/advice/good places to learn about either type of publishing, please comment below and let me know!

26 thoughts on “Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing

  1. Kellyn Roth January 14, 2017 / 11:22 PM

    I think I’ve said everything about self-publishing and traditional publishing that I have to say (which isn’t much) already.


    • Lana January 14, 2017 / 11:25 PM

      Hehe, indeed, and it was very helpful! I have everyone’s answers saved in a doc, plus a bunch of random links about publishing that I can reference.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Kellyn Roth January 14, 2017 / 11:40 PM

        Ooh, that’s neat! If I weren’t already doing self-publishing, I’d be asking you for a link or something. But someday I might traditionally publish … I don’t know. Maybe … if everything gets to be too much for me to handle and I get to the point where I’m ready to accept some rejection. 🙂


      • Lana January 16, 2017 / 3:19 PM

        Haha, it’s not that much right now, but hopefully as I do more research it will grow into a huge repository of information. Right now, there’s a bit more about self-publishing than traditional publishing, though…

        Haha, I think I’d be okay with rejection as long as I didn’t have to do it face-to-face. But I think if I decide to do self-publishing, I might try doing some queries just to get the experience of the rejections, but if I don’t really want it because I’d rather self-publish, then I don’t think I’d mind the rejections as much.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Kellyn Roth January 16, 2017 / 4:10 PM

        That’s a good idea. Maybe I should try that someday. I think I’ve said somewhere before (although I can’t remember where) that I’ve always thought if I finished my fantasy novel(s) I’d actually traditionally published … but yeah. I don’t know why I think that! 🙂


  2. Kit January 15, 2017 / 4:47 PM

    This was a great post, Lana! I’ve thought about self-publishing and traditional publishing a good bit lately (I’ve always leaned towards traditional, but until recently I didn’t really know anything about self-publishing) and, although I knew it was a lot of work, I didn’t really think about HOW much work self-publishing is. You’re right, it’s a lot.

    Whichever route you choose for the future, whether one or both, good luck!


    • Lana January 16, 2017 / 3:13 PM

      Thanks! I know, growing up I didn’t even know that self-publishing was a thing! But, honestly, I’m starting to really love the amount of work that goes into it and I think it sounds so fun! The more I think about it, the more I love the idea of self-publishing, trial and error, and being able to learn from what does work and what doesn’t work and to implement those changes. It sounds so awesome.

      I still love traditional publishing, though, and I feel like it might let more readers read my books, which is part of why I’m still sort of iffy.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Morgan @ studiesincharacter January 20, 2017 / 3:00 PM

    Haha, finally getting around to responding here. I’m going to write up a comment here, but if it gets too lengthy, I might email it to you, instead? Not sure how long it’ll be.


    • Morgan @ studiesincharacter January 20, 2017 / 4:27 PM

      Okay, so, the first thing is that self-publishing doesn’t mean you have to do it all alone. Self-publishing means you’re in charge of it and have control—but it’s kind of like being the CEO. You can still have all the little employees underneath. Those employees are the ones who’ll help you make it work better—that’s your book cover designer, interior designer, editor, anybody who you have help with the marketing, whoever prints/distributes the book, etc.

      In fact, that’s basically the big downfall of self-publishing, is that if you want to do it well, it’ll be expensive. You can technically self-publish for free or for minimal expenses, but you won’t get anywhere from it. Book covers can cost anywhere from ~$10 to a couple thousand. (Yeah, I saw someone charging that much, once. But that was an uber-professional-well-known designer, so. High demand.) Technically you can also do it yourself, but I’ve read that that’s usually a bad idea because, really, book covers are THE most important part of book marketing. Seriously—if you go to a bookstore or a library, what makes you pick up a book? The spine and the title. It’s all about the cover. The blurb makes you buy the book, but the cover makes you pick it up.
      The cost of editing varies on the types of edits, but it’s generally a couple thousand dollars as well. Editing is the one thing I would not skip. I mean, if you’re reading a traditionally-published book, have you ever gotten annoyed (even a tiny bit) at typos? Like you’re reading, and you find the word “the” spelled as “hte”? In a published book? This is part of the reason why self-publishing has a bad reputation, and you don’t want to add to that. Editing is really important. Even if you did everything else, including the book cover, yourself, this is the one thing I would have done by a professional.

      I can’t say I’m too familiar with other expenses. If you go through CreateSpace or something, they’ll do the print and distribution either for free or just take it away from your royalties. (On another note, make sure you do Print on Demand. I don’t think CreateSpace actually gives you a choice on that, if you go through them, but Print on Demand is important. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a huge number of your books sitting in your bedroom and you have to figure out how to distribute them yourself, and basically, it results in you losing money.)
      Um… let’s see. You can pay for ads on places like Facebook and stuff. I don’t how useful that is for fictional books—seems to me like that’s something better suited for nonfiction? But I don’t know.

      Um, okay, what else.

      Oh, right, the other expense that I do know of! You have to buy your own ISBN numbers. Technically a lot of self-publishing places (including CreateSpace) will give you a free one, but I’m pretty sure that if you want to take publishing really seriously, you want to buy your own.
      You need an ISBN number for each book and for each edition of a book. So if you publish a book as a paperback, as a hardback, as an ebook, and as an audiobook, then that right there is four ISBN numbers. (I’m pretty certain paperback and hardbacks need separate numbers, so I’m pretty certain it’s 4 and not 3.)
      (I think there’s a place where you can buy them, and you can get either one ISBN, a pack of ten, or a pack of 100. I can try to remember where that is, if you want me to.)

      Pros of Self-Publishing

      Okay, so, obviously, there’s the control. You can do it yourself, you can hire professionals, you can tell the professionals what to do, you got all the control.
      This is obviously a HUGE pro, so even though I ended up listing more in the cons list, this is a really big pro.

      You get better royalties. I think with self-publishing, you can get up to like 70% from each book sale, but with traditional publishing, you get like 10% or 20% or something. (Don’t quote me on the numbers, because I’ve never been able to find actual numbers, I just know it’s something like that.)
      (That’s probably one of the nice things about traditional publishing, though, is you don’t get much in the way of royalties, BUT you get a nice advance. Although debuting authors don’t actually get huge advances—that’s mostly for the better-known ones.)
      Again, a really big pro, heheh.

      Cons of Self-Publishing

      It can be potentially expensive, as I mentioned above.

      It’s really hard to actually get your books anywhere. Getting a self-published book into libraries is next to impossible. I don’t actually know why, but I do know that you have to go through some really huge hoops to even attempt it.
      On the same note, you’re also less likely to see your books in bookstores.
      With self-publishing, your main market is really mostly ebooks (and possibly audiobooks, because I’ve heard that audiobooks are trending?) and not so much the paperbacks. *shrug*
      That’s not to say it’s impossible, because I don’t think it is, I just don’t really know how to do it? That’d require more research, hehe.

      I heard a review about self-publishing that the paperback books feel really different from traditionally published books. Like, the paper quality is different, and so they don’t have that same “oooh a book” feel? I don’t know if that’s actually the case. (I’ve been meaning to ask Kellyn about that, actually, since she has Dressmakers Secret in paperback, but I keep forgetting.)

      Self-publishing has a negative reputation—which is not really a con, per se, but kind of something to be aware of? It’s kind of something you have to acknowledge and rise above. Don’t put something out there that’s like what the reputation says it does—cheap, unedited, poorly-written books. With self-publishing, you kind of get out of it what you put into it, so you definitely have to put into it.

      Random self-publishing things:

      There’s a site called Pronoun that’s all about self-publishing ebooks. They don’t take anything away from your royalty, so the only thing taken away from your royalty is what each individual place (like Amazon and Apple and whatnot) take for it, and they distribute to all of the important places—the Kindle store, the iBooks store, the Nook store, and a few other places I don’t actually know anything about. They also help you with the marketing with categories and tags and stuff. If I self-publish any ebooks, I am 100% positive I want to do it through Pronoun. I really like their website.

      Then there’s Author’s Republic. They’re kind of like Pronoun, only instead of dealing with ebooks, they do audiobooks. I’ve heard that audiobooks are a good thing to have—the only problem with those is you either need to hire somebody to read it for you, or you have to read it yourself. They have a guide with some pretty good tips on doing that, though.

      What I don’t know much about is the paperback side of self-publishing. There’s CreateSpace, and Lulu, and Smashwords? and a bunch of others, but I don’t know much about them. Kellyn can probably tell you more about those, hehe. Or at least CreateSpace.

      I’ve heard that one of the best ways to get your books out there successfully is with two things—keywords and reviews. I mean, like, with any product on Amazon, you’re going to look at the reviews before you buy it, right? I know I do, even with books. And when you find a product that has 5 stars, but it also only has 5 reviews, you’re still kind of iffy about it—so collecting a lot of reviews kind of gives it a weird sort of “this is credible” kind of thing.
      The keywords are how your book will be found. I don’t know as much about that so I don’t know how helpful I can be, especially since most of the research I’ve had on that applies more to nonfiction than to fiction, but basically, like when you search for something, it’s the keywords that will make your book show up in a search. Like tags for blog posts, I think, basically, heheh.
      I think it’s also how you’ll end up with things like “books similar to this” and stuff.

      There was something that changed on Amazon some time recently that changed how you’re allowed to get reviews, and it resulted in a bunch of reviews being deleted, but I don’t actually know anything about it? I’m not really sure how that works, just that I think Amazon only allows you to get reviews certain ways. Like… maybe it’s not paying anybody to give you a review? I don’t know.

      I’d probably see if you can look into getting an ARC for your book? I mean, I assume that’d work with self-publishing. I don’t know much about that. *shrug*


      • Lana January 20, 2017 / 8:24 PM

        *isn’t entirely sure where to start responding to this, hehe, so it may be out of order*

        I would love to be good enough at cover design to be able to make my own covers…but I know that will take a lot of time and practice. I’m decent, but nowhere near professional, so that’s a good point. I’ve also heard that editing is a good thing to get for your book…this may be a really simple question, but do editors just do editing, like checking for typos and errors and stuff like that, or do they also help with story elements and plot structure and things like that? I need to look into that more because that sounds like a good idea.

        So what’s the difference between a free ISBN and one that you buy? Aren’t they essentially the same thing, or is there a difference?

        I know with CreateSpace if you price your ebook at $2.99 or more, then you can get about 70% royalties, but it’s less if it’s priced at less, and I think you’re about right with the 10% royalty figure for published authors…

        I’ve actually done a little bit of research on self-published books in libraries because that was one of my main things against it, since I hardly buy books and always use the library, and I felt like it’d be less read if it wasn’t. Basically, the problem with it is that, like with some of the things you mentioned, libraries don’t take you seriously most of the time. It’s generally not a good enough investment for them to include it. However, they’re more likely to accept your book if you donate at least two copies of it, you’re a local author, or you offer to do some sort of promotional library thing like talk about your book or do a writing teaching session thing with kids or something like that. But as far as libraries actually buying the books…it never happens without effort on the part of the author of the book.

        Well, Kell has told me that CreateSpace’s paperback books are really nice…I don’t know if that means they don’t feel any different or whatever, but…yeah, you’d have to talk to her about it.

        Hmm, the Pronoun site seems interesting…I’ll have to look more into it because it doesn’t seem like it gives that much info upfront about what they’re exactly doing…of course, I only looked at it for like five minutes, so I dunno.

        I’ve always thought it would be fun to read audiobooks because I really enjoy reading to my little brother, but I mess up all the time, and though we do have some recording equipment, it’s not very much and doesn’t have all that great quality. I’ll definitely check out the website though.

        I’ve heard of Smashwords and looked into it a little bit…I like what I’ve seen so far. I haven’t looked into Lulu yet, but I have heard of it.

        Ooh, yeah, reviews are definitely a good thing. I’d definitely look into sending out some digital ARCs, but only after looking into the reviewer’s interests to see if they’re more likely to enjoy the book.

        Huh…I’ll have to look that up at some point. I haven’t heard about that…but it sounds like something to look at.

        Do you mean an ARC for yourself or for other people? Both of those are possible, and the ARC for yourself is apparently really useful because then you can read through it in a physical copy before you actually publish it and it helps you to see things you’ve missed before.

        Whew, I made it through it. 😛 Seriously, thank you for all of the information! Everything was very useful, and I love all the new things I learned. 😀


      • Morgan @ studiesincharacter January 20, 2017 / 9:11 PM

        That’s fine, hehe.

        Yeah, decent is good. I’ve also found, in my own experience, that it’s a lot harder to make a good cover for yourself than it is to make a cover for someone else. I don’t know why? It’s probably just a perceptive/perspective thing? I’m not sure. But anyway, yeah. *cough* Maybe by the time you’re ready to self-publish, I’ll be professional? This is what I’m going to college for.

        Yes, there are different types of edits. Some deal with the story itself—the “macro” edits. Then there’s edits for the “micro” stuff. Um. Here’s a link to a website that has a bunch of editors, and you can read their descriptions of each type of edit (and you can see their quotes) because they’d explain better than I can, hehe.

        I am not completely sure on that, so we’ll have to look into that? My guess is it might have something to do with if you want to consider the option of republishing somewhere else, if you’d decided to? Because it was your ISBN? I’m not sure. Heh.

        Yeah, exactly. There ARE ways to get it into the libraries, but it takes effort and only works for ONE library at a time.

        Yeah. I might just buy Dressmaker’s Secret. I can support a fellow author, finally read her book, and find out, all at the same time! Heheh.

        Yeah, I don’t know that I’d want to do my own audiobook either, hehe. I don’t think my voice is very good for audiobooks. But it’s a possibility. You can also hire somebody to do it for you, although I have no idea how to find someone for that.

        Yeah, I don’t know anything about any of them. There’s a couple of others, too. I can’t remember the name of this other one, though, for the life of me! Heh. CreateSpace, Lulu, Smashwords, another-one-starting-with-the-letter-i-I-think?

        Right, of course. I think that’s how the ARCs thing is supposed to work, anyhow?
        The other thing with reviews is you can always ask bribe, maybe family and friends. Heheh. I would be willing to do that.

        Yeah, both. CreateSpace will actually give you a copy I think (that’s what one of the things are that we always get (are have previously) for winning NaNo? Win NaNo, and you get a code to get 5 free copies from CreateSpace, without actually having to pay for them. You can use those as proofs, or you can save the code for after you’re published and use it for distribution. But yeah, getting yourself an ARC is another method.

        Hehe, no problem!

        There was something else that popped into my head, but I can’t quite remember it… heh. Shoulda given you another comment earlier.
        The one thing I can think of that I didn’t mention is an email subscription. I have no idea why, but ALL of my research ALWAYS tells me that the #1 thing to get readers is to sign up an email subscription thingy (through like MailChimp or the other companies I can’t remember the names of), and have some kind of opt-in promp (something like “Sign up for my email list and get this free short story!”) and then once people are in your subscription, you give out emails once a month or once a week or something (and what do you say, I have zero idea so far), and… that’s apparently your best bet. For whatever reason, an ordinary blog like what you and I have doesn’t quite cut it—you specifically need an email subscription.

        Here’s two links to some blog posts that have advice for an author website.
        (And they go into all the complicated stuff about having a domain name and stuff, but that you have to spend money on and I’m still confused by that, so, hehe.)

        Uh… there was something else. Hm. Oh! This isn’t relevant right away, but you remember how with Lady of the Vineyard, Kellyn did a blog tour to promote it? Well, she was on the right track with that—you definitely want to do that. I’ve been reading, though, that you want to do that on a HUGER scale and start a couple of months before your book actually comes out. Start promoting it—talking about it, asking people to preorder, getting people to write your reviews, possibly sharing excerpts and/or the first few chapters, and generally drumming up interest. And yeah, start a few months before it actually comes out.

        Uh, okay, I think that’s all this time. Although it’s entirely possible when you respond to this, I’ll have remembered something else! Hehe.

        Y’know, there’s a part of me that thinks I need to self-publish simply because I’ve done this much research on it, and if I traditionally publish, I’m putting a bunch of knowledge to waste! Hehe. Sharing it with you isn’t putting it to waste, though!


      • Lana January 29, 2017 / 12:05 AM

        True. And yeah, good point!

        Ahhh, okay. Wow. Expensive. I mean, it’s not so expensive if you have money…or a job…but I don’t.

        Yeah, maybe… -has no idea-

        I should buy that at some point as well…but she is going to be republishing it this summer, along with the second book, so I’ll have to buy it then. What I really should buy, though, is TLOTV, since I made that cover…

        Well, my dad offered to read my books to me since he has done a little bit of non-professional book recordings with Librivox, but I think he may have been joking a bit. Still, I may take him up on that sometime… 😛

        Ingram Spark, maybe?

        Not sure if I should bribe family or friends for free reviews…maybe I could bribe them with free books for Christmas or something and a card that asks them to review. 😛

        I think they may have chosen a different publishing site last year for the free copies…I can’t really remember.

        Ahh, yeah, I’ve heard that too. I’m not entirely sure what one does on an email subscription that’s different than a blog, though…maybe you have more exclusive information or something? I have no idea.

        Interesting…I’ll have to do more research on blog tours. The only real interaction I’ve had with them is Kell’s blog tour for TLOTV, so I should learn more.

        Well, learning is never wasted, right? Especially if you share it with me. 😛


      • Morgan @ studiesincharacter January 29, 2017 / 11:44 AM

        Definitely expensive. That’s one thing I’m sort of saving up for, even if I haven’t made up my mind on which publishing route I want to go, either.

        That might not be a bad idea, hehe, if he’s any good at it. My dad’s pretty good at reading things aloud, too, but I doubt he’d be willing to do that for me, so I have no clue how I’d handle that part yet.

        That might not be a bad idea. I was mostly joking and saying that I’d be open to bribes. Although because you’re my friend, I wouldn’t really need a bribe.

        I have no clue, since I wasn’t on YWP for this last NaNo, but I know that’s what they’ve had the years before.

        Yeah, it might be that. I think there are also some subscriptions that are basically just “here’s a roundup of my blog posts for the past month/week/whatevertimeperiod and also a few blog posts from others around the blog-o-sphere”. So that could be an option? But you do want an “incentive” so that they subscribe rather than just follow the blog. *shrug*

        Yeah, same here, actually, hehe. I am not totally positive what’s involved in a blog tour.

        Hehe, right!


      • Lana January 31, 2017 / 10:59 PM

        Yeah…but I guess expenses come with any other hobby that you try. I’m just glad that writing is an inexpensive hobby in general and I don’t have to worry about money right now.

        Well, I love his reading voice because I grew up with him reading us a little bit of a book every night before we went to bed. And so, because of that, I guess you could say he’s had a lot of practice. The problem is that we don’t really have a good place to record…there’s too many hard walls everywhere.

        Hehe, okay. Bribes are nice… 🙂

        Ahh, that’s true. I think for me personally I’d enjoy doing something that gives a little extra about what I’m working on or things like that…but I’ve never done it so I don’t know.


    • Morgan @ studiesincharacter January 20, 2017 / 4:28 PM

      Okay, I posted it anyway, but HA IT WAS SO LONG, IT’S STUCK IN MODERATION, HEHEH.

      Anyway, I imagine you know some of that, so I might be redundant, and I’m pretty certain there’s other stuff that I’ve forgotten and may come back with later, but there’s that for now. I hope it’s helpful in some way or another.


      • Lana January 20, 2017 / 7:53 PM

        I copied and pasted it into my publishing info doc and it was over three pages. I’m impressed, Shim, very impressed, hehe. And now to respond to some of it… 😛 And if you do remember anything, please do come back to it! I may ask you more stuff later on, too, because you have very useful information. 😀


      • Morgan @ studiesincharacter January 20, 2017 / 9:14 PM

        Yeah, oops.
        Three pages, wow. o.O
        Heheh, ask away! I don’t know how good I’d be at this stuff, but I’m weirdly fascinated, so I’ve been researching for a while.


  4. Morgan @ studiesincharacter January 20, 2017 / 10:13 PM

    Oh! It just occurred to me that somehow, in all that long comment ness, I’ve only talked about self-publishing. Do you want any of my knowledge on traditional publishing? (I don’t really know how much I know on that, so I don’t know if it’ll be as much?)


    • Lana January 28, 2017 / 11:48 PM

      Sure! I would like to learn more about both of them, especially since I don’t exactly know what I want to do.


      • Morgan @ studiesincharacter January 29, 2017 / 1:36 PM

        Okay, so, let’s see, traditional publishing.

        Okay, so there’s three types of publishing houses. There’re the typical large presses, there are small presses, and then there are vanity presses. Large presses are what you’ll probably think of when you say “publishing house”. That’s Scholastic and Random House and all those others.
        Small presses work pretty much the same as large presses, but they are smaller and have a lot smaller output of books.

        Vanity presses are sort of the in-between of traditional and indie publishing. They basically are a collection of services that you pay for—it’s like self-publishing, where you pay for it all yourself and all that, except that you’re going with all of their services, rather than picking and choosing.
        You generally want to avoid vanity publishers. There’s a lot of them that are scams (they take your money and then only give you something mediocre or just plain terrible.) There are some that are pretty good, but it’s basically all of the expenses of self-publishing, but without the control.

        So anyway, back to the main houses. So you probably already know that most houses don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. If you try to send them your manuscript, it goes straight in the trash and doesn’t even get looked at. Hence the need for agents.

        So agents are the people who aren’t in the publishing industry, but they know the publishing industry—so when you get an agent, they will already know what publishers would potentially be interested in your book, and they know how to approach the publishers. Not only that, but when it comes down to signing a contract for your book and giving the publishers the rights to publish it, I’m pretty certain that your agent is going to understand all the mumbo-jumbo and the fine-print and can help make sure you understand what you’re doing. (I’m pretty positive on that one.)

        That’s basically why it can be so difficult to get an agent. When you pitch to an agent, the agent has to look at your book and think “do I like this enough that I am going to stick with it for the year or two that it takes to get published”. You don’t pay the agents; they get a portion of your book sales. So they don’t want to agent books that they don’t think will sell—so they have to pick a book that they think will sell and that they’re excited enough to work with to help you get it to that point. Imagine trying to find a publisher for a book that you thought was “eh okay”. So then since agents get SOOOOO MANY queries, they pick only what they think is the best of the best.

        So anyway, the process. So you finish the book. I’ve heard some recommendations say you should get your novel professionally edited, but I don’t think that’s strictly necessary? It just would improve your chances, I guess? (Nice, neat, and polished books are more appealing.) But then the next step is getting the agent. There’s a lot of websites and things that I don’t actually know of off the top of my head that have basically databases of agents. You want to pick agents that like your genre/subgenre, and then you get their email/address and send them your query.

        So the query letter is a short letter. It tells the agent what your book title is, how long the book is, what it’s about, why you think this agent should be the agent for your book, and a little about yourself. If you have anything that would help make you more “marketable” (i.e. a huge blog following) or if you’re writing about something that you’re an expert in or something (this mostly applies to non-fiction), you’ll want to say that, too. You can write a basic “sample” query letter, and then you really want to personalize each query letter to each agent. (If you show that you’ve researched the agent and really know that this is what their interests are, instead of just making it seem like you’re just sending the exact same query letter to everybody, then you might stand out a little from everyone else.)

        You’ll get a lot of rejections or even no response at all before you get an acceptance, but that’s normal. Agents get a LOT of queries as I said above, so they have to be choosy—but it doesn’t necessarily mean that your book isn’t good, just that you have to keep looking to find the right agent.

        Anyway, so once an agent says “hmm, maybe”, then they’ll ask for something further from you. Sometimes they ask for the first few chapters (and some have you send the chapters when you query them), and some ask for a… erg, I can’t remember what it’s called. My brain is supplying “synopsis”, but I don’t think that’s right. Basically, it’s a 1-4 page (often they’ll specify what length they want) description of all of the main plot points of the novel, including the ending. Why they want that, I’m not totally sure, but I think it’s so they can see that you A. have a finished novel, B. know how to plot, and C. can write a sufficient/good ending.
        Anyway, so then some agents will ask for a partial manuscript and some will ask for the whole thing. At this point, they’ll read what they asked for and they’ll get back to you again, with either a “rest of the manuscript” or a proposal, or another rejection.

        So after you sign on with an agent, they find you a publisher and you sign on with them and I don’t know much about this part, hehe, since I’ve never been through here. (Actually, I’ve never queried, either, so I guess that’s not an excuse.) When you sign on with a publisher, they pay you a nice sum of money called an advance. Why they do that, I am not positive, either, but it can be really nice. Debuting authors usually get smaller advances, so it’s not like “aha, I’m set for life now” kind of amount of money (that’s for the already-multi-bestselling-authors), but still, it’s nothing to sneeze at. (What a weird saying.)

        At this point, the publishing process takes another year or two. There’s a lot of things involved with it. I’m pretty certain publishing companies will edit your novel, so you have to do that, and maybe multiple passes. (Remember all of those different types of edits in that link I gave you before? All those different types are important, especially (in some ways) the proofreading and copyediting.) Then there’s designing your cover, doing the layout design for the different versions of your book (paperback, hardback, ebook), and all that. I don’t know if publishing houses do audiobooks or not; I really know very very little about audiobooks, especially since I don’t even listen to them. Then there’s printing out proofs and approving those, and… then eventually your book will come out.

        It’s all stuff you go through with self-publishing, but self-publishing you can often go quicker, and that’s one of the cons of traditional publishing—even after you type “the end”, you still have to wait at least a year and sometimes as many as three or so, before you actually see it in the bookstores.

        Traditional publishing houses also have their own marketing people. They’re wary of spending too much on debuting authors (poor debuting authors; it is so hard to break into the market when you’re basically a nobody), but I’m pretty sure they’ll still do some things for you. However, they will do some stuff, I’m sure, because otherwise, without marketing, your book won’t sell, and then they won’t make money.

        And now we go onto the money part. So, if you have a book, let’s say a $8 paperback. So there’s a lot of places that that $8 needs to go. The bookstore/distribution company needs to be paid. The author needs to be paid. The agent needs to be paid. The publisher, and all the little people inside of it, need to be paid. The costs of printing the book need to be paid (ink and paper and all of the binding materials can really stack up). That is why with traditional publishing, authors get so very little. (Which is another reason why ebooks are great? Because it takes out the cost of the printing process, although I don’t actually know if authors get any more out of it, or if the rest of the money goes to the distribution company (like Amazon) or to the publisher.)
        (Whereas with self-publishing, a lot of your expenses you pay for out of pocket ahead of time, and so the money is only split between you, the author, and the distribution company.)
        I don’t actually know how the money is divided and how much you actually get, but I do know author’s royalties are pretty small.

        Back to the marketing. Whichever method you go with, marketing is THE key to anything. I mean, if you have a great book, you have to tell people about it, otherwise, who’s going to know it’s a great book and they should buy it? Traditional publishing houses do have marketing teams, and they’ll help you, although I don’t know how much they do for debuting authors, because debuting authors are risky. (Another thing that contributes to the reason it’s so hard to get into the market and even find an agent.) Nobody knows if you’re any good, nobody knows who you are, so why is there any reason people will buy your book?

        Once you have a (traditionally published) book out there, the whole thing changes. I don’t know if you’d need to find another agent; I’d imagine that in most cases, you’d stick with the same agent (assuming you both think the relationship works), and by that point, you can say “yeah, I published book X” and suddenly you’re not quite as risky and unknown.

        Traditional publishing has, I think, two main things going for it. First, there’s a sense of security with it. Your publishing company will handle all the little hard things, and not only that, but professionals do it, so you know that it’s going to be done right. (Whereas if you do it with self-publishing, you can’t necessarily be sure you’re doing it right. Or as efficient as it can be done. Or such.)
        The second thing is that when you’re done, you can say, “HA! I did it! I broke into the market and I got published.” (Which I suppose you can say with self-publishing, too, but it’s different, because there’s no “breaking in” with self-publishing. No agents to get, no publisher to get, just upload your book and click the “publish” button and voilà.)
        (And then of course, with traditional, you get paid upfront, rather than the other way around, which is nice.)

        …Hmm. I wonder if there’s anything I’m forgetting. I don’t think I am. (ALSO, IT TOOK ME OVER AN HOUR TO WRITE THIS COMMENT. JUST SO YOU KNOW. 😛 )


      • Lana January 31, 2017 / 10:52 PM

        (WOW. THAT’S IMPRESSIVE. But what’s even more impressive is that WordPress didn’t mark it for moderation! It must be used to the long comments by now, eheh…)

        Thanks for all the info! I’ve heard that vanity presses aren’t the best but I didn’t really know that much about them until now…yeah, that doesn’t sound like the greatest thing to do.

        I found an interesting website for writing queries: There’s all these examples of queries on there and what they need to improve, so what you’re supposed to do is read through the entire archive and take notes of what you learned, and then apply to your own query. Which I haven’t done yet, but I do want to do…sometime. 😛

        I like that being traditionally published gets you out in the world…that’s probably the biggest pro. Once you “break in,” like you said, it’s easier to continue. But that’s one of the things I like about self-publishing too–you have to work your way up from the bottom and try to build up to that point. I mean, it’s the same with traditional publishing in a way, of course, but also different.

        Do you know anything about getting an agent for self-publishing? I’ve only heard one place mention it so far, so I’m pretty sure it’s uncommon…of course, I haven’t looked into it much.


      • Morgan @ studiesincharacter January 29, 2017 / 1:44 PM

        A few random and potentially helpful links: <- They have a lot of posts about publishing and book design and stuff. The posts I like best are the Self-Publishing: Carnival of the Indies posts, where they round up a lot of really helpful blog posts relating somehow to fiction writing or self-publishing. <- Never actually used this site, but you can find editors, cover designers, ghostwriters, and possibly also people to help market your book, all here in one convenient place. <- This site is all about freelance writing. A lot of it doesn't necessarily apply to fiction writing, but the posts they do have about fiction can be pretty helpful. (And some of the not-fiction-related stuff can be applied to marketing, anyway.) <- A site about building up, well, your writer platform. Basically, your author website (and I'm pretty certain there's stuff about the email subscription mailing list, as well.)


      • Lana January 30, 2017 / 6:49 PM

        Oh, I think I’ve seen the first one once! Those look interesting; thank you. 😀


  5. Morgan @ studiesincharacter March 30, 2017 / 3:05 PM

    Have a few extra links you might be interested in.
    ^A “how expensive is self-publishing” post. There’s also a similar one on Reedsy (I gave you a link to that before, I think). I haven’t compared any of the numbers/info, so I don’t know if they give the same info or what, but yeah.

    Also on Reedsy, they have these little email “lesson” things, where you get an email over 10 days with some info on whatever lesson you picked. There’s even one for getting your self-published books into libraries. So yeah.

    Oh yeah, and I don’t know if I shared this site before, so if I do, oops, and if not, then:


    • Lana March 31, 2017 / 5:17 PM

      Thanks! Oooh, those lessons sound cool. And that last site looks interesting…


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