Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing
Updated: Dec 28, 2019
I’m sure if you’re fresh out-of-the-womb of writing your very first novel, you think the hard part MUST be over.
The WRITING is, by far, the easiest part of your journey. It’s all you. Your thoughts, your world built up one word at a time until it’s all come together into what (you believe) is the next NYT Best Seller!
You’re also wrong.
I can say this because I was there, in your same hopeful shoes. Granted, I didn’t have any real expectations of myself at the time. I just wanted the book complete! I’d done research on traditional publishing versus self-publishing, asked questions of the very few people I knew who had gone through that process already (who were not extremely forthcoming) and ultimately decided against self-publishing!
After months and months of rejection letter upon rejection letter (over 40 - all of which are still saved in my inbox), I’d hit a wall. What most don’t know, is that an agent will reject for just about any reason and you won’t know why. It could be your story just isn’t the right fit, you didn’t do proper editing before sending it, you queried the wrong agent for your genre/aren’t aware of WHAT your genre is… the list goes on.
Now, I must say now that I had NO budget for my writing career. I’m a stay-at-home mom who started writing just to have something for myself while my kids napped or (by some miracle) played for more than five minutes without NEEDING me. I couldn’t afford an editor, I hadn’t connected with many other writers (yet) and I’d been out of writing for so long that I was completely unaware of just how much I didn’t know, technically speaking.
I decided to go through Createspace (free through Amazon) and was incredibly grateful to everyone who supported (and continues to support) me. But, I didn’t think far enough out to see that this was probably not the smartest choice.
If you think you do want to go that route, you first need to ask yourself these questions:
1. Are you an extroverted person who is comfortable pushing your product? And not just sharing a post and hoping for the best, I mean having your every working moment outside of writing, devoted to promoting/advertising/marketing your book?
2. Can you afford professional editing?
3. Do you have a group of trusted beta readers to give HONEST feedback about your work?
4. Do you have cyber knowledge/know-how on how to market yourself on whatever platform it is you are considering to self-publish with?
5. HAVE YOU DONE YOUR RESEARCH?
If you have answered “No” to any of these questions, you may not want to self-publish. It’s a painstaking process that sucks up valuable time if you are not up to the task. Leave that to the professionals and focus on getting better at writing. Because however good you think you are, you could improve in some way and the ONLY way to learn how, is to read, write, get critiqued, repeat.
I had the pleasure of meeting E. Lockhart at a book signing and as I sat, listening to her speak about her writing process and how much she’d written over the years, she said one thing that has stayed with me.
“Being a writer is playing the long game.”
She also reminded us all that writing is NOT a talent, anyone can learn to write a story. What makes YOUR story worth telling? Are YOU marketable?
Things I have learned along this journey:
Know your genre. Nothing aggravates agents more than a writer who doesn’t know what they’ve written or who their audience is. They get hundreds of queries a day and don’t have time to hold your hand. This will translate to your marketing strategy. If you can’t tell someone what your book is about or what genre it falls under, then you won’t sell many copies.
Go to a conference! Go to as many as you can. THIS is worth your money. You meet incredible people, you get the chance to speak with agents face-to-face (and PRACTICE speaking about yourself/your work). I had the chance to attend the DFWCon and it was one of the BEST experiences of my writing life. Even if you plan to self-publish, they have a TON of helpful information that will guide you in the right direction.
Write an amazing query letter and really pay attention to submission guidelines because they are VERY important and every agency has theirs listed on their website. Secondarily, don’t harass agents. If they don’t respond, it’s probably a “no” and if they do send a “no”, DO NOT ASK WHY!! Not only will they not respond, but if you do this enough, they will tell all their agent friends and that’s no fun.
If you want to know more helpful tips as far as your writing process is concerned - check out my post titled “Get Your Sh*t Together”.