Self-Publishing is the Only Way

… or is it?

Yesterday, ex-literary agent Nathan Bransford wrote a post entitled ‘Be Wary of Anyone Who Tries To Tell You There’s Only One Way to Find Successful Publication‘.

His advice that there are many different routes to take rang true. Quite often, I see absolute statements bandied about the Internet, such as:

  • Traditional publishing is dead. Anyone who takes that route is simply a slave to the blood-sucking Big 6.
  • Self-publishers have no respect for the quality of their work.
  • Agents are useless in this new publishing landscape.
  • Amazon is going to take over the world and reduce us all to cyberbots.
  • People who self-publish are going to hell.

(Okay, maybe I haven’t seen those last two, but you get the picture!)

If we believed all the rhetoric on the web these days, writers wouldn’t know which way to turn. Many seem to be divided into traditional versus self-publishing, each slinging dirt at the other for the decisions they make.

But aren’t we all writers, struggling to make a living? Shouldn’t we be celebrating the options now available to us, instead of decrying how naive someone is when they sign with a traditional publisher, or looking down at a writer when they self-publish?

Just because I have chosen to take the self-publishing route doesn’t mean I expect everyone else should. I can understand why some writers want to be traditionally published — not everyone wants to deal with the A to Z details of their books. I can see why some writers want agents, to help guide their careers and sell rights. And, of course, I can understand why writers wouldn’t want either.

The wonderful thing about the publishing world today is that we have a choice. And it’s up to the individual to make the right one for them, by listening to their gut and educating themselves on everything involved.

No amount of screaming from either side should change that.

Have you made your choice? What influenced you?

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  1. Laura says:

    Hear Hear and well said! I’m sending my very first baby out into kindle-land next week. It’s a short, non-fiction book, so very much the kind of thing that would never find a home in a traditional publisher. However, being able to set my own deadlines, and knowing that there is a definite outlet for my work before I have even begun to write means I will likely send my fiction work down the same road.
    Great post Talli

    • Talli Roland says:

      Congrats on your first Kindle book, Laura! :) Please keep us posted on how it goes. And yes – having control over your own work is an enormous advantage.

  2. Joanna Gawn says:

    Great post, Talli, and I agree on all points.

    We actively chose the indie route for a variety of reasons, the bottom line being that it suits *us* better than a traditional publishing deal – at least for now.

    It’s definitely a choice for each author to make individually . . . I just hope that each writer is aware that they *have* the choice. :-)

    • Talli Roland says:

      Very true, Joanna. Luckily, self-publishing is losing its stigma, so more and more people are talking about it and getting the word out there.

  3. Rebecca Leith says:

    Well said, Talli. The choices available to writers is something that should be celebrated. And I certainly don’t look down my nose at those who have self-published, it’s a brave thing to do and I do all I can to support people I know who have done that.

    Great post. Thank you :-)

  4. Sibel Hodge says:

    Absolutely right, Talli! The beauty is we have a choice, and we can make an INFORMED choice now because there is so much info out there for us now. The beauty of life is that you never know what’s going to happen around the next corner, so we shouldn’t be limited by our choices, we should be liberated by them :)

    • D.D. Scott says:

      Luuuvvv what you said right here, Sibel:

      “…we shouldn’t be limited by our choices, we should be liberated by them.”

    • Talli Roland says:

      Informed choice being the right phrase there, Sibel! Thank goodness for all the resources out there and writers who are willing to share their experiences.

  5. Sarah Duncan says:

    I agree, and there’s another point to add to this great new situation – we can be traditionally published AND self-publish at the same time depending on what we think will work best for what we’re currently writing.

  6. Lois Lavrisa says:

    Talli you said it so well, “But aren’t we all writers, struggling to make a living? Shouldn’t we be celebrating the options now available to us, instead of decrying how naive someone is when they sign with a traditional publisher, or looking down at a writer when they self-publish?” Great post:)

  7. Well said! I’m not a fan of the bashing either.

    I’m still trying to take the traditional route. I don’t even send to small presses because several writers have gone from small press publishers to self publishing since they feel they’re doing most of the work anyway. But I’m writing for years without being published, so I may change my mind at some point.

    • Talli Roland says:

      The bashing really does my head in sometimes. We should all be able to make our own choices… and have the freedom to change our minds, too.

  8. Julie Day says:

    I also agree, Talli. I have chosen self-epubbing for my YA shorts because they are short and won’t get a publisher for them, also for middle-grade mss. I have chosen to go with an epublisher for my romance stories and might self-epub some more, too. But for younger children’s fiction, which I have ideas for, trad pubbing is the way, as that age range doesn’t have computers or Kindles etc and I believe that age prefer to have a printed book in hand.

    • Talli Roland says:

      You’re the perfect demonstration of a writer in this day and age, Julie! Different routes for different genres. I really think it’s a great time to be a writer.

      • Julie Day says:

        Thank you for that endorsement, Talli. I love the idea of writing for both adults and children’s. That way you can have a foot in both doors, so to speak.

  9. Hi,

    Good post

    Hee hee, if you can get two cherries why settle for one?

    I’ve been published before and now re-issuing said books via Kindle with possibility of paperbacks as well. Gaining big bucks is not at issue.

    I’m at present contracted to a US publisher for contemporary romances, and pondering the why and wherefore of quitting said publisher and going all out on self-pubbing.

    I’m self-pubbing historical novels with no intention of subbing them to a publisher. They’re selling nicely thank you, so getting read.

    What to do? What to do? Stick with conventional and reap credibility or go Indie and receive scorn?

    • Talli Roland says:

      It sounds like you do have the best of best worlds, Francine.

      “What to do? What to do? Stick with conventional and reap credibility or go Indie and receive scorn?”

      I’m hoping one day — soon — writers won’t be faced with that kind of choice.

  10. Jenny Haddon says:

    What a sensible post, Talli. Thank you.

    I agree with Sarah Duncan, it’s perfectly possible to do both. So authors who want to try another genre as well, for instance, can do so without having to talk their publisher into it AND deliver the same level of sales as their usual books, straight out of the starting gate. So self-publishing should be great for innovation.

    As a reader,too, I really appreciate the freedom to read ebooks without having to carry arm-breaking bags of books around. Though when I find a keeper, I have to admit I go back and buy the print version.

    • Talli Roland says:

      Thank you, Jenny! And yes, I agree – it’s possible to both, choosing different routes depending on what’s best for the book. I, too, love that I don’t need to lug around big books!

  11. Suz says:

    You’re so right, Talli! I got seriously caught up in the traditional publishing vs. self-publishing controversy big time last year. Thankfully, I’ve calmed down and realised this new world of publishing means successful writers can publish any way we want to. We can do both trad-pub and self-pub if we so desire. And that basically rocks.

  12. D.D. Scott says:

    Wonderful post, Talli!

    After I’d worked for one of the Big Six TradiPubs in their Returns Center and learned how badly TradiPub Authors get screwed because of the “reserve on returns” section in their TradiPub contracts, I thought to myself “thank the powers that be, I’d been rejected by them for about 8 years at that point”!!! LOL!!!

    That was a HUGE part of my decision making process…

    The TradiPub Accounting System or the lack there of or the manipulation there of…call it what you will.

    Second, I’d heard Konrath speak twice and been following his blog for a couple years…finally, I just thought “what the hell do I have to lose by at least trying the Indie Epub route”?

    So, I just went for the gusto and now again, I thank the powers that be every damn day that I got rejected by the TradiPubs.

    I’m just not a huge fan of that world at all…but again…it comes from seeing the accounting end in action first hand. And we all work way too damn hard to be taken advantage of like that!

    And on that end, it doesn’t matter if you’re a huge author brand name or a newbie, we’re all getting hosed on “the real numbers” in that TradiPub world.

    • Talli Roland says:

      Wow, sounds like you had quite the influencing factors, DeeDee! I can understand why you turned to self-publishing after that! And it’s certainly been the right choice for you, given how successful you’ve been.

  13. Great post, Talli! I so agree. We’re all just writers, all in it together, trying to make our own choices and create our own path.

  14. Such a great post, Talli. This discussion brings me back to the days when working women used disparaging words about women who chose to stay home. Both decisions should be respected and celebrated.
    I do agree that each of us chooses the right way for us, in publishing and life. And every option should be on the table if that’s what we choose. Success in each should be applauded by all of us. The more success we have self publishing the more power we would have if a publisher comes calling, just remember, like DeeDee pointed out, the publishers, distributers and agents will make more than you do, that’s the way the industry works. I quite enjoy working hard and keeping more of the profit, while giving the reader a fair price.

    • D.D. Scott says:

      That’s a great way to look at it, Elizabeth.

      As an author, if you’re okay, from a business perspective, knowing that your Big Six Pub will make a ton more than you do for your work and that you’ll never really know what you’ve actually sold, then perhaps the TradiPub way will work for you.

      And the beauty of this is that there is no right or wrong, it’s only about what’s right for you and your goals.

    • Talli Roland says:

      Elizabeth, I agree that both decisions should be respected. It’s not up to us to throw stones. I would hope that people carefully weigh up all the factors and make the decision that they feel is right for them – taking into account the benefits and drawbacks of each.

  15. I absolutely love being my own boss as a self-published author. I have only myself to congratulate for success or blame for failure.

    ~Nancy Jill

  16. It’s a wonderful time to be a writer and have options open to us on all fronts. Like you, I agree it doesn’t have to be an us against them mentality. Thanks for this thoughtful post as it helps to lessen the divide between the two camps.

  17. Merry Bond says:

    It is so true, Talli! I teach how to get published in a continuing ed program and the first thing I say is that everyone should try the traditional route before going for the self-publishing one. Why should you limit your options? Try everything!

    • Talli Roland says:

      And self-publishing can also be a way to get noticed traditionally, too. Things are changing and it’s good writers have many routes available.

  18. Judith Lown says:

    I published my first novel traditionally and was thrilled to do so. But I write Traditional Regency Romance. Talk about niche!!! I faced two problems: reaching potential readers: they’re out there, but how to reach them? Traditional publishers can’t afford to market to niche markets. I just launched my first e-book and it’s selling, so I’m reaching my market online. The other problem is editorial restriction. A traditional editor proclaimed the hero of the ebook I just launched “not warm and sensitive.” How shocking!!! My “not warm and sensitive” hero is doing quite nicely, thank you. My WIP takes a chance with its location. I don’t think I would waste my time trying to market that traditionally. I feel freer creatively when I know I’m going to epublish.

    • Talli Roland says:

      Yes, Judith, spot on! Through self-publishing we can reach out to niche markets and write how we really want to write, without fear of being watered down by mainstream presses to try to reach the greatest audience.

  19. Great post – and a reasonable view of the two sides of the “camp”. We are all writers and we want readers to enjoy our stories.
    I chose indie because it suits me, my personality and, my need to have hands on. Sure it’s been a steep learning curve and will continue to be, but isn’t that what anything exciting and worthwhile demands?

  20. I see it as having complete control over the book project and its life vs. no control and its longevity being the at mercy of someone else and based on numbers. The flip side is the additional exposure a trad can provide vs. I need to work extra hard to spread the word about the books. One book is nonfiction, and I have a built-in audience for it in my memoir writing workshops. With two novels published and more in the works, it is about finding new and innovative ways to introduce new readers to the series. At my age, I surmised that I wouldn’t live long enough to find a traditional publisher. I don’t write for fame and fortune, but to educate via nonfiction and to entertain and inspire through my fiction series. With fiction, I am able to let my imagination run wild creating characters, precarious situations, dialogue, conflict and resolution. I love the process, and if I make a few extra dollars doing this, it’s a bonus! There is nothing more relaxing than being engrossed in a good book, and there is room for everyone. When I locate a good book to devour, I don’t give a flying glob of bird poop who the publisher is! I just enjoy.

    • Talli Roland says:

      Very well said! I love the creativity and the control that self-publishing brings. And I think you’re right: when it comes to a good books, readers don’t care who the publisher is.

  21. Good post, Talli. Back when digital books first hit the market — somewhere around 1999 — there was a lot of the same them-versus-us mentality and it was very sad. We need to harness our jealousy and fear, and be happy for the success of others.

    • Talli Roland says:

      I can imagine — and I think it’s still the case! I hear people all the time talking about how ebooks aren’t ‘real’. I think it will change, but slowly… just like hopefully this us vs them will change soon.

  22. I’ve self-published my first two books because I was tired of all the rejections and felt that my work was worthy of publication. So I took the plunge. I have no regrets. Time will time–maybe a long time before I know–if I made the better choice.

    • Talli Roland says:

      You may never know, Richard! But I think as long as you’re happy and feeling satisfied with what you’ve produced, that counts for a lot.

  23. Thanks for this, Talli! I thought Nathan’s post offered some much-needed sanity. We’re blessed to live in a time when writers have so many choices. Why would we want to limit them again? People who need to criticize those who make different choices from their own make me wonder: are they uncomfortable with their own choices? Otherwise, why would they need the validation of having a lot of people imitate them?

    • Talli Roland says:

      I thought the same about Nathan’s post, Anne, that’s why I wanted to write about it today. I’m really getting tired of the lines people are drawing. We are all creatives, regardless of the route we choose.

  24. I think part of the problem is confusing publishing with distribution. What I hear from authors who want to go “traditional” publishing is they are interested in the distribution offered by Big 6 publishers.

    Publishing a book is publishing a book. The book is as good as its writer, editor, and formatter. Distributing a book is another story. Technology makes mass digital distribution a reality for any individual author… but much harder to handle the logistics of physical copies of a book in book stores. I don’t want to deal with a warehouse break in or fire in Washington included a case of my books etc. From that stand point, centralized control over physical distribution makes sense for all of the players involved, and that’s a very good reason to pursue traditional channels.

    But authors thinking that they need validation by pursuing an agent or publisher, I give a big hug and hope they realize they don’t need it. No book will ever have universal appeal, so you are thankful for the pats of the back you get, and smile at the detractors. And I don’t buy the “quality” argument anymore, either. Every book is an individual case, and who published it, without any previous track record, isn’t necessarily any indication of quality.

    • Talli Roland says:

      I’m with you on the quality argument, Elizabeth. There are so many talented writers self-publishing now that it’s no longer a valid argument. And with the stigma of self-publishing disappearing, I hope that more writers will realise they don’t need the validation – and that they make their decision based on logic.

      • To underscore my distribution argument… ALL US BUY links are gone. Gone. For the last 30 minutes at least, no one in the U.S. can buy a Kindle book. From Hunger Games to my little Cancelled. It’s like the Kindle version doesn’t exist and it says “Not available to readers in the U.S.” Doesn’t matter who published what, Penguin, Harlequin, etc. it’s distribution that really gets books into the hands of readers. That goes down, there’s no hope for any of us…. (As far as I know, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Apple are all fine)

  25. Talli, I totally agree with you. As one who has crossed over from legacy publishing to self-publishing and finally realized one can do both, I celebrate the CHOICES WRITERS HAVE TODAY. For anyone interested in the current ‘publishing wars and writers’ please see my latest blog posting: MARRIED TO THE HIT MAN. thankx for your thoughts and imua! Press on! Kiana

  26. I just checked Amazon and my book is available for download on the Kindle so they must have resolved whatever issue they had. Thank God!

    I am very happy with all of the choices available these days when it comes to publishing. At this point, I am not ready to self publish, only because I am not prepared for all of the independence. For me, a small press was ideal and while I am happy I chose that avenue for my first novel, I have no idea what the future will bring. As a writer, I just want to keep publishing good books and am open to all of the various options (even those not currently open to me)! As an avid reader, I enjoy self-published, traditionally published and small press novels as long as they are good!

  27. Jill James says:

    I like that now that I’ve self-published “IF” a traditional deal came along I would know what I want and need that deal to be. I love that I feel I’ve gained such knowledge with all the information available for Indie publishing.