Self-Publish or Traditionally Publish?

I know people who have signed with large publishing houses, small presses, and vanity presses. I also know people who have self-published their work. With all these different venues, it’s difficult to know which way to go with your novel.

First off, let me say that I have self-published a middle grade novel as well as an anthology written by my writer’s group. I also have an agent who has brought three different novels I’ve written to various major publishing houses. I have never worked with a vanity press or a small press. There. Full disclosure out of the way.

Here is what needs to be considered when deciding which way to go with your book.

Large Publishing House:

* They take a cut of your profits, and your agent takes a cut of what the publishing house pays out to you.

* They professionally edit your work without you paying any of the costs out of pocket.

* They give you a top-notch professional cover for your work.

* Your book is likely to be on bookshelves across the country and possibly overseas, and also in libraries.

* The publishing house may help with marketing and book signing opportunities.

* Your work will be offered both in hard copy and as an eBook.

* Can take up to two years for your book to become available

Vanity Press:

* You will possibly pay thousands of dollars in upfront costs.

* You can pay to have one of their editors work on your book, or use one of your own (or choose to edit the book yourself).

* Your book will be offered at on-line retailers, but most likely not in bookstores or libraries unless you do the work to get it in there.

* The company will print bound books for you, but you will pay a fee for those books.

* You will do the marketing of your book yourself.

* Your book will most likely be available to the public within a year.

Small Press:

* They will take a cut of your profits.

* They use their own editors, but don’t charge you an editing fee.

* Some small press houses can get your book into bookstores. Your book will be offered at on-line retailers.

* Some small presses are nothing more than a print-on-demand factory. They make profits on your books that you could be keeping for yourself.

* Depending on the press, your book may be available for purchase between a month to two years.


* There are many venues to use including, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble’s PubIt.

* You decide the price, therefore decide the profit you will receive from each book.

* You have complete control over your work, including overseeing the cover and the edits.

* It will not likely be sold in bookstores unless you can convince local retailers to carry them.

* You either have to pay someone to format and upload your work to a self-publishing site, or figure it out for yourself. This includes producing a cover.

* You can have your work ready for sale within 48 hours.


There you have it, the pros and cons of four ways to go regarding publishing. As an aside, in order to find a large publishing house to purchase your book, unless you write picture books or have a way to get your foot in the door on your own, you will need a literary agent. And even if you have a literary agent, it doesn’t guarantee you’ll sell your book. Also, some people have no trouble marketing and selling their self-published books while others struggle and are fortunate to sell ten copies. You probably won’t get rich selling your book no matter what, which is why so many authors have day jobs. But hopefully this will give you an idea about which way you’d like to proceed. Feel free to add to this post if you know of other pros and cons.






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2 responses to “Self-Publish or Traditionally Publish?

  1. Nice job laying the options, Kim! My experience with two of the options: I self-published a book for a limited audience after taking the series of workshops offered at Writes and Books by Joy Argento and Nina Alvarez (I recommend them!!). It was painless, and I would do it again. More recently I published my first novel through a small/independent publisher. Although the editing process was a negative (okay it was a disaster– see my post last winter “Staying True to Your Book”), I liked the cover art and especially benefited from the support of fellow authors at the same publisher. From pitch to publish: 9 months. I’m undecided where/how my second novel will be published.

  2. K.L. Gore

    I think self-publishing is a wonderful concept, but so many people feel their books will magically sell simply because the book exists. Unless you’re a well-known author, it’s difficult to get your book into people’s hands. Same for small press/independent publishers, and vanity presses. Traditional publishing has the best track record for turning an author into a “super star,” but even that takes a lot of grunt work by the author. The truth is, we have a lot of self-published writers out there saturating the market with sub-par work. So yes, it’s a hard decision how to follow up with book number two. Pleas let us know how sales go. (You know LCRW is rooting for you!)

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