Traditional vs Self Publishing

This is a rehash of a post from last year. I’m in the market for an agent and/or a publishing contract with a traditional publisher. Again, I’m being asked (and asking myself) “Why go traditional when you’ve had some success (albeit limited) with self publishing?”
I have a number of reasons for wanting to take the traditional path. The most significant reason for me is that it is an indicator of success and acceptance by the wider literary community. Yes, yes, I know that this is strictly a personal belief and my not having traditional publisher representation doesn’t mean that I’m not an author. It’s a personal goal.

My other reasons for wanting a traditional publisher (and these are probably more important than the personal achievement component) are access to an established distribution network and marketing expertise. (Yes I know that I’m still going to have to do the bulk of the marketing myself – its the distribution network I really want).

For me, the pros and cons of Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing are as follows:



  • You have a 100% chance of being published (and that’s a very nice thing)
  • You can choose to publish only e-books, or print books or both
  • You can publish short stories, serials, novellas, novels – whatever takes your fancy
  • You’re in control of the entire process
  • You determine your timetable
  • You received a significantly larger proportion of the royalties than if you went through a traditional publisher (Anything from 30-70% compared to 5-10%)
  • You will learn a lot about the entire publishing process: from writing, to business set up, to printing, to marketing, to sales. This is an invaluable set of experiences (trust me)


  • You cover 100% of the cost
  • You take 100% of the risk
  • You’ll need to buy/pay for an honest opinion on the potential marketability of your book
  • You need to edit your manuscript very carefully and not rely on your Beta readers to do the work of a professional editor
  • You’re on your own in terms of marketing and distribution
  • It’s very difficult to get book sellers to stock your book/host book launches/host other promotional activities.
  • It’s very difficult to get people/professional organisations/journals/ and/or other publications of merit to review your book.



  • You’re in this together.
  • You’ll not have to make a financial contribution to the process (if you do then you’re not in a traditional publishing contract – beware)
  • With any luck you will receive an advance (depends on the size of the publisher, type of book and your experience)
  • You’ll receive advice on selecting the best possible cover for your book
  • You’ll receive a professional opinion on the saleability and appeal of your writing
  • You’ll receive advice/services from a professional editor (again you will need to do work here – humans make mistakes no matter how good they are).
  • You’ll have access to people with experience marketing books, press releases, and working with areas of the media
  • You’ll have access to an established distribution network


  • You have a statistically low chance of obtaining a publisher (or even a literary agent) and therefore a low chance of actually being published
  • A traditional publisher is no guarantee of sales and/or success
  • You’re in a contract and will be expected to understand and comply with that contract
  • You need to give up some artistic freedoms to produce a product that fits with the publisher (Suck it up – they’re doing this to try and sell your book)
  • You need to fit in with their time frames and demands
  • You received a significantly smaller proportion of the royalties than if you were self published (about 5% but it varies)
  • Don’t expect an easy ride. You’ll still need to work hard to promote your own book!

Good luck! Strive to do what’s best for you and your writing project.

I am a writer and this is a proper job!

girl-1064658_1920I have read a number of articles & blog posts about writing not being considered to be an actual job. Last week during dinner with a friend, she made the comment that I was semi-retired (not fully retired as I do some paid work at a University). I was a little taken-aback but let it slide. After all I wanted to check the definition of “retirement” to ensure that I wouldn’t be speaking out of turn if I objected to the label. My assumption about the meaning of “retirement” was confirmed, with all definitions implying that it means “leaving the work force”. I was left feeling more than a little annoyed.

I have not left the work force! As a writer I expect that I never will (assuming that my capacity to write remains). My part time/casual work is to get some extra money in the door, and is not the only work I do. I object to the assumption that I’m doing nothing and am available whenever anyone wants a chat, someone to visit, someone to go out with. I’m very busy!

Here are my reasons for believing, no, make that knowing, that writing is a full time job, and is my career:

  1. I work everyday. And I mean every day – even if it’s only for an hour or two.
  2. My standard work day is about 6 hours long. When you consider that those working in office jobs spend a significant amount of time lunching, having tea/coffee breaks, chatting with colleagues, attending boring non-relevant meetings, I think that makes us even.
  3. I get paid. And I get paid regularly. It may not be much, but I get a cheque every three months from the distributer of my children’s book, a monthly payment from the bookstore where my book is stocked, and a payment from Amazon/Kindle at the end of every month.
  4. I’m published. You can google me/my titles.
  5. I’m considered to be an author/emerging writer (by industry definition).
  6. I participate in professional development courses related to my business.
  7. I belong to a writer’s group and various formal writing and publishing organisations and groups.
  8. I am listed as a writer/author/publisher on my tax return, legal documents and census details.
  9. I have a business plan (really I do), business card, business email, business website, an accounts system, an Australian Business registration number, and an EIN (US tax number).

I am in business. Writing is my job, my career and my passion.

So there!

I know that I sound like a bit of a stroppy cow, and in reality those who believe that I do nothing all day is limited to that particular friend, some distant acquaintences and my mother. I really believe that it’s important that we value work in any and all of the arts industries. Being a writer is more than a job, it’s a career and a way of life.

Perhaps some people are jealous that I (we) have taken the risk and are trying to make a living doing something we love.

Giving feedback and the pain of rejection

stamp-895383_1920In addition to my writing, book reviewing and writers group activities, I review pieces of work for a couple of women who, for various reasons, are unable to join a writers group. One of them, a person new to the writing game, recently submitted a manuscript for a review with a private editing service. She was so upset by the feedback that she received that I thought it important to discuss feedback and rejection again.

I need to be upfront here and say that I didn’t see the actual response from the editor, so my reflections are based soley on the reactions of the receiver. The young woman was told that she needed to rethink her piece and maybe abandon the project. Needless to say she was devastated and began questioning whether she should write at all. I have personally read the material in question, and although it needs significant work, it is not a total write-off.

Feedback is about how you communicate – both the giving and receiving ends. Personally I’m grateful to receive any feedback. Even negative feedback – it gets me thinking about the work in question.

Giving feedback can be difficult. I have read a lot of dreadful material (most of it actually published/self published) and I know how hard it can be to remain neutral and not get annoyed about the time you may have wasted reading it. But you have to remember that someone has put their heart and soul into their writing and may genuinely believe that they have a best seller on their hands. Your feedback is essential but a gentle approach is more likely to have a positive impact. Things to remember when giving feedback/a rejection:

  • Learn a little about your author. How old are they? What experience do they have? What is their level of spoken and written English. Target your reply to suit the audience. Be clear and firm without being nasty and harsh.
  • Rather than saying “It’ll never sell”, “No one will want to read this”, try “Who is your intended audience?”, “What book is your story similar too?”, “What publishers put out similar books?”. Encourage the author to think about their work and potential readers.
  • If there are issues with the theme/story line, rather than saying “I have no idea what this is about” or “I can’t understand it. It’s dreadful”, try “I’m not really sure that I understood what you were trying to convey here.” Ask the author to explain what they are writing about. “What do you consider the main theme of the story?”.
  • Give constructive feedback, the hard truth needs to be told but keep it nice, and do refer the author to other texts and writing guides which may be helpful.

Things to remember when receiving feedback/a rejection:

  • Don’t lose your temper, throw out your work, write a rude email/letter in response, and/or through out the offending review.
  • Take a deep breath and put it away/out of sight for a couple of days.
  • When you go back to it read it carefully. Often when you do your initial reading all your see are the red marks and negative words.
  • Break it down into sections and really think about it. Why did he/she say that they didn’t think that character X was believable? Is this true? Why didn’t they find Joke 3 funny?
  • It’s very likely that there are some valid criticisms, questions and suggestions in the feedback. Don’t miss some really helpful advice because you’re upset by the style of communication.
  • Remember that you can use as much or as little of the feedback as you wish (unless its from the publisher in which case it’s put up or push off).
  • If in doubt get another opinion.

Don’t let a bad review, nasty rejection, no-feedback-standard rejection, or a total lack of any sort of response be the reason that you give up on your dream. Chalk it/them up to experience and get back to the writing desk.


Looking for more advice: I recently read an interesting article posted by Writers Victoria on Facebook  about why rejections are important. It is well worth a look: “Why you should aim for 100 rejections a year” by Kim Liao (Link here)