Which Publishing Method Should You Choose?

Published June 9, 2016 by nruhwald

bookpublishingThe publishing world used to be simple. You sent your manuscript to the publisher, and if you kept doing that maybe eventually you got published. At least, that’s how they show it in the movies.

I don’t know. I wasn’t alive when the world was simple.

Maybe it never was. Now there are big publishers and small presses, big agencies and boutique agencies, vanity presses, and independent publishing. What’s an author supposed to do?

Then they say, “only you can decide which publishing method is right for you.” Great, that’s so helpful.

Traditional Publishing

This is supposedly the respectable route. The route where you don’t end up with a million unsold books in your basement. It’s also the route I was dead set on pursuing back when I really didn’t know much about all the options available.


I knew a little about self-publishing, but I thought traditional was the way to go if you were really serious about making it big. After all, you could get access to the big publishers with their fancy marketers and all the other people who know what they’re doing.

You don’t have to pay anything, and you get access to a team of people who will edit the book, design the cover, do the marketing.

All I had to do was get an agent, and then a publisher, and they would take care of everything. Right?


I soon began to realize the amount of work, and waiting, and frustration, that goes into just finding an agent. Trying to write a query letter was like pulling teeth. Then I had to do the same with a synopsis. At the end of that I had a maybe-okay query letter and synopsis with which to hopefully snag an agent. Past that point, everything was in their hands.

And I learned that if I got an agent, that agent’s first priority would be their agency, not me. Apparently I would have to worry about whether or not my contracts were fair, even though originally that was the agent’s job.

Even if I managed to jump through all the hoops the publishing industry uses to filter out only the manuscripts that will make them the most money, and dodged the bullet of a bad contract, I still would have to learn how to market my own work.


So I started looking at the other options. Specifically e-publishing. It’s a brand new world with ebooks these days, and many writers are packing up their things and heading West.


Ah, ebooks, I thought. No unsold manuscripts sitting in the closet. I get to pick the cover art, or work with a cover designer myself. (I also get to pay for it myself, but that’s beside the point.)

I decide when my manuscript is ready for publication. I decide what, and when to write next. I get to not-give-a-rip about what anyone else thinks will sell.

Best of all, if my first (third, fifth) novel doesn’t sell, by definition no one was watching. If my novel was traditionally published and didn’t sell, my agent would know, my publisher would know.

Everyone would know.

This way, if it doesn’t work the first time, I can always get my marketing act together later and rerelease it.

And I can start out slowly. There’s no tedious process of sending out queries, waiting fretfully, trying to figure out why the responses aren’t coming. I can just start, and do whatever my budget permits, and build on that. I don’t need the agent to call to celebrate. I can celebrate the little things. Like whenever I get a new follower.

I have time to figure everything out, and I’m in control the whole time.


By now you’ve probably guessed independent publishing is the way I’ve decided to go. (Btw, I hope to be making noises about cover reveals and release dates in about a year.)

I’m on my own now. I have to either do everything myself or pay someone to do it for me, with no guarantee of return. But I like this.

I get to do everything my own way (provided it works), and at my own pace. And I don’t have to worry about impressing intimidating publishing professionals. At least not yet.


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