Trad or Self?

DebE —  June 11, 2012 — 3 Comments

So, the on-going question … to publish traditionally, or go it alone.

I keep reading about wonderfully successful (at least successful enough to cover the bills while writing full-time) self-publishers these days. And, I also keep seeing the stats: eBooks are now outselling physical books, apparently.

So, what do people think? Traditional publishing vs. self-publishing.

I’m totally on the fence. I believe that traditional publishing is a little too narrow-minded to give fair consideration to every story out there – as can be seen by the number of very-well-selling self-pubbed books that were rejected by agents/publishers (I forget the list, but there were a few well known ones …). And, of course, J K Rowling’s Harry Potter was rejected heaps of times. Well, who woulda known, eh?

Part of me thinks, yeah, I’d like to challenge myself to apply to a few agents and, maybe, a publisher or two (one bonus of being in New Zealand is that we still have a couple of major houses that will accept unsolicited manuscripts … for now, anyway).

But, I can see the benefits of self-pubbing: You get your book out there faster, you keep the lion’s share of the royalties, you maintain control of your work … But, it’s HARD work. You have to be ready to put in the work. I think what scares me most about self-pubbing is having to go on to the next book (which is needed to boost the sales of the first) in exactly the same position I am now, financially-speaking. And, that, to me, is scary. We’re hard-up. I’d love to get a professionally done cover. I’d love to get a professional editor to look over my work. I’d love to produce something equivalent to a traditionally published book. But, where do I get the money and the time to do it?

That’s what scares me. Two-hours a day, with the occasional extra bit on some evenings, isn’t enough to run a business – which is what self-pubbing is. If I were lucky enough to get some sort of advance from a publisher – do they do that? – I might be able to afford to put the toddler in a little more daycare (not too long, I still want to be his mum), and put more time into the writing. I’d also have to figure out what to do with the part-time job (something I do have to put some thought into when I am in a position to leave as we are shareholders in the company – we have the debt to prove it – and it’s a complicated role to fill).

And, of course, I also need to make the time to WRITE!

I love writing. I’d LOVE to be able to afford to do it full time (it doesn’t need to make me much, just enough to contribute to the bills so it’s a bit easier to justify). Part of me really wants to go self-pubbed. I like the challenge. But, the challenge of getting traditionally published is just as enticing. The thing is, though – if I get picked up by an agent and publisher, I’m locked into a contract and lose control of my work to some extent. But, if I self-pub, I can continue to look for official representation if I so choose. The idea of being locked into something scares me a little. Mainly because you hear/read about authors losing the rights to their works – everything becomes the publishers. I don’t know. Is that a big deal? Once it’s written and out there, does it matter who “owns” it, so long as you’re making money? Is there any guarantee the book will sell any better with a traditional publisher?

My head starts to turn to jelly when I really get stuck into the comparisons. Part of me thinks – Just go it alone, and if a publisher comes up to me saying “Hey, your book is selling really well, here’s how we could help you out …” that would be cool. So, yes. I guess I’m leaning the “Doing it myself” way. It’s not easy. But, I feel as though I’m already doing all the hard work. I’m making connections. I’m writing the story. I’ve got ideas for the next one. Hoping to come up with ideas for the one after, since trilogies seem more popular than … duos? duets? duogies? Bilogy? Anyway …

Oh, go on … if anyone happens by here … let’s have a discussion.

Are you published? How did you do it? What worked? What didn’t?

Let’s talk. I’m lonely (actually, I’m not … I have a bunch of really cool characters to hang out with … Yes, I’ll be right back with you, Braph … I know, you want to get back to your evil lair … I’ll get you there …)




Deb E was born in New Zealand’s North Island, but her parents corrected that within months, moving south to Dunedin and staying there. Childhood nights were spent falling asleep to cover versions of Cliff Richard and the Shadows and other Rock ’n Roll classics played by her father’s band, and days were spent dancing to 45 LPs. Many of her first writing experiences were copying down song lyrics. She graduated to scientific reports when she studied a nematophagus fungus in the Zoology department of the University of Otago, trading all traces of popularity for usefulness… then traded both for fiction. Mum of one human & four fur-babies.

3 responses to Trad or Self?


    Well, if you want your work to be seen, self-publishing is the way to go. The likelihood of getting stuff published (not just your stuff, any author’s stuff) is exceedingly small. It usually requires connections and business relationships. That’s how politicos get their schlocky books published, even though no one reads them and the publishers often lose money. But, self-publishing will never make you rich. So it’s a tradeoff.


      Yeah, I keep reading that people seem to have to have met their agent at a convention, or something, first … I’ve even read of someone being turned down by an agent, then meeting said agent and that agent suggesting they submit again … But, what if you live well away from where conventions are held and (shock horror) you don’t have any money (who does, these days?)? Unfortunately, like anything, it seems you have to have money to make money – either pay to go schmooze, or pay to make and sell your own book. If that’s the case, mine will be a long time coming. I have a child to raise. Big, discontented sigh.
      I think the main benefit to a big publisher picking a story up is that validation that someone likes it … but, that’s what fans are, aren’t they? A whole lot of validations.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. New Post Title (Hey, I’m savin’ my creativity for my novel. You got a problem with that, punk?) | Deb E - September 11, 2012

    […] was going to self-publish, I really was. But, I did mention in a previous post (ha! I remembered that one!) that I was concerned about going it alone. Sure, when I have more […]

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