Traditional publishing or self-publishing? That is the question.

Bookshelf The literary agent Rachelle Gardner had an informative post on her site recently: Can I make more money via traditional or self-publishing?. Her post looks at the issue from the agent side, specifically what the monetary threshold (e.g. amount of the advance) of her clients is before they would choose to self-publish.

I am a neophyte to all of this, and I should mention that I have my heart set on traditional publishing. Nevertheless, I am learning a lot about self-publishing and the opportunities that are opening up to authors.

I’ve written a lot about my experiences at the Matera Women’s Fiction Festival and what I learned there. The merits of traditional vs. self-publishing were discussed on the podium, and in the hallways, and later on in the restaurants and receptions.

BooksThere’s a lot of information out there for new authors to process. Some authors feel you have a far greater level of freedom, and greater monetary gain, by self-publishing. Some worry about restrictive new contracts by traditional publishers limiting one’s ability to self-publish. And some prefer to continue on the route of traditional publishing, although they are keeping a close eye on developments in indie publishing.

I’ve posted author interviews with authors who’ve taken both routes. Chantel Rhondeau decided to self-publish her novel, and Catherine McNamara and Jessica Tuccelli decided to go the traditional route. All three offer valuable advice.

And you, writers? Have you gone one of the two routes and do you have ideas and advice for others? Or do you have your heart set on traditional publishing or self-publishing? And if so, why? Would love to hear your thoughts on this!


  1. Catherine on November 23, 2012 at 9:50 am

    This is such a ‘now’ topic. I’m glad there is now the opportunity to self-publish and see it as a natural follow-on to the global connection enabled by the Internet and our ‘screen-based’ lives, both of which encourage many people to want to write/publish for a larger audience. I remember investigating vanity publishing years ago and it seemed a huge investment – and quite dodgy. I realise that publishing with a small press means not much money and LOADS of promotion, but I wonder what percentage of self-publishers are making the big bucks? It sounds lovely, but I’m sure the work involved is bottomless – editing, graphic design, printing, distribution, reviews, ebook versions. It’s like running a business and would require a savvy way of thinking. Far too difficult for this lazy writer, but I wish lots of sales to those who are brave enough to self publish! Xcat

    • kimberlysullivan on November 25, 2012 at 7:02 pm

      I agree with you, Catherine. I think it’s great for writers to have this option available to them now, but I think you do have to be prepared to take on many aspects of publication on yourself (although it does seem you can also hire out tasks). At the Matera Festival we both attended, I was speaking to a few authors who seem to be doing fairly well and enjoy the freedom of indie publishing. So, even though I have my heart set on traditional, I’m happy to learn about other options, too.

  2. Janet on November 23, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    I have my heart set on traditional publishing but am not ruling out self-publishing either. I am giving myself a year to find an agent or publisher and if nothing happens I will self-publish my first novel. While I find the amount of information I need to know on publishing overwhelming at times, it is nice to know that a writer these days has options.

    • kimberlysullivan on November 25, 2012 at 7:05 pm

      Great to hear, Janet! I’ll want to hear how the querying goes. I feel the same. It’s great there’s so much information out there… but I also find it increasingly overwhelming the more I learn.

  3. selfpublishingadvocate on November 24, 2012 at 2:54 am

    Reblogged this on Self-Publishing Advocate.

    • kimberlysullivan on November 25, 2012 at 7:05 pm

      Thanks so much for reblogging! Look forward to exploring your site.

      • selfpublishingadvocate on November 26, 2012 at 10:04 am

        Your site contains valuable information regarding self-publishing. I have followed your site already so that I can get updated for the latest blogs you got and hopefully reblogged it so that more people will get to read those great information. 🙂

  4. Julia on November 26, 2012 at 3:10 am

    I read a book written by publishers three years ago after I finished a memoir that I never had the courage to publish. It was very enlightening, but things have changed since then. The reason is that traditional publishers are less likely to take risks with new writers at this time, and self-publishing is gaining popularity. (I don’t have a preference).

    • kimberlysullivan on November 26, 2012 at 8:47 am

      Good points, Julia. This is always an interesting discussion at writing conferences, particularly the ‘Cinderella stories’ of self-published authors who did extremely well and then were taken on by major publishing houses (along with their built-in reader base). Obviously, most debut authors don’t have that.

  5. Julia on November 26, 2012 at 4:01 am

    Kimberly, you could turn all those lovely blog entries about the places you visited into a book. I would be the first one to buy it!

  6. selfpublishingadvocate on November 27, 2012 at 8:42 am

    If you are a new writer, chances are that your book will get rejected by the traditional publishers. That is why self publishing your book is one of the best options that you will have. In some cases, if your book gets recognition or is getting popular and a best seller, the traditional publishers will be the ones to contact you! 🙂

  7. cav12 on November 29, 2012 at 5:49 am

    I also wanted to go the path of traditional publishing but as yet that hasn’t happened so opened up to the idea of self-publishing. I have started the eBook publishing route and will continue the relationship.

  8. kimberlysullivan on November 29, 2012 at 8:48 am

    Thanks for your comment, cav! I’ll look forward to hearing about your experiences. It does seem there are a lot of good opportunities for writers out there in this changing market, including better opportunities for marketing and promoting self-published books. Best of luck!

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