Self-publishing vs traditional publishing

2014_April_self_publishingI think most authors today are following this debate closely. Each year, I attend the Matera Women’s Fiction Festival, and follow the discussion on this topic with authors who have been on both sides.

Over at the fabulous Nathan Bransford blog, ‘hybrid’ author (meaning she has published both traditionally and self-published) Natalie Whipple provides some interesting perspective on both publishing options, and explains the major differences and issues authors weighing their choices should know.

She covers issues such as rights, control, payment, cost to author, distribution, and marketing, providing balanced overviews about what to expect.

Any author today must do her homework. Self-publishing/indie publishing offers plenty of opportunities to authors today, but also requires additional work to ensure the process is handled well. Luckily, information on indie publishing is easily available and online communities are available for new authors to learn the ropes.

Then again, even traditional publishing requires much more work on the marketing and promotion side than in the past. It’s a very rare author today to hand off all the work of marketing and promotion to others.

And you, authors? What are your views on the self-publishing vs traditional debate? Have you had experience with one or the other, or both? What’s your advice to authors weighing these options?


  1. arranbhansal on April 25, 2014 at 12:11 pm
  2. arranbhansal on April 25, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    I find self publishing works for me as it fits in around my life and work. Any person deciding to self publish has to be realistic though as it’s against the odds they will make a fortune doing it!

    • kimberlysullivan on April 26, 2014 at 10:24 am

      Thanks for the comment, and thanks for letting people know how self-publishing works well for you. I think we writers are so lucky today to have so much helpful advice/experiences about the process out there, shared by other writers.

  3. Catherine on April 25, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    As you know Kimberly my books were traditionally published by a small British publisher and it’s uphill most of the way. Little marketing help, wonderful psychological support, lots of time spent on blog tours, seeking reviews, doing promo. I’m sure both strands are the same with regards to publicising. It’s endless and there is no guarantee that any book will take off!

    • kimberlysullivan on April 26, 2014 at 10:27 am

      Good points, Catherine, and I think it reflects what we hear at the Matera Festival. Today’s traditional publishing requires much more effort on the part of the author for marketing and promotion – so it makes sense that some indie authors argue that, since they’ll be doing marketing/promotion anyway, they may as well maintain full control of content.

  4. evelyneholingue on April 25, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    Good question, Kimberly. I started to submit to editors and almost always received good rejections. After a few published stories and winning writing competitions I thought I would go solo for my novel Trapped in Paris, which I never submitted. It was a fascinating experience to do everything on my own (well my husband supplied hours of tech support and did everything in terms of formatting, font and cover work). I hired a copy editor and was very happy to get a decent amount of reviews. I have another one in the process, but I have also a manuscript with two editors now. The good news is that publishers and editors who frowned upon the writers who went solo have changed their mind. They would rather work with someone who is active online (blog, tweet…) than a traditionally published author who has no visibility. I have several friends who are traditionally published and have to do the same amount of promotion that I have to do.
    I think that we are seeing the two ways entering a friendlier cohabitation, due also to the higher quality of options offered to people who want to publish on their own. Thank you for a timely post about a topic on most writers’ mind.
    I am BTW enjoying Far Away very much!

    • kimberlysullivan on April 26, 2014 at 10:33 am

      Very interesting, Evelyne. Thanks for weighing in on this! At the writing conferences I go to, I’ve heard lots of excellent speakers who define themselves as hybrid authors – mixing between traditional and indie publishing. I agree with you about the atmosphere of friendlier cohabitation today. In the end, what matters most is producing a great book, and supporting (and learning from) fellow writers however they decide to publish. So, so pleased you’re enjoying Far Away!

  5. Claire Duffy on April 25, 2014 at 10:31 pm

    I came to fiction from a screenwriting background; when I started working on a novel I realised that I couldn’t face starting from scratch again, building relationships with agents and publishers before they would even consider my work – so I went straight for indie publishing. I have far from cracked the marketing side of it and certainly won’t be retiring off the proceeds any time soon, but I find the complete control over what I publish how and when so very satisfying. There are downsides: it can be frustrating wearing hats that aren’t my forte (all the bits other than writing, really!), but the creative fulfilment makes it worth it for me.

    • kimberlysullivan on April 26, 2014 at 10:38 am

      Thanks so much for sharing your experiences, Claire! The ability to maintain complete control over your work is something I hear from so many indie authors – and it always impresses me. I agree that it must be a steep learning curve to grasp all the marketing/promotion, but one hopes the experience will serve well for the next time – and that the knowledge and know-how gained would be a plus for possible traditional publishing, too. Happy writing!

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