A Writer’s Dilemma: traditional publishing or self-publishing?

Until recent years, I always believed the traditional publishing route was the only way to go.  I knew that it would entail sending out query letter after query letter and, inevitably, would be followed by rejection letter after rejection letter.  I knew that it would most likely take some time – perhaps years – before a positive response would be forthcoming. I would need to hire a literary agent, if I ever had a hope in hell of having my manuscript read by a publisher. Nevertheless, I envisaged a day when one of New York’s finest publishing houses would give me the thumbs-up.  I imagined the process, the kind of advance I would get, and what the contract would entail.  Would they want a one-book deal or a three- or five-book deal?  Most importantly, I would be published!

Times have changed.  Writers are increasingly favoring the self-publishing route. There used to be a stigma attached to what was once referred to as “vanity press.”  Not so much, anymore (although there are a few publishing purists who still curl their lips in disdain at the mere thought of  a self-published book or – gasp! – an Ebook!). But, with the advent of social media and publishing vehicles like Kindle Amazon and lulu.com – many writers are opting to eliminate the “middle man” and take control of their own publishing destiny.  Not convinced?  Frankly, I’m still in a quandary, myself.

Here are a few of the pros and cons in the traditional publishing versus self-publishing debate:


The author becomes the publisher (no middle man) and, as such,  she/he has to do all the work (proofread and edit the final text, provide camera-ready artwork, marketing and distribute the book – and provide all the funds to publish the book).  Yes, companies like lulu.com (for example) can market and distribute but you will inevitably have to pay the tab.  A hefty tab, at that.


  • Control. You control the process and have full rights to your manuscript.
  • Time. You could easily have a book released in the space of six months.


  • Money. You have to pay for everything and will only recoup your costs if the book sells – well.
  • Contacts. You don’t have the benefit of a publishing house’s experience, contacts and networking capabilities.
  • Time. Ahhh, there’s that Time issue again!  You will be spending a lot of your time marketing, distributing, filling orders, and so on.
  • Market  Saturation.  The market is saturated with low-quality books because so many people (who are not really writers) are publishing their own books or Ebooks. The end result:  self-publishing still gets a bad rap – like it or not.


Most larger publishing houses will not even look at a manuscript unless it is represented by a literary agent. Smaller or independent houses may possibly accept unrepresented work, but don’t hold your breath.  Expect to get rejection letters.  Don’t let rejection letters fill you with self-doubt. Keep trying.


  • Money.  You will get an advance (ranging from a meager amount to as much as seven figures).  You will get a percentage of sales.
  • Effort. The publishing house will handle the whole process.  They have the resources to promote your book – well.
  • Credibility. To be published by a major publishing house is a good thing – really. Whether you like it or not, perception is important.


  • Money.  You will have to pay the literary agent a percentage (usually 15%) of  your advance, as well as a percentage of the sales.
  • Control.  You are at the mercy of the publishing house.  You lose some or all control over your manuscript, including title, cover, content  – depending on the fine print in your contract.
  • Time.  It will likely take a publishing house anywhere from 12 – 18 months to publish your book.

Clearly, it is extremely important to research your publishing options further and think very carefully about which route you want to take.

As a writer, this is one of the most important decisions that you will make.

Personally, I am still torn between the two but am leaning towards the self-publishing option.  My main issue is Time.  The time is NOW!

Here’s wishing all of you the best of luck!



Image via   Llamatastic.com.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s