Judgment Call: Self Publish or Traditionally Publish? (Part 4 of a Series)


It’s almost over. Now for the moment of truth. Self publish and be a pioneer? Or traditionally publish and go with the tried and true method? I’m sure you’re all wondering what I would do with a book. Would I self publish and hope for the best, or try to find an agent/publisher and hope for the best?

…Or not, but that’s okay! I’ll write this anyway for a sense of closure.


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For Writers:

Here’s my take on self publishing vs. traditional publishing. If you have some kind of established following, meaning people that you know would buy a book if you wrote one, then I’d say go with self publishing. If you have the platform ready and all you have to do is successfully execute the writing and publication then you’re golden. If you don’t have that infrastructure, then you might want to rethink self publishing until you have a stronger base of supporters. If you are relatively unknown, but you have a few writing credits under your belt (like published short stories), then I would approach an agent or smaller publishers. That doesn’t mean you can’t self publish in the future! In fact, some writers that start off with traditional publishers migrate to self publishing once they establish a following. Either way, start building a platform. Reach out to other writers, reach out to bloggers, start a blog so people can sample your writing. If you have no platform and no writing credits then I’d encourage you to start a blog and start with short stories. That way you can build a following and eventually get a little clout in the industry (if you decide to go the traditional route). If the traditional route doesn’t work then what the hell, throw it up on Amazon and see what happens. Who knows? Maybe that’s where your market was the whole time? No matter which method you decide to use it will involve work.

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For Readers:

There are good books, and there are bad books. That distinction is up to you to decide. That division is not dictated by the method of publishing. A great book, or a book you enjoy, will be good regardless of how it was published. I encourage you to branch out and at least take a look at self published writers. It might be a little different, and it might take some adjustment, but hey, at least it’s something new. Think of it like this: there’s a restaurant you always go to because you trust the food and the service. All of a sudden a new restaurant opens up. You’ve heard people talking about it, it’s intriguing, but also outside of your comfort zone. You go in and check out the menu. The staff seems friendly and welcoming. You decide to order a meal. It’s not the same as the other restaurant, and maybe this new restaurant could use a little more work, but it’s a new option. That’s self publishing. Head over to Amazon and spend an hour reading excerpts from self published books that interest you. You might find something you didn’t even know you wanted. I don’t know about you, but I get really excited when that happens. And for anyone that says, “Well, traditional publishers protect the sanctity of literature!” I will point to the books published by “Snooki” through Gallery Books (a subsidiary of Simon & Schuster), and tell you that that ship has sailed.

For Myself:

Now for me. I don’t have a huge following here on WordPress, I don’t have many followers on Twitter, and I barely use Facebook anymore. In short: I need to build my platform. (Side note: I am gaining followers on WordPress every day, and to everyone that has followed me in the past couple days, thank you! I can’t wait to read more of your material). Once I finish my current manuscript I will edit it, get some beta readers, then cross my fingers and toes and submit it. Now, for the time being I’m going to try with a traditional publisher first, and it’s because if I self published right now I doubt it would get to as many readers as I’d like it to. The biggest reason is because of the aforementioned lack of followers (and no, that’s not me subtly asking for more followers). The second major reason is because it’s literary fiction. I would classify it as historical literary fiction/American family saga/allegory about the Middle East/tragedy, but first and foremost it’s lit. Like I said in the previous post, self publishing and literary fiction tend to be a hard mix. Not impossible, but more difficult. One plan I am considering though, is to build my platform, start writing a science fiction novel, self publish that, and potentially use that as a way to prop up the novel I’m working on right now.

Enough about me, I’m sure you’re wondering what my judgment call is.

It’s a tie.

Traditional publishing and self publishing is a tie – for now. They both have their strengths and weaknesses. If traditional publishers return to form, meaning they welcome new writers and invest in them, then traditional publishing might be able to break the tie. If traditional publishers continue to fixate on trends and profit then their power and credibility will continue to shrink. Conversely, self publishing will continue to grow, and if readers put more faith in self published books then I could see self publishing overpower traditional publishing. Even if Amazon torpedoes itself by lowering royalties, or becoming more selective, there are other self pub distributors out there. One thing is certain: the indie revolution for books is now. The music industry has proven that independent art can be successful, and the early success stories from self publishing show that self publishing may be the future. It’s an exciting time to be a writer and a reader, and it’s tremendously comforting that people still show so much interest in the written word.

That’s all for now folks! This publishing series is at an end, but I guarantee there will be more publishing-oriented posts in the future. What did you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Leave a comment here, or find me on Twitter (@ahahnjones) and leave a comment there.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll stick around.


5 thoughts on “Judgment Call: Self Publish or Traditionally Publish? (Part 4 of a Series)

  1. Thanks for sharing this wonderful article! Honestly, I see the advantages in both, but personally, I want to try for traditional publishing. It’s always been my dream to publish a book, so I’ll go for it and see what happens. I do have a small following online, but it’s not nearly enough for me to self-publish.


    1. Hey it’s my pleasure, thanks for reading it! And for right now, like I said, the same situation goes for me. If I could grow my following and secure readers I would self publish in a heartbeat, but until that happens I’ll continue the search for a home for my book. Happy hunting to you too!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Two quick thoughts:

    1. A following isn’t needed in order for a self published author to be successful. If you write a book people want to read and have a good cover and pitch, Amazon will sell your book with little help from you. I had no following for my debut novel, and it sold decent. Had I had more experience, it could have done even better.

    2. Self publishing is difficult for literary fiction. If you were going with any hot genre, I’d unequivocally tell you that indie was your best bet. It’s my understanding, however, that literary fiction is a different game. Being a successful indie is almost impossible.


    1. First off, thanks for commenting and starting a conversation.

      1. I want to congratulate you, first and foremost for your success. Kudos! Second, I’m surprised to hear that. The usual notion is that without a following, you’re sunk, so I’m pleasantly surprised to hear that an indie novel can succeed with little to no following.

      2. Totally agree. I talked about that in Part 3 (In Defense of Traditional Publishing). I think a lot of it has to do with the nature of literary fiction (a little more “heady,” a little more dense, a little harder to read, etc.) Once I start work on one of my science fiction ideas, I’ll probably opt for self publishing and either a) Pursue traditional publishing for my current novel or b) Use the sci-fi novel to establish myself THEN self publish my current novel. I think if you are hellbent on self publishing literary fiction then you need a good marketing strategy AND an accessible story.

      Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

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