Which to Choose: Big Name Traditional Publishing or Self-Publishing?


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“Which to Choose: Big Name Traditional Publishing or Self-Publishing?” by Joan Y. Edwards

Know your options. Study the resources. Ask questions of others in your field. Read the copyright pages of your favorite books to find out who published them.
I can’t tell you which choice is best for you. I wrote, illustrated and self-published Flip Flap Floodle. Instead of a big named publisher, I was lucky enough to have a small reputable publishing company – 4RV Publishing – publish  Joan’s Elder Care Guide. You may find one, too.
Most of the big named publishers stipulate that you must have an agent to submit your work. Some of the big publishers and other not as big, but still dependable and reputable publishers are out there, too. Again, you have to do your research. Choose one that’s right for you and you’re right for them. In the resources, I put a list of publishers and agents who accept unsolicited manuscripts.
Though I can’t tell you which is best for you, I did research to see what other professionals advise. No matter which method you choose, go through the steps outlined in Writer Essentials for Submitting,  Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, and Step 4.
However,  if you’re self-publishing you’d be choosing a company to self-publish rather than selecting a big name publisher. Study three different self-publishing companies to decide which one is the best for this particular book.
Below I have outlined steps to follow to submit  a great article, poem, puzzle, devotion, illustration, short story, chapter book, middle grade novel, young adult novel, adult novel, song, stage play or screenplay.
Writer Essentials for Submitting 
Step 1 Get your work critiqued, edited, and proofed.
Step 2 Choose the publisher, editor, agent, or contest for this writing project.
Step 3 Write the pitch, query letter, cover letter, resume, bio, and/or proposal as required by the guidelines of the editor, agent, or contest you chose for submission this time.
Step 4 Time to Submit to publisher, agent, editor, or contest.
Everyone is welcome to an opinion, right? Since that’s true, here are my opinions.
Joan’s Top Reasons for Getting a Big Named Traditional Publisher:
  1. They have many customers who are familiar with them and large marketing budgets.
  2. They can afford to pay the book returns for bookstores.
  3. They have access (money) to great cover and inside illustrators.
  4. They have access (money) to pay for good editors.
  5. It may be easier for them to get a book reviewed.
Reasons for Self-Publishing
  1. You’ve tried for at least 5-10 years to get something published without success or you don’t want to wait 3-5 years to get your book launched.
  2. You’ve had your complete book, pitch, query letter, and trailer critiqued and edited by a professional.
  3. You’ve investigated cost, what you get for your money, marketing with different venues for self-publishing. (Read Resource Number #2 and #16)
  4. You have a book launch team – group of at least 25-100 people online and in person who will review your book and help you launch and market it –  to help you spread the word.
But don’t just take my word for it, read at least five of the following articles and five others on your own search.
  1. Brenda Rollins. “The POD Quandary: How to Decide if Print-on-Demand Publishing is Right for You:” http://www.writing-world.com/publish/POD.shtml
  2. Helen Sedwick “Overcharging-authors-for-their-own-books”
  3. Joan Y. Edwards. “22 Literary Agents Who Are Looking for You: https://www.joanyedwards.com/2013/09/06/22-literary-agents-who-are-looking-for-you/
  4. Joan Y. Edwards. “50 Publishers Who Accepted Unsolicited Manuscripts:” https://www.joanyedwards.com/2013/04/07/50-publishers-who-accept-unsolicited-manuscripts/
  5. Laurie Miller. “Comparing Self-Publishing Options: Comparing Self-Publishing Options: CreateSpace, Ingram Spark, and Lulu:” https://www.scbwi.org/comparing-self-publishing-options-createspace-ingram-spark-and-lulu/
  6. Moira Allen. “Subsidy Publishing vs. Self-Publishing: What’s the Difference?” http://www.writing-world.com/publish/subsidy.shtml
  7. Moira Allen. “To POD or Not to POD: Some Pros and Cons:” http://www.writing-world.com/publish/PODstats.shtml
  8. Moira Allen. “The Price of Vanity:” http://www.writing-world.com/publish/vanity.shtml
  9. NY Book Editors.”Traditional or Self-Publish: What’s Best for You?” https://nybookeditors.com/2015/11/traditional-or-self-publish-whats-best-for-you/
  10. Page Two Strategies. “Twelve Questions to Ask Before Working with a Publishing Services Company:” http://www.pagetwostrategies.com/twelve-questions-to-ask-before-working-with-a-publishing-services-company/
  11. Ray Robinson. “Choosing a Self-Publishing Company:” http://www.writing-world.com/publish/dogear.shtml
  12. Sarra Cannon. “Frequently Asked Questions about Self-Publishing: ” http://sarracannon.com/indie-writer-resources/self-pub-guides/frequently-asked-questions-about-self-publishing/
  13. Stephanie Chandleer. “Eight Questions to Ask When Choosing a Custom Publishing Service to Help You Self-Publish Your Books:” http://authoritypublishing.com/book-publishing/8-questions-to-ask-when-choosing-a-custom-publishing-service-to-help-you-self-publish-your-book/
  14. Sue Fagalde Lick. “Ten Questions to Ask Before You Sign that Print-on-Demand Contract:” http://www.writing-world.com/publish/lick.shtml
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Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards, Author
Copyright © 2017 Joan Y. Edwards
Flip Flap Floodle Will this little duck’s song save him from Mr. Fox?
Joan’s Elder Care Guide A guide to help caregivers and elders find solutions.

14 thoughts on “Which to Choose: Big Name Traditional Publishing or Self-Publishing?”

  1. Joan, there is a third option: a reputable, independent small publisher. I have books with three, and personally know the publishers and consider them to be good people and competent professionals.

    1. Dear Bob,
      Thanks for letting us know about your success with reputable, small publishers. That is wonderful. I have a feeling you’ll continue to be successful.
      Believe in you
      Never Give Up

  2. This is all great information. I am with a small press and Seven Days to Goodbye has been well taken care of. Just review each publsihing house carefully and see there progress and status.

    1. Dear Sheri,
      Thank you for writing. I am so glad that you have had great success with a small press with Seven Days to Goodbye. I hope that your success keeps on going! I have a feeling it will.
      Believe in You
      Never Give Up

      1. Thanks, Joan. Barking Rain Press has been wonderful to work with and it keeps growing.

  3. Excellent article, well researched with fabulous resources, Joan.
    I’ve been both traditionally published with small publishers and have self-published and the key to success is exactly as you say…do your homework.
    One major concern I have about traditional publishing is this — are they pricing themselves out of business? When children’s books, PB, MG & YA costs are in the mid to upper teens, how much longer will the average family able to afford them?
    I’m looking for a traditional publisher for my next MG BUT I wonder if the prestige is worth it if the MG paperback novel is priced at $14.95 or higher and the average family can’t afford it? (The same self-published MG paperback can easily be priced in the $8 – $10 range.)
    In addition there’s the major difference in author compensation….5% – 7% royalty versus 30% – 70%.
    It’s a quandary giving even award winning authors pause.

    1. Dear Sandra,
      Thanks for writing and sharing your experience with both self-publishing and small traditional publishers.
      You’re right. You don’t get as much royalty from traditional publishers as you do from Self-Publishing.
      Everyone has to decide for himself/herself. It’s a tricky decision made weighing our wants, needs, and the state of the publishing world at the time.
      Believe in You
      Never Give Up

    1. Dear Carol,
      Thanks for writing. You’re right. It is a tough decision to make. Each person has to do research and weigh the truth as they see it. And do it with a no regrets philosophy!
      Believe in You
      Never Give Up

  4. Hey Joan, thanks for the information and thanks for stressing the need for professional editing. May I use your reference book list in the Carteret Writers monthly newsletter? I’ll credit you and your books. Sarah

    1. Dear Sarah,
      Thank you for writing. You are welcome for my post and for stressing that you should get your book edited by a professional before you self-publish.
      Certainly, you may list my resources in the Carteret Writers monthly newsletter. Would you list my website, blog, and my books? That would be awesome.
      Never Give Up

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