Choosing Your Path to Publication, Part 3: Decisions, Decisions

Welcome back for the last post in our short series on paths to publication. If you missed Part 1 Traditional Publishing or Part 2 Self-Publishing, be sure to catch up on the pros and cons first! Today, we’re going to talk about how to make this important decision, why I chose traditional publishing, and some things every writer needs to succeed, no matter how they choose to publish.

What’s your vision?

Now, if you’re new to writing, you might be thinking—does it really matter how my book gets published? Isn’t the whole goal just to hold it in my hands?

Well, that depends. Is that your whole goal? Or are you trying to build a career? Is writing a hobby you plan to do for fun when you have time, or do you want to make it a part-time or full-time job? There isn’t a right or wrong answer here. We’re looking for a vision—the big picture of what you hope to accomplish with your writing. After all, it’s pretty hard to get somewhere if you don’t know where you’re heading.

Think about some authors you admire, and what it is about them that you’d like to emulate. Is it their collection of books? Their website and social media following? Their shop full of bookish merch? The respect surrounding their name and brand? The awards they’ve won and lists they’re on? Try to pin down what’s motivating you to publish and what your dream author life looks like. Focus on the things that are most important to you, remembering that some of these things may be outside of your control.

How does your vision line up with what you’ve read about traditional and self-publishing? Does that help narrow down your choices? You can’t guarantee that your traditionally-published book will be a NYT bestseller (sorry, it probably won’t be), but it’s even less likely if it’s self-published. On the other hand, if you long to scroll through pages of your books on Amazon, you’ll have a hard time reaching that goal anytime soon with traditional publishing.

Next, take a hard look at the resources you have available. Self-publishing costs significant amounts of both money and time, along with the willingness to learn new technological skills. Is that a viable option for you? Traditional publishing will also cost time, along with patience and perseverance. Are you willing to see it through for possibly years of work and waiting before you can hold your book?

Hopefully, as you consider your own resources, abilities, and goals, you’ll be able to see a clear path to reach the dream of holding your book in your hand.

Why I chose traditional publishing

Personally, while I love the idea of running my own business, having creative control, and the income potential of self-publishing, I decided to go the traditional route for a few reasons. As a stay-at-home/ homeschool mom to four kiddos, I knew I wouldn’t have the resources to successfully self-publish at this time in my life. Most indie authors pump out books far faster than I have time to write, and I wasn’t prepared to take on the necessary learning curves to be able to format and produce my own books. We currently live with one full-time income, so I didn’t want to ask my family to bear the added financial investment of creating a professional product that would line up with my vision.

In addition, I honestly appreciate the slow pace of traditional publishing. There are spurts of intense work under deadlines, but then plenty of free space to write slowly and promote my books without the pressure of maintaining a rapid release schedule. Finally, I’m not gonna lie–as a new writer, I really appreciated the validation that came with my first book offer and signing with an agent. Having that support team is a huge bonus for me.

Will that always be the case for me? Maybe not. I have some shelved manuscripts I’d love to see in readers’ hands one day. Perhaps they’ll be my first indie books. But that’s a project I won’t be ready to tackle for a long time.

You might not know this about my family, but my husband is also an author. Since he has a full-time job in academia and mainly wanted to publish his middle grade books for our kids, he opted to go with self-publishing. We created our own imprint (Goldenwood Press) and he kept costs down by doing as much for himself as possible. I edited his book and he did all the formatting for both print and e-book. The biggest expense was the cover. He’s had good results selling books during school visits and to friends, but hasn’t put in the effort to fully develop his writing into another career. Which is fine by me, since we’re busy enough already. 😉

What it takes to be successful

Despite all the differences between traditional and self-publishing, there are things all successful authors share in common. No matter which route you take, you’ll have to….

  • write solid, well-written books that readers want to buy
  • create a clear, identifiable brand for your name (or pen name), along with a website, email list, and social media accounts
  • think through cover design, write blurbs and synopses, and be able to pitch your book
  • create related content—emails, blog posts, podcasts, social media posts, business cards, and book swag
  • read and evaluate any contracts you might sign
  • interact with industry professionals and readers
  • market your work through social media, author events, advertising, leading readers’ groups, etc.
  • experience rejection and keep going
  • be confident in your work, your brand, your products, and what you have to offer
  • establish priorities, set goals, and manage your time
  • look for ways to expand your income opportunities—offering courses, freelance editing/ design work, teaching workshops, running an online book swag shop, mentoring/ coaching, etc.
  • be willing to learn, challenge yourself, and put in the effort to succeed

Resources to learn more

Trad vs Indie Publishing, Well-Storied –

Going Indie, Goldenwood Press –

115 to 26k in Royalties, Create If Writing –

Jane Friedman’s blog (lots of articles on both types of publishing) –

The Creative Penn (indie publishing) –

Should You Self-Publish?, Tiffany Hawk –

Thanks for hanging out with me over these past couple of posts! What are your thoughts on publishing paths? Which did, or will, you choose? Do you have any favorite resources to share?

2 thoughts on “Choosing Your Path to Publication, Part 3: Decisions, Decisions

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