The Big Choice

For some it’s not a difficult decision. For others they waiver back and forth between the two. After all, there are pros and cons to both. And I’m not talking about Coke vs. Pepsi here.

I’m talking about the BIGGIE in the literary world. The choice to publish traditionally or on your own.

Making the decision to publish with the Big 5, or a small press vs. self-publishing is huge. And not without conflict. I have heard incredibly snarky things from both sides of the decision. Snooty dismissiveness of indie authors by those published traditionally. Ranting rudeness by indies claiming traditional publishing is DEAD. Both of those are doing a disservice to all, in my opinion. Both options are okay, they really are. What matters is what you personally want to get out of it.

Like I said, there are pros and cons to both. Anyone who tells you otherwise isn’t being totally real with you. Both efforts require work. Both efforts require dedication. And both will result in some form of rejection. But we’re writers. We need to get used to all of that.

I can’t speak for others. Except my own characters, of course, and half the time they just tell me what to say. But I can tell you why I made the decision to be trade (traditionally) published for Ditch Flowers, and why I would consider self-publishing other projects.

Why I Chose Traditional:

-It was free. Other than stamps and mailing costs for the very few snail mail submissions I did, I paid nothing. Going into querying, I knew I didn’t want to pay for an editor (a caveat- in hindsight I’d get one for future traditionally published works prior to querying, because my work would have been ready a LOT earlier, and rejected a LOT less had I had it edited sooner). I did not want to shell out money for professional editing, be it copy or content. I didn’t want to pay for a professional cover. I did not want to pay to secure the ISBN or whatever else you have to do to get your book in stores. I simply was a cheap, stubborn writer. I didn’t want to pay anyone to publish. I wanted them to pay ME. And I’m okay with that.

-Someone else was in charge. Although I quite like being in charge in some aspects of life, I realized that sometimes it’s just too much responsibility. The best day I had recently was a family outing where someone else decided everything. Booked the hotel. Figured out schedule. Made dinner reservations at the restaurant of their choosing. All I had to do was show up and enjoy myself. And I did. It was sort of similar with publishing. I did not want to be 100% responsible for hiring cover artists or editors, or choosing said art, or fonts, or layouts, or timeline, or release date, or any of that. I wanted to write, and edit, and not be a publisher. I didn’t feel I had the skills necessary to self-publish this book.

-I wanted the validation. Some people are afraid to admit this, as though it’s something to be embarrassed about, but I’m going to be honest. Part of the reason I chose trade publishing was because I wanted someone to tell me I was good enough for them. Now, this could come down to some underlying self-esteem issues, but I’m going to go with my gut here. I have worked so hard, and for so long on being published. I felt changing my mind half-way through would feel like giving up. Not because I think self-publishing is subpar, but because I had set a goal and I meant to see it met. When I began submitting I didn’t really know anyone who had done it on their own so it never occurred to me to start out. But once I gained momentum with queries I wanted to keep at it. If and when I chose self-publishing, I want it to be because it’s 100% what I want, not because I couldn’t accomplish my first choice.

Of course there are a few other reasons. But that’s the gist. In the end, I’m happy I chose to publish with a small press. And if I could go back in time I’d make the same choice. The big 5 holds pros, and so does indie publishing, but this held the most for me. I like feeling like I belong to a small community, with my fellow Penner authors, and I like not feeling like just a number. I get marketing and promoting support, and had wonderful editors and a fantastic cover artist who created a stunning cover for my work, as well as a small advance and decent royalties. All in all, it’s been great. Which now brings me to…

Why I Will Very Likely Choose to Self-Publish in Future:

My indie friends are happy. And not that my trade-published friends aren’t. But I was worried there was a lot of dissatisfaction in the self-publishing world, and I’m finding that isn’t so. They’re happy with their choices. They like being in control. They like having a say. And the majority of them are choosing the same in future.

-My next project is a gamble. Let’s face it. Short story collections don’t sell all that well. I am a huge SS fan myself. And there’s a nice section devoted to it at my library, where some other fans regularly check out the work. But it’s no Romance, or Suspense, or Fantasy. And trying to find a literary agent or small press (or of course the big guys) to accept short story collections is a lot less likely than finding those things for a full-length novel. And it took me 2.5 years to get my novel accepted. I don’t think that I want to wait that long. In fact, I know I don’t.

-It feels less risky. How can a gamble be low-risk? I suppose I mean I’m willing to play around more with this project. Maybe because I have gotten that validation I needed, or because it’s a different type of work, but I’m liking the idea of having control with this project. Choosing a cover sounds fun this time, not intimidating. Formatting seems less scary. Editing sounds manageable. It all seems easier, and calmer for me.

So for my short-story collection I’m 90% sure I’ll go indie. I haven’t ruled out trade just because I haven’t researched any leads yet (because I’m not done writing or editing the project yet!) but this feels like a great option. That said, I have a paranormal women’s fiction novel in the works that I plan to publish traditionally. I like the idea of being a hybrid author. You get the best of both worlds! What are your thoughts? What choice did you make or are you considering? And would you ever go over to the other side?

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