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  • LV Ditchkus

Traditional versus self-publishing journey

The decision an aspiring author makes when choosing between the traditional and self-publishing routes can be a game-changer – both for your first and future publications.

The information out there is confusing. Some agents will tell you that self-publishing is mainly for people who haven’t worked hard enough to bring their project to the highest level, and your self-published book will forever sit among the plethora of mediocre books available through the mega online distributors. Rumor has it -- once you’ve self-published, your book will never be considered by an agent. Unless that first self-published book sold thousands of copies, your prospects at finding an agent for subsequent books are slim.

Self-published authors will tell you that the traditional route is rife with people and companies who will force you to accept their views about content, author voice, book covers, price, and distribution. Self-published authors accuse agents and publishers of offering ‘free’ services of editing, cover design, and distribution, but these services ultimately come out of your commission. So, you can pay upfront and control the process or allow the agencies and publishers to front you the money now and pay them over time.

While publishers handle book distribution, authors bear the time, effort, and expenses for marketing, whether you are traditionally or self-published. Even if your agent arranges a spot for you on The Tonight Show, you will be paying your travel expenses.

My advice is to make a whole-hearted attempt at the traditional publishing route. Write a sound query letter, research viable agents and their companies, and edit the crap out of your first ten pages. While you might think this approach will take you away from your core mission to write a perfect book, you will gain a greater understanding of the publishing and book marketing processes, as well as honing your craft. You will learn something valuable from everyone you meet in the query writing class, the back-and-forth of query letters, and the face-to-face meetings with agents at conferences. You may find the best professional promoter of your work. Even if you don’t end up with an agent, your writing will be tighter, and your decision about how to publish will be well-informed.

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