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Self-Publish Or Go The Traditional Route: It Does Not Matter

Posted by erinlausten on June 9, 2011

It takes quite a bit for me to get revved up over a controversy. When it comes to deciding what side of the fence to be on I prefer riding the helicopter overhead. I am definitely not saying I don’t take sides or don’t believe passionately in things, but I prefer to understand and examine the complexity of the process. There are no easy answers and no simple questions.

This is no better illustrated than in the current atmosphere of publishing. There seem to be two camps. The first argue Traditional publishing is the only way to go (sending your book to an agent, then editor and finally wonderfully, tangibly, ecstatically the book ends up in bookstores and into readers hands). Check out this article for some on this side of things. The second group says that things have changed, it is time for the industry to move on, adjust to the new digital reality and writers need to self-publish their work (It is a brand new world where writers can control where they sell their books, to whom, when and how. The social net connects authors and readers in ways previously unseen) JA Konrath seems to be the go to guy on this. Of course, this is elementary, as many suggest, the options are open and you should do both. Check out Dean Wesley Smith for more on this topic.

However, if you look deeper into the articles you’ll see it isn’t black and white. They aren’t arguing that you should do this or that. Instead, they are looking for solutions and finding the ones that work best for them and their point of view. And this is where I think many writers, aspiring and otherwise, are getting confused.

So, I am going to give you the answer that comes from between the lines of all these blogs and articles.

It doesn’t matter. Period.

What you choose, how you choose to do it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. You may fail, you may succeed, but it really doesn’t matter which way you decide to go. The opportunity is there for both.

What matters is you.

You have to decide what direction you want to go. And the only way to do that is to figure out what matters to you and what you need in order to give yourself the best shot. There are two things you have to do, and they are essential. First, you have to know what you are doing and what you want. Second, you have to learn. A lot. And don’t just look at one side of the story. Learn everything you can about both. Give yourself the best opportunity by seeking out all the information you can and make decisions based on that. Don’t just listen to one voice, or two, or even twenty. If you want it you have to know it.

This shouldn’t be a shocker. If you want a career, you go to school. You learn to think, you learn skills that will help you in the jobs you will fill, you learn what you do and do not want from the career of your choice. Then you apply it. You get your first job and you have to learn more. You have to sort through everyone’s opinions on who, where, what and why. And then you start to learn from experience. You make mistakes and you adjust. You have success and you adjust. And it never stops.

So the key to success is this: Know thyself and have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.  For all those aspiring authors out there (I include myself in this camp) you are in school. Read, study and practice. You may not have a professor or assignments due, but you are still in school. Don’t let anyone get you down because you don’t have all the answers. You are learning and take pride in the fact that you have chosen a goal and doing all you can to succeed.

And if you are frustrated by the blogs, comments, tweets, chatter out there about either camp, keep this in mind. We are all learning. There is excitement about trying something new, be it self-publishing or traditional publishing.  Aspiring authors are learning and part of that includes putting themselves out there for scrutiny. It’s rough. It’s frustrating. What they say or think today will change tomorrow as knowledge and experience grows.

Finally, the biggest key to all this is you can’t succeed unless you try. Nothing makes up for experience. You learn from failure even more so than success. But what worked for someone else may not work for you. The market is different, opportunities change, experiences influence outcomes. There are no answers to this, only opportunities to try. And there are very few mistakes that are irreparable. And in the end they give value in gained experience.

For those that think they have the answers. You don’t. You just have time and experience. It’s a good thing to share. But don’t forget you too are still learning and the answers you have are for you and may apply to someone else…or not.

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2 Responses to “Self-Publish Or Go The Traditional Route: It Does Not Matter”

  1. William Kendall said

    Bravo! Very well said.

  2. Lindsay said

    I’m pro self-publishing…for me. I agree that it’s a personal decision, and both roads can lead to a satisfying career.

    The original reasons I chose it is that I knew I wasn’t writing in a hot genre (heroic/high fantasy, geez, most agents I looked at said send anything but that old junk), and I didn’t want to wait months and years to maybe possibly get published. I didn’t want to spend a year querying agents only to get rejected by everyone and end up self-publishing anyway. (Ironically, I found an agent willing to take me on, someone I’d connected with via an online auction, after I’d already published my first two ebooks… at that point I was committed to self-publishing though, and I’ve never looked back.)

    Today, I couldn’t imagine switching to the traditional model. Not with Amazon and other booksellers offering 70% of the sale price on every purchase. Traditionally published authors don’t see anywhere near that kind of cut. I’m seeing a lot of indies suddenly able to make a living as authors, and that is a very cool thing. 7 months into this, I’m already making a respectable part-time income. I fully believe I can be doing this for a living a year from now.

    That said, for those who have a great book in a hot genre, or who just want the satisfaction of knowing they made it past the gatekeepers, then traditional publishing may be the right choice. Just don’t sign away your electronic rights indefinitely (apparently there are contracts out there now trying to get authors to do this).

    Also, it needn’t be an either or decision. Maybe you’ll publish your novel traditionally, but e-publishing some short stories to make a little extra or as part of a marketing campaign.

    ~Lindsay
    P.S. Thanks for the retweet on Twitter. 🙂

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