Self-publishing vs traditionally publishing: choosing the right fit


Writing has evolved to a new level of professionalism.

A few decades ago a successful writer meant a person with a clever imagination and the right set of words to describe a scene colorfully. Today, a writer – to be successful needs a lot more.

Do you know why?

Because the competition has increased so colossally that an exceptionally well written book can be overlooked if the writer doesn’t possess the right set of skills to call the right attention to the manuscript.

Things like blogging, a catching bio, the right agent – and let’s not forget good timing.

Why good timing? Because if you’re writing about something everyone out there have been writing about for a good while, the publishing industries start demanding for diversity, making your book indistinguishable from the next, causing the agents or publishing houses to push your work aside, searching for that diversity among their slush pile.

So why would they choose your work instead of someone else’s?

Sometimes, having a unique voice and a clever dialogue makes the difference, and we get the next NYT bestseller, even if the plot theme is a typical one. Consequently, if you write about something different, original, or weird enough , with a good plot and a good protagonist, then your chances of success are higher than most.

Still, the publishing industry is still evolving and competition is growing exponentially and it’s hard to find an original out there that no one – or very few – have written about.

For that reason, aside from writing a very good manuscript, you should also push up your sleeves and help the work get done.

What? How? And more important: What else is there to do besides writing?

There is Editing, then editing and more editing. And let’s not forget, there’s editing. Until you’ve memorized every comma placement in that 500 page manuscript and there’s nothing else to add or delete or correct.

That, my friend, is very, sadly, extremely important.

But the editor . . .?

Due to the increasing demands of publishing, most editors no longer have time to edit book the way they used to before. So when you present that very good manuscript full of typos, spelling and grammatical mistakes, poor margins and so on, the agent frowns down at it and starts wondering about your level of commitment to your book.

And just like that, there’s a very high chance your manuscript will be sent back with a polite apology.

That’s if you’re trying for an agent. But if you’re self-publishing?

Well, imagine that great book full of typos and spelling and grammatical mistakes. Now imagine yourself paying a few dollars for a book – only to find it full of cringe-worthy mistakes: wide or weird margins, bad format, spelling and grammar mistakes, punctuations that don’t make any sense or cut a sentence in two.

Would you buy the next book by that author?

Most wouldn’t.

Moving on, you have that social networking issue. Are you willing to help promote your book or do you think that’s a job for someone else?

Since the early 2000’s, digital stores began shouldering their way to the top, making it a highly demandable industry. Many writers have forgone the entire agent/publishing house step and moved directly to the kindle stores, publishing their own books. Do they succeed?

Certainly. Even the bad books – the ones full of mistakes – do occasionally sell exceptionally well.

Do you know why?

Social media.

A lot of e-books out there have gone viral simply because the author has a large social network with lots of traffic. You know that thing about word of mouth recommendation? People do that on the social media, get others curious about that extra-ordinary book so and so couldn’t put down.

I actually once read a book full of typos and grammar mistakes that sold over a million copies in just a few months.

I know, I was incredulous too. But such is the worth of social media.

Accordingly, Agents, editors and publishing houses know that promoting yourself and your book are on par with success and so they encourage writers to do it – some even demand it.

Discouraging, huh?

A person might be out there, piling incredibly excellent manuscripts in a drawer just because the book fits a tired industry or because that person lacks the right set of skills to catch the eye of that particular agent.

So what do writers do?

They self-publish.

Even if self-publishing still demands that social media thingy, the writer has more control over his book there. The book will sell, though it would be according to the writer’s ability to network and promote.

And that is why self-publishing books have skyrocketed these past years.

Not because of the social skills, mind you, though in some cases that’s exactly it, but because it’s more expedient now-a-days to finish a manuscript and self-publish than spend time researching and querying agents and waiting for a response, then a request, then a possible rejection – only to start the process all over again. It’s nerve wrecking, and a lot of times depressing. Sometimes it takes months. Sometimes a few weeks. Like I just said, it takes time, and for some, catching that agent is worth all the waiting. Sometimes though, it’s frustrating to realize you’ve found that perfect agent to represent that incredibly good book, only to get a prompt rejection because the agent – or because the publishing house – found something that didn’t interest him/her in that query letter.

In my opinion, if you’re determined to find an agent, keep querying. But if you’re sure your book is pretty good, then don’t let the rejections stop you: keep querying – or just – do it yourself.


Jina S. Bazzar