Matthew 17:20, my favorite verse. "... If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you."

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Traditional Publishing versus Self -Publishing by CaSondra Poulsen

Today I'd like to welcome author CaSondra Poulsen. She agreed to share with us her experiences with both traditional publishing and self-publishing.

Thank you, Regina for inviting me to be a guest blogger. I am honored.

The following article is not an all-inclusive comparison between Traditional and Self-Publishing. It is meant for a starting point for the reader who is exploring the options before them.

My first book, Torn Hearts was published by Tate Publishing. They are a small traditional publishing house that isn’t afraid to take a chance on first time authors. I learned much from them as my book progressed through each stage of publishing and Torn Hearts is still under contract with them.

However, I had the desire to spread my wings a little farther with my second and third books, Calling Me Home and Finding Home Brian’s Journey. I chose to self-publish them under Ballad Publishing and have had rewarding success in doing so. So much so, that my husband and I are in the process of opening Ballad Publishing for submissions from other authors! I will let Regina know when we go public so she can pass the news on to her readers.

Each author has their own reasons for wanting to publish their work(s). I hope this article is of useful information for you and the links that are included add to you making a knowledgeable decision.

If you would like to keep up with what I’m working on or have a question for me, you can friend me on Facebook. I look forward to hearing from you.


Traditional Publishing versus Self -Publishing


There is so much information on the web for publishing. To be honest, it seems a bit overwhelming. There is no doubt the publishing industry is undergoing major changes. Technology has a lot to do with a vast majority of these changes and that should prompt authors to change as well. However, even with the digital uprising, older authors in particular, cling to what they’ve known since childhood…paper, ink, the traditional way of publishing. This is changing as younger generations enter the world of writing. They are growing up with Kindles, Ipads, and Nooks, not 4-color press ink printed books.

So what does this mean for Traditional Publishing and Self-Publishing (Vanity Presses)?

When you think of Traditional Publishing the tendency is to imagine getting a sizeable advance on the manuscript you’ve poured your heart and soul into, maybe even get a movie deal. There is also the prestige of having one of the major publishing houses, Random House, Simon & Schuster, or Hachette Books Group stamped on your work. They pour thousands of dollars into promoting your book and you get to bask in the glory of the sales with the affirmation that the world loves your writing.

In truth, most writers do not even get looked at by the big publishing houses because they don’t accept manuscripts that do not have an agent. Even those that are fortunate enough to have an agent soliciting their work get turned away. The best way to get your foot in the door is to have an author who is already signed with a publishing house endorse your manuscript.

So let’s say you got your foot in the door. When you sign the contract and accept whatever advancement on your manuscript that has been agreed upon, what does this mean? It means you have sold your copyright. Yes, you get to have that major publishing house stamped on a book you wrote, but no longer own. Yes, the world will recognize you, even among the strictest in the industry, as a published author. You won’t get a royalty check until you have sold enough copies to cover the advancement and then, the royalties are 6-15% of sales. They are in control of the editing, although you will work with the editor to make the changes you are told to make. The publisher, also, has control of what the cover art will look like. The biggest let down is that your book may not be released for 2-3 years, maybe more. All publishing houses are in the business to make money. The big guys, like mentioned above, know the market well. They have some of the best in the industry working for them, but the most valuable resource they can offer you is marketing. They have all the right connections already in place. You, however, will still be expected to promote the book. Having a platform to do this is a necessity. 

Self-Publishing has its appeal and its hurdles. Some of the appeal is you maintain all copyrights to your work. That which is published is what you dreamed it would be, delivering the message you intended. You can avoid having to write a query letter and synopsis. Although, I highly recommend anyone considering self-publishing to write each with every work they complete.  Your royalties are 30-80% of sales. You can pump out books as fast as you can write them. There is no waiting for the market to be just right. You will have complete control over all aspects of the book including, editing, layout, cover design, and pricing. You can even have Ingram as a distributor! It all sounds euphoric for some, but in reality, self-publishing is a great deal of work. Yes, you get all the benefits and all the responsibility. You’ll need to find a great editor (critique groups can work, if they have an eye for details), a cover designer, a layout designer, a printer, a publicist, and a marketing representative. Or, you can save a ton of money and do the work yourself.

This sounds a bit taxing when reading it, but it can be fun and quite rewarding. Even traditionally published authors are now self-publishing, such as, Barry Eisler (he turned down a $500,000 contract) and Jennie Nash. You will need to educate yourself before diving in. There are many websites that specialize in each area of the publishing process, as well as, small publishing houses that specialize in helping new authors without giving up copyrights or creative license. Do your homework on them, ask questions before you sign a contract, and you should be fine. If you want to do it all yourself, Createspace, Lulu, Smashwords, Pubit, KDP, and NovelNook, among many others are great places start. Some of them can help you with cover design, as well. The important thing is to make sure you put out a professional product. If you self-publish and your book doesn’t have a professional looking cover and the copy is littered with spelling and punctuation errors, you are setting yourself up for failure. You will lose the small audience that took a chance on you as an unknown author. You CAN NOT afford to be sloppy. And if you are, you have no one to blame, except yourself.

In the end, the biggest difference is marketing ability.  Either way, traditional or self-publishing you will have to promote your work. There are hundreds of thousands of books available for consumers; the key is setting your work apart from the crowd. Find a successful self-published author, find out what she/he did, and repeat the steps for your book.

E-books, in particular, are worth the time to self-publish. According to The Association of American Publishers in the first quarter of 2012 adult E-Book sales were $282 million while adult hardcover sales were $229 million. In 2011 hardcover sales out-sold E-books. If this trend continues printed books will continue to go down. It doesn’t take much work to convert your book into the various E-book formats. It’s all about the marketing and getting your book noticed.

Here’s a thought…

In many ways, the new traditional publishing is self-publishing and vanity publishing is the traditional route. What do I mean this? Well, aside from what we discussed already, some authors holdout for the endorsement from one of the big New York publishing houses. They want that name stamped on their book, even if they don’t sell many copies and it ends up making them unmarketable later. That is vanity, is it not? Here’s a good article to elaborate on this point.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bernard-starr/the-new-vanity-publishing_b_1821945.html

For a final thought on Traditional versus Self-Publishing ponder this…many of the traditional publishing houses are scanning the Bestseller Lists for successful self-published author.  Why not? The author has already established a platform for marketing, has a following, and most importantly has proven they can sell books. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/16/technology/personaltech/ins-and-outs-of-publishing-your-book-via-the-web.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Now all that’s left is you to ask, what do I want in a publisher?
Thank you CaSondra for stopping by and sharing. Following are links to CaSondra's books on Amazon but they can also be found wherever books are sold.


  1. I was with you until you equated self-publishing with Vanity Publishing. Vanity Publishing is when you pay someone to publish your book for you. Self-publishing is just that. Your 'self' does it. People who publish their own e-books are a little sensitive about that.

  2. A vanity press or vanity publisher is a publishing house that publishes books at the author's expense. This is different from most self-publishing authors who hire independent freelancers to edit, proofread, and product the book, including graphic design for the cover and internal page design if the author is producing a POD book. You might want to differentiate between the two terms.

    The phrase "vanity press" is also generally considered to be pejorative, despite the fact that in pretty much every other industry no one looks down on business owners who fund their own start-up company. And self-publishing authors do just that: they invest in creating a quality product (their book) that they later market to readers.

  3. And self-publishers don't necessarily hire out the work. It probably depends on your commitment and your resources.