Self Publishing or Traditional? Why It Doesn’t Matter.

Traditional versus self-publishing has been a hot topic for quite some time now, with authors divided vehemently between the two. I have clients who are self-published and wouldn’t have it any other way. I also have clients who went the traditional route via agent to publisher and would never dream of doing it different.

When we think about our writing career and the publishing industry today we tend to focus on all the differences, and which way is better. We can become obsessed with which way is the “right way” for us.

The truth is that it’s hard for all of us.

Sometimes that gets lost in the shuffle.

Whether you’re self-published, officially represented, or not published at all yet, writing is damn hard work. Building a writing career is even harder.

Writers deal with self-doubt, frustration, disappointment, rejection, fatigue, stress, and burnout.

In fact, an average writer can be hit with all of that in just one week.

But we also experience thrilling highs—euphoria, satisfied accomplishment, hope, anticipation, excitement and pure joy.

Being a writer today is pretty much like riding a rollercoaster all day long, and then at night the park shuts down and the employees forget to let you off the ride.

All of you know the fluttery jump in the stomach when you find out if your manuscript has a future. You also know those agonizingly long periods of waiting in between jumps. You know what it’s like to practice your pitch, hone your pitch, and then make your pitch over and over until you never want to hear it again.

You know what’s it like to spend a few months on a novel only to discover that it’s dead in the water. And what it’s like to fall in love overnight with a brand new character. You understand how it feels to hear voices no one else can hear, and see scenes unfold inside your head. And how incredibly hard that is to explain to someone who is not a writer.

No matter what we write, or how we choose to publish our work, we are the same.

Every single writer out there has a tough row to hoe. It’s hard for all of us, and it’s usually the most challenging thing we’ve ever done in our whole lives.

The only way to get through it is to stick together.

Writers need other writers. We need supportive friends and mentors, creative confidantes, and a strong writing community. Any form of jealousy, unhealthy competition, and petty squabbling among us has got to go.

For years we’ve been at the mercy of big publishers and now many of us are the mercy of Amazon. Most of us have to devote massive amounts of energy toward breaking out of being anonymous. We’ve got to help each other out.

We’ve got to connect with our fellow writers, promote our fellow writers, and maybe most importantly, read our fellow writers.

Do what you can each day for the writers you know and love. Give a writer friend a pat on the back. Find time in your busy schedule to read another writer’s work, and make sure you talk about it to others. Look into the writing groups in your local area to see if one might be a fit for you.

Writers can find strength in numbers. But it has to start with each individual writer first. Reach out to a fellow writer today and start making the difference.

If you enjoyed this article you might want to check out:

What Your Writing Tribe Says about You

Why Every Writer Needs Community

Who’s in YOUR Writing Sangha?

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13 Comments

  • Reply Marc Tanenbaum 13 August, 2014 at 9:01 am

    A very nice piece, and particularly relevant for me because I’ve just launched a website designed to help writers find as you put it “strength in numbers”. The site — https://www.quilli.us — creates a social network around you and what you’re writing. I won’t blether on with a self-serving ad, but we’re just getting going and are very interested in building a close-knit community of working and aspiring writers.

    All the best,

    Marc @QuilliusApp

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 13 August, 2014 at 10:06 am

      Looks really cool Marc! I will definitely check it out!

  • Reply Joel Blackwell 13 August, 2014 at 9:04 am

    Your choice in publishing methods determines whether you get 8% or 80% of the money. For many writers, this equation is not a factor.

  • Reply Gisele LeBlanc 13 August, 2014 at 10:00 am

    Lauren, what an inspiring post! Thank you so much for what you do. You are a gift to all of us.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 13 August, 2014 at 10:07 am

      Thank you Gisele 🙂 As always, I appreciate the kind words.

  • Reply Brian C. E. Buhl 13 August, 2014 at 10:38 am

    I think you’re right, in that the act of writing is the same regardless of how you put your work out there. The labor of writing is the same, and the needs of the writer during and surrounding that effort is the same.

    To illustrate this, you could add a third publishing method to self-published and traditional published: non-published. That is, a person that is writing and crafting, with no intention of putting their work in print. The crafting of the story is same. The nights are equally long for all storytellers, whether they’re creating something they’re going to share or not. They all need community, and support, and other eyes to temper the metal of their tale.

    So the question of how to publish isn’t really a writing question at all. It’s a business question.

    I submit that the decision surrounding how to publish has very little to do with writing, and more to do with the motivations of the author. It also has to do with the shape of the industry, and the different risks involved in both paths.

    If you were to listen to people like Hugh Howey, it’s a much greater risk to go with the traditional route, because of the contractual obligations that are involved. Hugh and others will also point out that the writer gets a larger portion of the net sales per book than the traditionally published.

    On the other hand, the traditional route offers other support. You may be getting a lower percentage per sale, but you’re buying the support of editors, agents, and marketers, all working with you to promote your book and make sure that it sells. Publish on your own, and you have to wear all those hats yourself.

    For myself, I think the right answer is to dip my toe into the self publishing pool, and see what the water is like. I’ll learn something from the experience. And, from what I’ve been learning about the industry, traditional publishers are more interested in people that have started with self publishing than they have been at any other time.

    Good article, Lauren! Thanks for posting it.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 13 August, 2014 at 11:36 am

      Well said Brian!

      I’ve learned so much from my clients and friends who have self-published and also those who have gone the traditional route. I think the only thing any of us knows for sure is that the entire publishing industry is going to continue to go through epic changes in the coming years.

      • Reply Gisele LeBlanc 13 August, 2014 at 11:49 am

        More and more authors are pursuing both paths, too–the “hybrid” author. It seems very appealing to me, since each publishing form has its own pros and cons. 🙂

  • Reply Mari Biella 14 August, 2014 at 1:09 am

    A wonderful post, Lauren. I increasingly think that the distinction between traditionally- and self-published is irrelevant: we’re all writers, and all having to deal with what that means! We should try to stick together.

    The industry is changing, and will continue to change. The Big Six (or Five) may not be around forever; but then again, Amazon might not be around forever. Writers will. That’s the difference.

  • Reply Jon Simmonds 14 August, 2014 at 3:51 am

    Self-publishing, traditional publishing… it’s all publishing and the barriers should gradually (or quickly) fade. In the same way that we used to think of online shopping and offline shopping, whereas we now buy what we want, where we want, when we want. The sooner everyone stops sniping at the other faction who choose a different path and realises – as you so beautifully express above – that we’re all in it together, the better. A splendid sentiment, which you’ve expressed perfectly Lauren.

  • Reply hilarycustancegreen 15 August, 2014 at 9:12 am

    I try to support other writers. I’d be interested in a post about how honest you can be with fellow writers. I sometimes find myself reading stuff that shows that the writer is still on the bottom rung of the ladder. I’m only one rung higher, but cannot, in honesty, say to them, ‘that’s wonderful, darling’. Yet my first mentor, a wonderful academic, said very little, except ‘go on’. I have learnt so much from the brave friends who have said, this don’t work, but it’s tricky when you know how vulnerable a writer is.

  • Reply Justin Meckes 18 August, 2014 at 5:03 am

    Thanks for the post, Lauren. I agree. Writers need writers. I’ve started an open mic in Durham, NC (where I live) and it’s beginning to turn into a great writer’s community. We had a reader last night recite a poem. It was called something like “Waist Deep in Waiting.” We can all relate to that.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 18 August, 2014 at 4:21 pm

      That sounds awesome Justin! I so admire you for having the guts to do open mic. I honestly can’t imagine anything more terrifying to me! You totally rock.

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