Traditional or self-publishing: that is the question


It’s time to report back about the status of my novel. First of all, I’m happy to say I’ve completed revision nine. The purpose was to cut out unnecessary words and bring my word count more in keeping with the number agents and publishers suggest.

Papa’s Shoes (working title)

After I added a lot of needed new material, as suggested by my critical assessment editor, my word count grew from 85,000 to 103, 052 words. So, my goal was to cut at least 5,000 of them. I’m happy to say I exceeded my goal, and cut 5,675 words. Hopefully I didn’t cut anything that I’ll have to put back later.

My next job is to break up several long chapters into smaller ones. That is an easy fix.

And now I feel I’m at a point to think about getting my book published. The question is, should I shop around for an agent or publisher or should I self-publish? That’s a question I never thought I’d be asking. I’ve always said I didn’t want to self-publish. I didn’t self-publish my memoir, so why go that route with my novel?

However, I recently talked to a very satisfied self-publisher. He asked why would I want to give money away to a publisher when I could keep it for myself. Good question because even though I have a memoir publisher, I still do most of the marketing myself, and he gets half my profits. But then again, he edited my book and paid for making my books and ebooks.

So, with an open mind I attended a panel discussion on self-publishing, sponsored by the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society this past weekend, and it was quite eye-opening.

The main plus, the panel said, for self-publishing is the authors keep total control of his/her book. The minuses are: the author must pay for editing (something I intend to do either way), the cover design, and book formatting and pay a lot.  Each of the panel members seemed happy with their decision to self-publish; however, there were a lot of caveats presented about how it’s so easy to be scammed by editors, cover designers, and others involved with the making and publishing of a book. They also warned not to try to self-publish on the cheap. Remember, they said, you get what you pay for.

Since my next step is to hire a line editor (anyone out there know of a good one?) before I begin either the query letter process or turn to self-publishing, I still have time to think and study about how to proceed. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

And please tell me your experiences in the world of traditional vs. self-publishing. My readers and I would love to know your stories.


  1. When I wrote my memoir I knew I would go with traditional publishing or not at all. It wasn’t easy-memoirs are hard to sell, but in the end I signed a publishing contract with a small press. The way I see it, is that anyone can self-publish. Anyone. Not everyone can publish traditionally. I fully understand why in some cases self-publishing may be better for some authors. The problem, however, is that many people write books that are lacking in quality, dragging down the ones that are well done. Granted, there are traditionally published books that aren’t that great, but that’s subjective. For me, a book that has been properly vetted is one that has a better chance in a flooded book market.

    • Madeline Sharples says

      I totally agree with you, Linda. I welcome the chance to have my book properly vetted and to have the feeling that it was good enough to be published traditionally. I don’t regret going with a small press with my memoir. It took 68 query letters and was well worth it. Thanks for your comment. Please come back again.

  2. I recently heard an agent talk to writers about getting an agent, and it was the usual spiel. But mostly, there was just this attitude thing going on that I have heard again and again, ad nauseum, from agents. Which is why I decided, again, not to get back into that chase. I did it for years and all I got was chronic rejection and was made to feel ashamed of what is actually a major gift that I have. My books do sell and people do like them, so being vetted by an agent is not the issue. That “proper vetting” only goes so far. What an agent is looking for is something that he can sell. Same with a publisher. And that’s all they’re looking for. I’ve read self-published books that were complete gems and I’ve read a few that sucked pond water. Guess what? I’ve read some traditionally published books that sucked pond water, too. I would love a chance to be traditionally published again. But having been there, I don’t need it and am done with seeking it out. There are more interesting ways to make yourself crazy. Trust me.

  3. Small presses are often an “illusion” in that they claim to represent “traditional publishing” but are little more than a few friends who have collaborated to tap into marketing books that interest them or who know would-be authors open to investing in their editing services and buying books from them. A lot of small presses are unreliable in terms of paying royalty checks, marketing is virtually nonexistent and charges to buy the book to sell on your own are considerably higher than for an independent publisher, such as myself. Many small “publishers” go bankrupt and anyone these days can call themselves a publisher or an agent with little to no background or credentials. I set my own prices on Kindle, I market as I want and I price my books as I want. So, in fact, Madeline, you paid your publisher many times over for the editing and making of your books in lost royalties and in less profit for paperback sales. That said, there will always be those who denigrate self-publishing, but, in fact, those who do are new to the business and have no idea what they’re talking about. If I were you, I’d go for self-publishing. You’re an excellent marketer and you know the business as well as anyone. And you don’t need the validation of saying you were traditionally published since, as you point out, you’ve already gone that route. Be aware, however, that self-publishing is entrepreneurial from the editing to the cover design to promotion …. but, as I said, you have the savvy to do all of that and who knows your book better than you do? If ebook sales take off, who knows? You might catch the eye of Amazon..

    • Thanks so much, Susan, for your input and kind words about me. I’m still on the fence, and I still have a little time left to mull it over. I will definitely consider your advice. You certainly have been a huge success going the self-publishing routine. I very much admire your work. If you have the time, I’d like to keep this conversation going while I’m working through this.

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