Why I’m Turning Trad-Pub Deals Down

A Dandelion blowing in front of a blue sky demonstrates the freedom of rejecting trad-pub deals.

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

I’ve been asked by writers and others if I’d ever query traditional publishers again.

As a matter of fact, I’ve gotten queried by traditional publishers a couple of times in the past year.  I’m not really sure why, since there now seem to be many cozy writers out there. I’ve politely rejected them.

It’s not that I had a bad trad-pub experience. It’s just that I’ve had a better self-pub experience.

Reasons I’ve decided to stick with self-publishing:

I make more money writing independently of a publisher.  This is by far the top reason. I even made more self-publishing a few books than I did with more traditionally published books on the shelves.

I exploit all my rights and publish my book in a variety of formats or internationally. I can expand my reach to find more readers.  Publishers frequently hold onto your international, audio book rights, etc.

I can make changes to my self-published books.  Sometimes I’ll hear from readers about formatting or typos in my trad-published books…and it’s very frustrating knowing there’s nothing I can do.

I can make changes to my online profiles at the retailers and distributors I deal directly with.  I had to deal with a lot of red tape to even get my photo up on Penguin Random House’s site last week. I was stunned to find it wasn’t up there. After all, I’ve written for the publisher since 2010 and my photo was available to them for the backs of the books.

The only reason I was able to jump through the hoops and get the picture uploaded was because an employee at Penguin for the Berkley imprint went above and beyond the call of duty as a conduit between me and the art department.  My Memphis books aren’t listed or linked to on the page…they’re stranded in some sort of Nowhere Land without an author bio or picture, but at this point I  don’t have the time to deal with it.  Plus, my Riley Adams profile there has no bio or picture.

I can run promotions on books with lagging sales. I can make a book free. I can give a book away to gain newsletter subscribers (and then inform them of new releases for later sales gains). I can run quick weekend sales to make my books more visible on retail sites.

I can devote all my time and best ideas to the series that will pay me best. If I wrote an additional series for a trade publisher, I wouldn’t have as much time to devote to my other series.  I felt at the end of my traditional publishing that I was saving my best ideas for my ‘own’ books.

I don’t feel the need to prove anything. Originally, it did feel good to be validated by a gatekeeper…I was a newer writer and I needed that. Now, I prefer reader validation. It’s ultimately more valuable.

I have price control. If I switched back to traditional publishing, my readers would experience higher prices for my new books and they’d be emailing me to ask me why.

I can choose my book covers. I got lucky with the covers I had from Penguin Random House.  But going from complete creative control over the covers back to no control (they did always ask me what I thought of a cover before they signed off on it, but if I hadn’t liked it, I’m not sure they’d have pulled it/reworked it) would be challenging.

I can release books when I want. There could be large gaps between books: more than a year.  Now I can release a couple of books in the same series in a year’s time, if I like.

There were also certain things about traditional publishing that I just didn’t like.  For one,  I didn’t like losing my editors to layoffs, etc.  This meant I was an ‘orphaned’ writer whose series would likely not get renewed.

I didn’t like the contracts that I was seeing with non-compete clauses. I didn’t like being offered digital-only contracts later in the game.

What do you like about self-publishing? Or, to hear the other side, what draws you to traditional publishing?

Photo via Visualhunt.com

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83 thoughts on “Why I’m Turning Trad-Pub Deals Down

  1. I had four manuscripts drafted by 2008. I kick myself sometimes for waiting until 2013 to self-publish and wasting time querying. I’ve been able to find my own editors and cover designers. I did have to switch a few times when it wasn’t working out, but that was easier done outside a house than not.

    I’ve met traditionally published writers who have been upset not to have any control over their covers, and others lucky enough to score international contracts who had to wait months to hear from flaky editors. I wouldn’t give up the control I have now, especially if it meant a smaller share of profits.

    1. At least those manuscripts aren’t in a drawer somewhere! They’re published and available to read.

      My publishers had particular ways of doing things and weren’t interested in exploiting rights (holding the rights, yes, exploiting them, no.) There was no talk of international deals or audio.

            1. Deb–I know..ugh. That definitely didn’t help! Too much duplication of positions, too much duplication in imprints (so had to eliminate some imprints). It almost seems to me that they could have just reorganized and not had a merger (maybe embraced digital sooner and switched to POD). Moving out of expensive Manhattan would help, too.

      1. Elizabeth, following these comments, trying to learn how to promote self-published books, ebooks. I got a good start with a big NY house prior to 9-11: great editor willing to publish many of my Southern novels; full length reviews in Ny Times and many other newspapers, even People, and USA Today. Lots of critical acclaim… Then my editor retired and I got lost in the shuffle. I published a few more novels with small presses, but low sales got me. So, I started selfpublishing my ebooks, only. But I’ve not done well, mainly because I’ve not managed to figure out best way to promote them. What’s your secret? Like you I like the control…no more agents (I’ve had a dozen) to get past to get to a publisher. Sick of that game. I would appreciate any advice you can give me. Thanks

        1. When editors leave, that’s when the trouble really starts! Happened to me 3 times.

          Much of the stuff I do is boring, but effective. The most effective tool is newsletters (which I was a slow adopter of). If you have fewer subscribers, bump them up quickly by joining with other authors in your genre to do a group giveaway through Instafreebie. I send newsletters only when I have releases and my books start selling right away.

          Generally, I’d advise to go wide and not put all my eggs in one basket at Amazon. I’d have audiobooks made (ACX) and I’d make sure my books were available internationally through distributors like Draft2Digital, Smashwords, PublishDrive, and StreetLib.

          Do your books show up at the top of the page when you Google them? Do you get a ‘rich result’ in the sidebar (a cover and more info about you and the book)?

          Make sure your metadata is all very consistent to help with your book and author SEO. For example, when listing my series title, sometimes I wasn’t being consistent: is it “A Myrtle Clover Cozy Mystery?” “Myrtle Clover Cozy Mysteries?” Or “A Myrtle Clover Mystery”?

          This is really all that I do. I ran 2 Facebook ads for about 3 days apiece in 2015 and that’s as much as I’ve dabbled into ads. I’ve never had a BookBub. So what I do isn’t really *marketing* per se …it’s working behind the scenes and making my books available to people who might be interested in reading them. Oh…and back matter. I think I do market in back matter–I ask for reviews and I link to my newsletter and tell them they’ll get a free book on signup. Hope this helps!

    2. I have an academic book coming out in a few weeks through a prestigious higher education publisher and I hate the cover. Someone also changed one of my sentences after the copy edit and proofreading stages to mean exactly the opposite of what it should. So embarrassing.

      1. That feeling of being out of control is probably the worst. Usually you can’t really do anything about the cover. But I’m surprised they changed copy without your approval. I always had to approve everything…even the front matter/publishing info at the front of the book. I’m sorry–that must be so incredibly frustrating for you.

  2. YES! Okay, so I was never a trad-pub author, but I’ve heard enough over the years to make me very glad I never went that route. I love that I can fix the occasional typo when a reader points it out. Takes me like ten minutes tops to fix it and then upload the corrected file to Amazon. I also love that I never have to worry about my publisher going belly-up and leaving me dangling, because I’m my own publisher. If, heaven forbid, Amazon ever goes belly-up, all my books are still mine and I can distribute them elsewhere. I have an editor I <3 and she'll be my editor until she decides not to be, and then I can choose another without worrying too much because there are tons of quality editors out there. What I really love, though, is the control. It's all mine. Bwa ha ha.

    Then again, all the faults and headaches are mine, too. But I can live with the trade-off. =o)

    1. B.E.–I’ve heard some nightmare stories from trad-pub authors at conferences and am glad I had such a good experience (just an experience that I don’t want to extend, ha!)

      You’re right, there are so many wonderful, qualified freelance editors out there.

      I never worried about my publisher going belly-up, because it was Penguin. BUT! I didn’t really foresee the merger between Penguin and Random House and the subsequent loss of my editor (which really sounded the death knoll for me–I needed to take my characters and go).

  3. Hi Elizabeth – congratulations for making the decision … so much easier, when you know what you’re doing, and not waiting on others … and you are making a success of it … thanks for this interesting and enlightening post – cheers Hilary

  4. I’m not quite as well known as you but, because I write most of my books for a very specific audience, there are publishers devoted to that audience who do very well by it. They exist because most mainstream, New York publishing houses wouldn’t/still won’t touch the books – they said there was no market – at the time that these smaller houses formed. I’ve been hesitant to approach any of them for many of the reasons that you listed. I don’t have a huge audience yet but it’s growing and I don’t see where they can give me much more than I’m already doing for myself. There’s been a learning curve, yes, but I’ve gotten there.

    Now I’m seeing a trend toward authors in the genre forming their own publishing companies and taking on other authors. I’ve been approached by a couple of these operations. Other than advantages that they can get with service companies in the publishing industry, I see little advantage to their authors. There are no advances. Your rights get tied up for a while and yet their marketing power is little more than my own so new books tend to languish after two weeks or maybe as much as 30 days on the market as they move on to pushing other works. They typically have one editor for a stable of authors which, for someone like me who wants to put out six books a year, just isn’t going to work.

    And, speaking of covers, one start-up publishing company I’m familiar with has given most in their stable of authors some pretty dreadful covers. Sometimes the imagery doesn’t work at all but even when it does, in almost all cases, the titles are small and disappear on the page. In thumbnails, you can’t even see them/read them. They’re doing their authors a disservice by releasing new works with these covers.

    1. Anne–One of the publishers who approached me was niche and overseas. But still…I can tap into that market on my own, with a little effort (as a matter of fact, I’m starting to now). I couldn’t see putting myself or them through the trouble.

      I think it can be a good choice for writers who only want to publish a book or two and have no plans of making a career. It’s a steep learning curve for just a couple of books.

      I was lucky with my covers. I have seen some truly hideous trad-pub covers (of course, I’ve seen some truly hideous self-pub covers too, ha!)

  5. Thanks for your thoughts on this, Elizabeth. Since you’ve had both kinds of experiences, you’re really in a good position to decide what will work best for you. And there are, as you point out, good reasons not to go with a traditional publisher. I’ve been trying to address the same question for myself, so it’s good to have your thoughts on it.

    1. Margot–The biggest thing to consider is the time it takes to learn this stuff. Even then, you can go to a reputable company that can set you up with a cover, editing, and formatting and retain your rights.

  6. You already know how to publish a book. A digital only contract would be a big loss of money to you. You have the advantage of being a known author now thanks to those traditional publishers and making more money publishing yourself makes the most sense.

  7. Thank you, Elizabeth. I’ve read quite a few things regarding self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, but this is the most thorough and practical one. When it comes time for me to publish, I think I know what I’m going to do. :)

  8. I went with self-publishing because I didn’t have a choice – unless I wanted to wait for months and years to find an agent and then hopefully, a publisher. But now I love the process of creating the whole thing (except for the marketing part). So I’m really happy for you that it’s proving to be more lucrative for you as well as creatively more satisfying.

  9. Like you, I was published by Penguin (“Writers Gone Wild”, 2010) and they did a fantastic job. Then Borders imploded the month of publication, the books came back, and that was that.

    I’ve been self-publishing for several years, but very niche products so I don’t earn much money off them. But I enjoyed reviving three out-of-print books about murderer William Palmer, and publishing annotated editions of Sherlock Holmes parodies.

    But most of all I love the control I have over their look and design, I can write the editorial notes I want and don’t have to get them approved by anyone else. I’m looking forward in the coming year to publishing more popular (I hope) books and doing them exactly the way I want them.

    1. Bill–We had releases there at about the same time. :) You bring up another good point–returns. A bookstore chain closes, ships the books back to the publisher, and impacts our ability to earn out. And publishers aren’t forgiving sometimes about conditions that lead to a book not earning out.

      Sounds like you’ve got some very interesting projects that satisfy you and the niche reader. (I’m reading an annotated Alice in Wonderland now and loving it…annotations are a great market, I think).

      And now that you’re looking forward to writing with an eye on the market, you’ve got complete control over that and can deliver your unique twists to the genre. Hope it goes well this year for you!

  10. Personally, I want to traditionally publish at least one book/series. There are two reasons. Yes, there’s the validation, but there’s also the whole get-your-name-out-there thing. While traditional publishers will not market you like their A list if you’re on the B or lower lists, they will market you more than I can myself. Once that first book/series is traditionally published and out there, my name is out there. Schools (I write children’s) and libraries will have at least heard about me. This should also boost previously self-pubished titles. After that, I’ll make a decision, but hopefully, one day, I’ll get traditionally published. Until then, I’ll just have to settle for what I publish myself.

    1. N.A. I know that some children’s lit can be tricky to sell as an indie. It’s good that you’re thinking through this carefully and for the right reasons. I’d just recommend to keep an eye on your contracts (even if you have an agent) and to set a deadline for yourself in terms of how long you’re wanting to query so you won’t stall your project out.

    2. This is the situation my writing partner and I are in at the moment, too. The books we’ve self-published are more niche. The book we are putting the final touches on is MG Fantasy and would be more popular. However, querying agents has been frustrating. Most say, in form-letter style, that the market is saturated. We were tying traditional publishing just to get the recognition indies lack.

  11. I love being my own boss. I launched a publishing house for my self-published book, Bandstand Diaries. I refer to a paid project manager when I have questions. Now that the book is out for four months, I handle the fulfilment and shipping myself. I love marketing and publicity, but did hire a public relations company for a one month retainer. We are being featured in some pretty prominent media, so we feel blessed.

    1. Sharon–Congratulations on the successful promo! I’m hoping you’re also relying on a print-on-demand company like CreateSpace or IngramSpark to help you distribute books (it will save you lots of time).

  12. I agree with all that–I’ve been indie for 28 books now–but I still am interested in getting the right tradpub deal. By the right one, I don’t mean more money than I can make on my own, though. My goal is to trade some money for entry into a new, untapped market.

    I’ve heard that most readers don’t care whether something’s indie or traditionally published, and that’s true to a point–but there are some readers whose main source of reading is a trade publisher, even one particular trade publisher, with a stable of genre authors they like, and who get their books, at least for a time, featured in bookstores and airports across the nation and the world. Those readers, especially some less digitally minded ones, may never cruise the Amazon lists for their next book. Those are the ones I hope to add to my fan base by fishing in a different pond.

    But as you see, my goal is still to strengthen my indie side and sales thereby, rather than wanting to throw in with the tradpub world.

  13. I guess the still wanting traditional would depend on the publisher. I’m with Montlake, Amazon Publishing’s romance line. And Amazon does stuff for me that I simply can’t do for myself marketing-wise. I still plan on continuing to publish independently and hope that my well marketed traditional books will help my indie books and find me new readers. (Not to mention that they are an absolute delight to work with – I’ve run into none of the problems so many other traditional authors warn about.) It’s also afforded me the opportunity to be a part of a new kind of technology – Kindle In Motion – for my latest novella, Royal Design. It was a lot of fun participating in that process.

    I recently had a Skype session with a well-known, well-respected author and told him about the direction I’d like my career to take (where I hope to go next with a YA romance). And he advised me that I’d have to bite the bullet, get an agent and try for New York in order to hit that next level. I don’t know if that’s true, and I may test the waters a bit to see what it would be like, but I’m pretty disenchanted with NY.

    I love publishing independently for all the reasons you mentioned – and some indie authors naturally find an audience and grow it easily. But for others, it’s much more difficult. We may have to think of some alternative routes to grow our readership

    1. Sariah–I’ve heard good things about Amazon’s imprint. And I’m with you…I just don’t think NY is the cutting-edge place for publishing right now, and it’s too hard to hit that next level by trying to push our stuff through their system. Amazon is certainly thinking outside the box. Again, though, no matter the publisher…watch those contracts. *Especially* if you don’t have an agent (and it sounds like you might not).

      Unfortunately, I suspect if an indie author isn’t successful (and success is definitely relative), they will have a hard time being picked up by a traditional publisher. Instead, I’d recommend that they rethink their genre (this is only for those commercial writers…I include myself in this group…who are wanting to write as a career and not solely to please themselves/for art), write series, or tweak what they’ve already got to see if they can make it more saleable.

      1. You’re right – I don’t have an agent – I’ve always followed Dean Wesley Smith’s advice about that (you don’t give your gardener 15% of your house for forever) and I’ve been able to do well on my own without one. That isn’t to say I’d never get one, but I have an excellent IP attorney who specializes in publishing contracts. When I sent him my Amazon one, he actually laughed and told me to sign immediately. Their contracts are very different than NY. I never feel like they’re trying to screw me or enslave me – only that they are interested in being my partner and working together with me.

        And sometimes there are indie writers who are really excellent, but just haven’t gained traction for some reason. I can think of several that should be making a fortune and aren’t. You can have all the talent in the world, but if no one can find you and has never heard of you, it makes it difficult. Some indie authors don’t worry at all about marketing, relying solely on putting out the next book and it works for them. But it doesn’t work that way for everyone. It’s one of the reasons I keep pushing my writer friends towards Kindle Scout. I say let Amazon have one book as a kind of loss leader because whenever they promote that book, your indie books will do better.

        1. Sariah–I’d recommend that you continue *without* one, especially since your IP attorney is so sharp. Glad you’ve seen such good terms and have had a good relationship with your publisher.

          I’ve heard good things about discoverability through Scout. I’ve been interested in what Amazon is trying to find new content–including their pilot episodes that they get viewer feedback on. They’ve been very smart so far in looking at publishing through a different lens.

  14. Self- or indie-pubbing is almost always the way to go anymore, unless a trad contract is truly fair. I know that if Amazon’s Thomas and Mercer came knocking, I’d definitely give it serious attention, because of the discoverability advantages. But I’m an “older” writer. Now that the actuarial tables are no longer flattering, it is highly unlikely that any company would take a chance on me, even if they thought my work was the best thing since cinnamon toast!

    1. Meg–It’s certainly true that they like to get an overall look at us online now (at least, from what I’ve heard and read). But on the contrary, I think they’d be encouraged by your following and the professionalism of your website and presence online.

      I think the discoverability that trad pub offers is definitely on the downswing. I took advantage of it in the early days, but now…I can’t remember the last time I set foot in a bookstore, and I’m always reading.

      1. Same here with going to a bookstore, Elizabeth. We’ve only got a B&N–and it’s a fairly well-off college town. It’s online or the library for me. Speaking of which, it looks like the local library is finally going to carry my books :)

    2. Meg, enjoying this thread. Can you please explain “Amazon’s Thomas and Mercer”? I’m way behind on self-publishing today. Thanks

      1. Hoping Meg can pop back in, but I’ll also answer: Amazon is a publisher as well and has the Thomas and Mercer imprint. Those authors usually have a very good deal and Amazon promotes them heavily (as you can imagine) through emails and also the Kindle First program. So Amazon is in the content business as well (for their movies and television shows, too).

      2. Hi Janice–Elizabeth explained it well. I can only add that since it’s Amazon, and promotes and prices their ebooks competitively, it offers ebook discoverability on the largest ebook store out there.

        The downside: to the best of my knowledge, they don’t take queries. They come to you, if they want you.

  15. Excellent post! Thanks so much for detailing all this out for us.

    How much do you think having a successful following of readers made it easier when you did self-publish?

    Do you work with any publicists or marketers as part of self-publishing?

    Thanks again!
    Faith

    1. Hi Faith!

      I think it helped a lot, but I think it helped because I was trad-pubbed as far back as 2010 and bookstores were more of an influence then (Borders was still in business when my first book came out).

      I don’t have a publicist and I don’t even run ads. I was turned down for BookBub the one time I tried and I ran a Facebook ad twice about a year ago. Aside from that, I work on keeping my metadata very consistent, am responsive to reader emails, am currently on InstaFreebie, have a newsletter, and make sure my reach in terms of international readers and formats is very wide.

      Thanks for coming by!

      1. Elizabeth, same here with the BookBub. Last year’s FB ads worked well, but this year was so-so. What’s been working well are the Amazon ads, which are easier to control and a lot more affordable.

        1. I sent out one query to BookBub over a year ago (I was slow to query since I hated to spend the money…I’m very stingy with cash and it seemed absurd to have to query someone to hand over such a *huge* amount of money) and was rather relieved to be rejected, ha! I should try again, but I have the feeling I’m not much of an ad person.

          I’ve heard good things about Amazon ads. What I don’t really like about ads (well, there’s a lot) is the metrics involved. The A/B testing and whatnot to get the best results. But it’s something I’ll keep on the table for later down the line.

  16. All the reasons I’m self-publishing! But then, I never even gave trad-publishing a try. I had a book ready to publish at age 22 and didn’t feel like waiting 3 years to get it published, so just did it myself. I’ve been publishing a little over a hear and right now the business is paying for itself. My goal this next year with my 3rd and 4th books coming out is to start making a profit and get more into advertising. It’s really exciting, but also nerve-wracking and a lot of work. I’m interested in getting into the international market but have no idea how to get started or what I should aim for first in terms of country or format. The thing about self publishing is that its all a journey of learning and self discovery. You just gotta keep going, keep searching, keep learning, keep pushing. Thanks for the article and good luck to you!

    1. You’re so right about the time it takes. In my experience, years to find an agent and/or publisher. Then at least a year in production. The process tends to take forever.

      I’d ease into international publishing the free way. :) See what your Amazon author pages look like in all the different countries. Use PublishDrive and StreetLib to reach international readers and libraries.

      We’re always learning, aren’t we? Something new every day!

  17. Thank you for the affirmation. When I started researching self-publishing about six years ago, I came to all the conclusions you’ve stated. My 4th book is about to launch now (‘Stars in our Eyes’ – short story collection) and I feel the same. I knew nothing about the selling side back then, but sales aren’t guaranteed through trad-pub either. The book store thing is a factor but, again, nothing’s promised through trad-pub either. In the end (even in the beginning), no matter how you do it, writing books is crazy hard. But you end up with published books.

    1. Sales definitely aren’t guaranteed through trad pub, as you mentioned. I personally know a couple of trad-pubbed writers who didn’t earn out their advance, got dropped by their publisher, and stopped writing. It makes me sad and frustrated, because it didn’t have to be that way.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  18. I’ll add one more to the list: As an author-for-hire, I wrote a brilliant tutorial on Java programming that used the JBuilder development environment. (It should have been brilliant–it took a year and a half to write!)

    At the end, it wasn’t right for the series they originally had in mind, and they already had a “Java Bible”, so they decided to publish as “the JBuilder Bible”. OMG. I begged them not to do that, but I had no control.

    The result? If you go to Amazon, you’ll find 5 star reviews from people who wanted to learn Java–the audience the book was written for, and 1-star reviews from the experts who were disappointed by the one chapter on JBuilder. Average: 3 stars. So the book just sat there, and never sold very well at all.

    Now, one of the reasons for spending a year and a half on that book was the intent to create different versions for different development environments. All it needed was the one chapter introducing that environment, and a changes to a few step-by-step instructions here and there.

    But since it never sold, that investment of time and effort went up in smoke! All because the publisher could not be convinced that an inaccurate title was not a good idea…

    1. Eric–A very good point and I’m sorry to hear that happened to you. I was asked to give ideas for titles, but very rarely did they use them (or bits of them). Their copywriters did that (and whether the copywriters had a clue what the book was about? Who knows.) You must have been very frustrated, knowing how misleading the title was.

      Similarly, I know a couple of writers whose books failed when they were inappropriately categorized by their publisher (as romance instead of mystery, for example).

      As self-publishers, authors can naturally both set and change their titles and categories.

  19. I agree that self publishing is awesome for all the reasons you mentioned. BUT, how is an Indie like me with a marketing budget of $50-100 per month ever going to hit the NYT best sellers list? And how am I going to get the movie made? Those are lofty goals I know, but that is where I want my writing to go and I feel like only a traditional publisher can get me there. The only Indies I have seen that hit the NYT list have marketing budgets in the thousand of dollars….which I won’t have until I make the list…. LOL

    1. I can totally understand where you’re coming from. And if you feel that you should query agents and publishers, I’d definitely do that. But I’d also give myself a deadline for those things to happen…a year? Two? Otherwise, you’re putting your book on hold for a while.

      Even trad-published authors aren’t marketed by their publishers. Penguin Random House’s version of promo was book placement…I’d get a spot on a cardboard tower by the Barnes and Noble cafe for the first month after release. And I’d be mentioned in their catalog for bookstores. That was effectively it. The publishers spend most of their budget on a few ‘big’ books and the rest of us are left to our own devices.

      If someone wants to make a movie, they’ll find us…as they did for Andy Weir’s ‘The Martian’ (he was an indie).

      Joanna Penn hit the NYT list with little paid marketing at all…just a smart idea and a few friends: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2014/03/17/deadly-dozen-nytimes/

      1. Thanks for starting this thread, discussions on Indie publishing, etc. So helpful! I’m also reminded how blessed I’ve been with past successes in publishing. My first novel, “Dark of the Moon,” was bought outright by Signboard Hill. Shortly afterwards, Dustin Hoffman contacted me about buying rights, directing etc. He and Robert Duval were interested in playing staring roles. Really fun entertaing the idea, but alas, too late. The movie was never made, of course. I’m 72 now and no longer publishing big-time, but I have a lot of good memories. Will look for your books.

        1. Sounds like it was a great book! Wish the movie had been made (and hope you were able to sell some rights at the time).

          72 is definitely not too old to keep writing! :)

          And thanks!

  20. Thanks for sharing your views on Trad Pub vs Self Pub.
    As a new writer your post has been very informative and helpful.
    I read through all the comments and responses and learned a lot from everyone’s input.
    Thank you

  21. Thanks for this post, Elizabeth. As a traditionally published writer (short story collection) about to self publish a poetry book, this post is very encouraging. I spent over ten years waiting to publish a novel – querying agents and publishers and finally decided to go on my own.
    I’ve been trying to learn about the various things to do/not do in self publishing. Been reading up a lot and making notes. I’m publishing my poetry book in about four months time. Do you have any advice on how to promote/market poetry? I’ve published a lot in lit journals and anthologies but this is the first time I’m publishing a poetry book. It’s about women and is fairly serious stuff.
    I’m also curious about a couple of things you mentioned – how do I check my author page in different countries? I thought it’s the same one – do I need to do different ones?
    Also what do you mean about keeping your metadata consistent? Thanks.

    1. I think poetry is getting a nice resurgence lately, from what I’ve been able to gather online. I hear many poets are using Instagram effectively. Here is a case study on Goodreads of a self-published poet who won a Goodreads Choice award. A Q&A with the poet is on Jane Friedman’s blog: https://janefriedman.com/self-published-poet/ .

      Here is how a poet used Twitter lists to connect with readers and writers of poetry.

      Amazon pages in various countries…check this post of mine for links to international Amazon author pages and some tips and best practices: http://elizabethspanncraig.com/4985/considering-our-international-audience/

      Keeping our metadata (book titles, author name, series name, book description, etc.) consistent from book to book and retailer to retailer means that Google and other search engines will find our books easier and rank them higher in results. Carla King has a great article explaining more about how this works (and she has a free downloadable tool to help us track it). David Woghan offers us a quick metadata audit.

  22. This is a wonderful article with a lot of awesome comments from fellow authors. Reading through everything has me feeling like I’m not alone, which has been much needed recently. My struggle has been the query trenches and knowing whether or not going indie would be worthwhile. I’m basically unheard of as an author and have no idea where to start with marketing to ever get where I want to be. Does anyone here use an email list to get pre-orders? If so, how did you get people to sign up? What other types of marketing do you find most effective?

    Writing the books are definitely the easy part for me. It’s everything else that’s overwhelming.

    1. Hopefully others will comment on this too. I have run pre-orders in the past with varying results, but I didn’t announce them on my newsletter, just let readers find it organically.

      The most effective newsletter techniques that I know about are group giveaways through InstaFreebie and giving a free book to people who sign up for our newsletter. I’ve posted more about that here and here.

      You’re so right about writing being the easy part! It’s a steep and never-ending learning curve, but I think it’s ultimately worth it.

  23. Thank you for this I have beed debating returning to traditional publishing and the horrible query process or continuing to self publish… giving me something to ponder.. God bless and keep on helping others!

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