Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Should I Sign with a Traditional Publisher, Self Publisher or and Independent Publisher?

Last week I began posting about different types of publishers and what they have to offer an author:
  • Traditional
  • Self
  • Independent

If you missed the Thursday's post click here and catch up!

Today I want to continue by giving you some circumstances that would cause you to choose one type of publishing over another.

Traditional Publishing
This option may seem like the most desirable method of publishing, but that’s not always the case. While it’s true that the author doesn’t have to invest any up-front money in the process, you also won’t get a large cut of the profit.

When to consider it:
  • When your manuscript concept will appeal to a wide audience, but you don’t direct have access to them.
  • When you already have a relationship with the publisher.
  • When your manuscript is fiction. At this point in time, it’s still quite difficult to sell fiction through the self-publishing avenue. This is changing and I believe there will come a time when this will no longer be the case.

When to look at other options:
  • If your manuscript has a limited or niche audience. Most publishers have a specific minimum number of potential readers before they’ll consider a project.
  • If you have access to your customers without publisher distribution (like a large speaking ministry).

Self Publisher
Again, many people have preconceived notions about this path to publication—and it tends to be negative. But I urge you NOT to be too quick to judge. There are many instances when this is the best decision.

When to consider it:
  • When you have easy, direct access to your audience. If you go the self-publishing route, even though you must invest up-front, your profit will be substantially higher.
  • When your audience is limited or a niche audience. For example, a book on caring for aging parents has a wide audience, while a book about caring for quintuplets would have a limited audience.

When to look at other options:
  • When you’re trying to publish fiction. As above, it’s difficult to get wide distribution and audience access with self-publishing. Again, difficult, not impossible.
  • When you don’t have direct access to your audience or readers.
Independent Publishing
This option is becoming more and more popular. Although you may not get the widest possible general distribution, these publishers frequently cater to niche audiences. And they know their audiences VERY well. One of the best at this—Marcher Lord Press—a Christian Speculative fiction publisher.

When to consider:
  • As a first-time author. Frequently, these publishers are more open to untried writers. BUT this does not mean they accept work that is sub-standard. The competition is very stiff and these publishers generally have very high standards.
  • If you do not have an agent. Most traditional publishers won’t even consider a manuscript unless the author has agent representation. This isn't the case with Independent Publishers.

When to look at other options:
Actually, Independent publishers can be a good option to consider in almost any situation

One Last Thing:
The biggest negative to self-publishing has always been the quality of the work. We’ve all seen self-published books that make us want to cringe.
If you do decide to self-publish, I urge you to hold yourself to the highest standard. You will have to overcome some substantial negative opinions and the only way to do that is to offer a superior product.

Now it’s your turn. I know Blogger has had some comment issues lately, but I believe I’ve solved the ones affecting this blog. So even if your comment pertains to last week, feel free to chime in. No one knows all the answers in publishing and if you’ve personal experience with any of these avenues for publishing, I’d love to hear from you!

Don’t forget to the conversation!


  1. Great information! The publishing industry is definitely in a state of constant change, so what was taught even a couple of years ago may not be true today. Your summary is on target.

    Even though all four of my current books are traditionally published, I am definitely open to self- or independent publishing for some of my future projects.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. I especially appreciate this information since I'm currently pursuing the publishing of my second book. My first Bible study was self-published, and I continue to be extremely pleased with the book quality, its online availability and easy accessibility to bookstores. Even so, I've found the marketing aspect to be very challenging due to limited time and resources. That's the main reason I've pursued a traditional publisher for my latest Bible study workbook, which corresponds to your reason #1 for seeking a traditional publisher. At the same time, can you recommend a quality Independent publisher for non-fiction?
    Thanks again!

  3. Vonda, we've definitely seen a lot of changes since we began in this industry :)
    Emily, your best resource is Sally Stuarts Christian Writers Market Guide. But just to add - I've had an amazing experience with my publisher,
    Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas! They do Independent publishing right! www.lighthousepublishingofthecarolinas.com

  4. Good information Edie! I'm researching the independent publishers but it's hard to know in the market books at times. Do you have a list or know where an independent publisher list can be found? Thanks!

  5. Thank you so much for this information! I know very little about publishing, especially since the world of publishing is in the midst of change.