Booking Passage on a Stately Monarch of the Sea, or Going Rogue - Traditional Print Publishing vs Self-Pubbed - The Smackdown

by Julia Phillips Smith

These are interesting times for authors.

If you are a newbie author like me, you might feel - as I did only a few short months ago - that the most important thing on the face of the earth is to get a request from an agent so she can sell your manuscript to a traditional print publisher.

You might feel that self-publishing your book through Amazon will be like going to your prom via Skype, because your books won't be in the bookstore. You won't be able to pick them up in your hands or smell the ink on the freshly-printed pages.

You might remember the conversations you've had with fellow traditionally-published writers who agonized over incredibly unhelpful covers they were given, recalling how they tracked the withering sales which resulted from those covers. Or you may recall the frenzied efforts of those writers who discovered their books were held up in a warehouse due to unforeseen issues, but who then realized their books were doomed to perform badly in that all-important release-week time frame. All things completely beyond these writers' control, but which directly impacted their book sales and their future print runs, and ultimately their careers.

If you are a newbie author like me, you might remember the day you were first seized inside with the scenes of a vampire tale, and how it's been eight long years since that day. During that time, you wrote a story which you knew in your heart would never be acquired by any of the Big Six publishers without requests for revisions so extreme, your story would no longer remotely resemble the tale that took your breath away.

You might have paid close attention to workshops on writing for the market. You may have had many long talks with yourself in the mirror, asking yourself did you want to have a kick-ass manuscript sitting on your computer hard drive, or did you want to share your story with readers? Every author has to craft his or her story, after all. Revisions are part of the polishing process.

If you are a newbie author like me, you may have been blessed by a rare opportunity to watch and learn from several traditional print author friends who decided to self-publish their impossible-to-sell manuscripts. You may have watched in wonder as their no-sale manuscripts burned up the Amazon best-seller lists. Inside of your writer's heart, the little flame of I-think-I-can, I-think-I-can may have ignited the sleeping giant inside of your soul.

You may have spent hundreds of dollars attending your first writers' conference, having a dark night of the soul before your pitching appointments, wondering what you were doing there when that little voice kept urging you to publish your intact story yourself.

The requests for manuscript partials may have given you the confidence you needed to ultimately walk away from the idea of The Big Six. Your experience at the writers' conference may have given you exactly what it was you needed - the renewal of joy in the writing process that had been missing for many years, as you tried to fit your step-sister feet into Cinderella's glass slipper.

You may be a 'newbie' like me, a lifelong writer who has realized that all paths to publishing aren't the same for every author. I am very, very grateful to the work done by all the IT and design people who have made self-publishing a viable alternative to the traditional publishing business model.

This can only benefit readers who have been searching in vain for fresh stories that weren't available on the shelves - and were never going to be.

Please join me in November for my debut book launch.

Until then, here's the book trailer I wrote and directed - Enjoy!


  1. So very true...we are spoiled as authors. The paths to publishing, and getting our stories in the hands of readers, are varied and more accessible now.
    Wishing you great success and many fantastic reviews for your first release. And kudos on that book trailer, it's brilliant!

  2. Thanks, JoAnne - it was an incredible joy to walk on a film set after a 16-year gap to direct my book trailer.

  3. All I can say is 'amen', Julia. Would I want to see the story I wrote from my heart and worked so hard on turned into something different? With a cover over which I had no control? Now we have choices.

  4. Love this. So excited for you!

  5. Very exciting Julia! Wishing you the best of success.

  6. Certainly a write of passage.
    Apologies. (Just awful...)

    This may be interesting, concerning author Polly Courtney.

  7. No more terrible lines. The link I posted to has exceeded its bandwidth.
    Polly just appeared on Channel4 news over here, and that's probably why her site has crashed.
    The story has been covered by the Daily Mail Newspaper:

  8. Jennie - Can't wait till your own self-pubbed book hits Amazon!

    Shawna and Anne - Thanks!

    Sans - I bumped into that article in blogworld earlier this week. Polly is telling it like it is, brother.

  9. I truly enjoyed your article, feeling the same way when I was new to the business. I think self-pubbing is viable and had self- pubbed my own novel back in the day. I was looked down on (but didn't care) for it. What makes me grin now is the fact that those same authors are using Amazon to spring their own works in the self- pubbed field. There is always hope for us pioneers.

  10. The longer I'm in the struggle to break into the industry, the more evident it becomes that no two paths are a like. Thanks so much for your insight!

  11. YAY JULIA! I'M SO EXCITED ABOUT YOUR UPCOMING DEBUT! I think what you're doing is awesome! And you know what - a lot of emerging writers self-publish - only to get a kick ass contract with a big six - but either way you're doing it! xoxo jojo p.s. love the trailer!

  12. Jeanne - The emergence of Amazon's Kindle format really turned the corner for self-publishing. Prior to that, which was dependent on technological advances, self-publishing also meant that an author really had to float himself or herself a considerable start-up loan in order to pay for the publishing. Nowadays, after some start-up costs, a self-published author can expect to get a return on the initial investment much, much sooner.

    Creepy Query Girl - There are several authors in my local writers' group who had 'non-marketable' books now doing fantastically well on Amazon - and who have shared their journeys with all of us, and in blogworld. So I want to do the same.

    Jojo - ((BIG HUG))


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