My two cents on publishing

OK, I’ve published three books in my writing career. Two were self published, the latest — my first novel — was put out by a “real” publisher, but under an agreement called “hybrid publishing” (you kick in a little money, they match it).

In other words, I’m not exactly an expert on the book business. My primary character flaw in these matters has always been a lack of patience. I probably could have found a publisher for one of my self published books, but felt that the information in it was fresh, and I didn’t want it to go stale while I waited to find my “sold mate.” Maybe it’s the newspaper reporter in me that thinks: “Just write it and get it out there before anybody else does.”

I have learned a few things along the way, though, And as I was responding to an e-mail from a friend who asked if I had any advice about publishing her in-progress “road novel,” it occurred to me that this might also serve as a blog post. So …

Dear Suzanne:

After having published my own first novel last fall, with a “real publisher,” I now find myself turning 180 degrees from my previous conceptions about writing and marketing.

Here are what I consider to be the plusses and minuses of traditional and self publishing..


1. If everything works out, they will pay for getting your book published.
2. They will plug your book into Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. BTW, that doesn’t mean most Barnes & Noble stores will actually put the physical book on their shelves, just that they’ll include it in their catalogue.
3. They will do the book cover for you.
4. They will edit the book.
5  They will pay to have the book distributed nationwide by Ingram.
6. They may help you with marketing, although I wouldn’t get your hopes up about that. The tendency is for publishers to be very enthusiastic about a new book for about a month, then drop them to embrace other new books. It’s like that Eagles’ song, “New Kid in Town.”
7. They will send you a royalty check every four to six months.

1. Your share of the profits from each book sold is very small. For example, my novel, “The Kudzu Kid,” is selling for $17, of which I get $2 and change. Plus, it’s hard to find out how it’s selling (or not selling). In fairness, I do get half of the proceeds from Kindle and e-books, which is not bad at all.
2. As I mentioned, you’re dreaming if you think most publishers are going to spend a lot of time promoting your book. You’re pretty much on your own.
3. You’re at the mercy of your editor. In most instances, that’s not a bad thing — they do that for a living, and they’re usually good at it. However, because anything creative is necessarily subjective, your worst-case scenario is an editor who wants to change basic things about your book out of personal preference — or simply because they can. (“Hey, instead of it being just a road novel, let’s throw in some vampires and zombies — they’re big now”)



1. Once you eat the initial cost, you get all the money that the book makes. If you’re in a situation where you have time to do a lot of promotion (social media, book signings, etc.) and you’ve correctly identified your primary audience and focus on it, you can make that initial investment back in a hurry.
2. The relationship is different than with a traditional publisher. With that arrangement, they are obviously in charge. With self publishing, you are.
3. You can still get your book distributed nationwide with something called Ingram Spark. And Amazon now takes self-published books.

1. You have to pay for getting the book published, and it may not be cheap.
2. You may run into a reverse editing problem than with a publisher. In some cases, self publishing houses will simply wave at your manuscript and give it a pass, typos, narrative flaws and all.
3. They probably won’t promote your book very much, because they won’t make any money doing that. So that’s generally up to you.

I think the most important thing is that you write something you believe in and share it with the world. Worry about the money later.



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Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

5 thoughts on “My two cents on publishing”

  1. I couldn’t have said it better myself, Darrell. So many plusses and minuses in both forms of publishing. Your ending is the right thought: believe in the book, get it out there and worry about the money later.


  2. Well said, though I have seen traditional publishers, even small ones like Graywolf, get behind their authors and promote the heck out of them. I do agree most of the promotion is up to us. The hybrid model is troublesome. I’ll leave it at that.


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