Jessica Park’s Take on Traditional vs Self-Publishing

I just read Jessica Park’s recent blog post featured on’s front page on June 19th. Among other things, it lists her reasons why she would choose self-publishing over any traditional publishing deal nowadays. She also talks about publishing houses being out of date with the changing market. In your estimation, is the publishing world changing? How are publishing houses keeping up with the newest trends and writers being able to self-publish so easily?

Go read Jessica Park’s article and then come back and let’s talk about it.

In my opinion, Jessica Park is absolutely correct. Going with a traditional publisher has its down side. The marketing department carries a lot of weight in the decision to accept a book. You don’t have control over your title or your cover. Unless you’re an established name, an author has to do a lot of their own publicity. And by the time expenses are covered (yes, salaries, buildings, and other overheard are legitimate expenses), there’s not a lot of money left for the author.

When you self-publish, you have full control over everything. And the only salary you pay is your own.

However, what Park fails to mention is that while you may be able to sell your first book on hype alone, additional books are going to be a harder sell if you don’t invest some time, energy—and, yes—MONEY in the PRE-press development of your book. This is where a lot of self-publishers fail and why indies have a bad reputation.

You can’t just slap an ebook up on Amazon and expect to experience the sales levels that Park mentions in her article. Here are the parts of a successful book:

  • A good story
  • Good writing
  • Tight editing
  • Memorable title
  • Eye-catching cover design
  • Intriging back copy (with optional blurbs)
  • Professional typesetting for print (generally, NOT Word)
  • Professional e-book coding (generally, NOT Smashwords)
  • Distribution—online &/or brick & mortar stores
  • Reader interest (letting readers know your book exists)
  • Sales (getting those readers to actually purchase the book)
  • Maintaining reader relationship for future book sales

In traditional publishing, the author is only required to do the first two, throw in some online buzz to generate reader interest, and have an online presence and/or do book signings to gain personal reader loyalty.

If you decide to go indie, you’re either going to have to learn how to do all these other things or pay someone to do them for you. It’s not a question of whether traditional or self-publishing is better. They both have their pros and cons. There are some excellent indie books out there and there are some traditional dogs. It’s a question of resources—do you have them?

Want another take that is very similar to mine? Go read Nathan Bransford (former literary agent & current author).

Readers, what are your experiences and opinions?

[Oh, and to answer your question. Yes, the industry is changing. How are publishers adapting? Some are burying their heads in the sand; some are adjusting their policies.]

One thought on “Jessica Park’s Take on Traditional vs Self-Publishing”

  1. I’d say that it is not only a question of resources, but also how they are deployed. A publisher could have all the resources in the world, but if they can’t deploy them smartly, or if their expertise doesn’t really apply to the market for you book, then that doesn’t matter.

    Alternately, you could have excellent skills and/or the money to pay for freelance help, but if your book fits really well with a certain publisher’s stable of titles then it might make more sense to go with them because they have already paved the way and/or the things that they can more easily provide (retail space, for example) would make a huge difference in sales.

    Also: “Maintaining reader relationship for future book sales” — this is an area where publishers are going to need to start proving to authors that they can do this well.

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