So You Wrote A Book, What The Hell Do You Do Now? Part 4 - Traditional or Indie Publishing.

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

If you have been keeping up with this series (Part 1, 2, and 3) you know I have gone through editing (2 parts) and synopsis and query letters. Now you are at a critical point in decision making. (Or I am at a critical point anyway.)

I have been actively seeking an agent/publisher for several months now. I mentioned in my previous post that I have gotten very encouraging REJECTION letters, and I have received great comments from agents.

Now someone of lesser confidence may begin to think their stories suck, but I know mine do not. I understand that my stories don't fit into just one category of writing.

I write Crime Fiction and my style of that genre is probably going to be appealing to a limited group of agents. (My books are character driven with Forensics and police procedure, not a romance, but there are relationships that my characters deal with, and yes there is sex. Shouldn't sex be in every book?)

My editor sent my first book out to beta readers and we are preparing to send the second book to beta readers. The first book was a hit with the readers, and I am hopeful that the second book will resonate just as well.

So I am confident that they are publish worthy. My dilemma now stems from how long will I wait. While I am still actively seeking representation, I am writing the next novel (Book 3) in my Damien Kaine series. I have also been studying up on Indie publishing. I will attempt to give you two camps of arguments for both traditional publishing and Indie publishing.

I am not an expert in either. I can only tell you my opinion from being a new/unpublished author and many nights of research.


When someone refers to traditional publishing they are referring to seeking an agent and selling that book to a publisher. If you are lucky you will get an advance and a contract for the production of two or more books.

As an unpublished new author, your initial contract would not be for more than $10,000 to $20,000 (on the high side.) You would make no more money on those books that you have signed a contract for, until that amount of your advance has been met. (Through sales of your book)

The amount you are paid for each book sold ranges from 15% - 30% (print and ebooks). Not very much. And remember that advance, you have to earn that back in order to begin to make any new money on the sale of your books.

You're advance is 15000 clams. Your print book sells for 6.99 you need to sell 10, 715 copies to earn back your advance. That is at a 20% (or $1.40) payout to you for each book sold. WOW. Scary huh?

When you enter a contractual agreement with a traditional publisher, you will sign over your rights (all rights, eBook, movie, print, and anything else) for usually a minimum of five years. I recently came across a small independent publishing house that required a twenty year rights sign over. (I, in a million years, would not sign that contract.) I found that to be excessively high.

Once you enter into your contract with the publisher, the book is no longer yours. They can dictate any changes they want you to make. Now at the time of the contract signing, you can negotiate any and all terms in the contract, but I have no idea how hard that may actually be.

Your new publishing house will select your cover. You may have some input but in the end they will go with what they want and that's why you signed with them in the first place. They do all this stuff for you. However, you will still be responsible for the marketing of your book, they will help you with some things but the bulk of it will fall to you. They're marketing money is spent on the big time authors. Not you.

Which brings me to a small caveat to even getting signed by a publishing house as a new unknown author. You'd better have an online presence. If you have no online presence, forget about it. (I said that with my Brooklyn Italian accent.) I have a very limited online presence. I started it in July, I am growing it organically but it is by no means a big following.

I have been reading some scary stories of new authors who have gone this route and years after their contract term of rights is up, they still don't have the rights back to their books. A lot of contracts will state something to the effect you will get your rights back when the the book is out of print; eBooks never go out of print.You need to pay close attention to when you will get all your rights back, if you have to pay any money back because you never sold enough books to pay off your advance, and a lot of other stuff.

If you do land a contract, hire an attorney who specializes in contracts. Make sure you understand what you are signing. (This is so imperative in any contractual situation.)

I highly recommend you do some reading on this. Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn has a fantastic article on this very subject. Jane Friedman also has a post I recommend you read. These will give a different perspective on the argument of self vs. traditional publishing.

I may sound like I'm against traditional publishing, not at all. I currently have several agents and publishers looking at my work. My hope is that one of them will want to represent me. However, I have done my homework on contracts for publishing and if I am offered a contract I will go over it with my lawyer and make sure it benefits me as well as the publisher.


Right off the bat, going the Indie route is a super scary idea. Again I have no presence online so I don't have thousands of people waiting to hear what I did today. I have to build followers who I can convert into buying customers of my book. That is not an easy task. Not impossible though.

But the pros of Indie publishing:

1. Percentage of sales/royalty is much higher. (a lot goes into this percentage but it is way more on both eBooks and print books through create space.)

2. If there is a mistake/typo, you can correct it at any time. With traditional, they will only make corrections at the next printing cycle.

3. You can make/design your own covers. You have absolute discretion. (So you can also fuck this part up pretty good too.)

4. You can sell your book on several eBook sellers, KOBO, iBooks, iTunes, Nook, you can use Smashwords and Draft2Digital to put it on a lot of platforms at once. You can even sell it from your own website if you want to.

The point here, you are in control. It also means you are the only one to blame when shit goes wrong.

I like my book covers. I have tried to brand my books. When you see these colors and print, I am hoping that the public will begin to recognize my brand. As an Indie Author, I am in control of that brand as well. My websites (blog and author) use the same color scheme. I am not sure how much you give up on this when you go traditional. It may be a factor for you.

There are several websites for help on this. Jane Friedman, Joanna Penn, Derek Murphy, Joel Friedlander, and Frances Caballo. I refer to these guys a lot because they have some of the best information. As an author, if you aren't following these people on Twitter, or other social media you need to.

I really like control. (But I like to be tied up too.) The thing is, when you go traditional, you get a lot of benefits, a lot of help. But you give up your control. Over everything. You also still have to be diligent and work just as hard as if you self-published. You alone will drive the sales of your books regardless of which way you go.

I personally, don't trust people to do what is best for me. I think they will do what is best for them first. I like having control over my books, and what I want them to convey. I like picking my covers and writing my blurbs. (I find that part of the writing process very easy.) I bought The Book Design Templates for formatting so I don't have to worry about that.

I have set in place all I need to Indie Publish. But, huge but, it's scary. To make that leap. I flip flop on a daily basis. I would like to go the traditional publishing route and then maybe later when I have gathered a following, venture out on my own. I feel I may not know what the hell I'm doing when it comes to marketing and selling my books. But I don't want to sit around and wait for years, have a huge number of books and I haven't published a damn one. Then I'm hit by a bus and BAM! Shoulda, woulda, coulda.

Just don't be in a rush. Don't hit that publish button just yet. Read the other posts in this series first. (IF nothing else.) When you finally decide, don't flip flop. (Like me at that moment.) Trust your instincts.

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Most of all, keep writing.

I write crime fiction horror, thriller, and paranormal novels. My time in the Coast Guard and my degree in Forensic Chemistry helps me create fantastic stories.

If I'm not writing, I am binge watching Netflix and probably drinking whiskey.

You can find me on Pinterest, Amazon, and Facebook.

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