Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

I Need Your Help ~ Let’s Decide Which Is Better: Traditional or Self-Publishing . . .

publishing I try to be a fair and balanced blogger…

I’ve been blogging about Reading, Writing, and Publishing for nearly eight years now.

My readership has grown in a satisfying way but I’m hoping this particular post can lead to an upsurge in readers—and Commenters.

I’m not looking for reader comments to make this blog show up better on search engines or to help me sell anything (even my short novel is available for free).

What I’m after is sufficient commentary on this post to help me make a personal decision

Naturally, if you and your friends can help enough, this post could end up helping lots of other people, too

I’ve spent considerable effort here finding news articles and blog posts that discuss traditional publishing and compare it with self-publishing.

And, you can use the Subject Index Links in the side-bar to find past articles

Here’s the thing though.

I initially self-published my novel through FastPencil (I’ve also used Lulu).

Still, there are aspects of the operation of traditional publishers that seem to have more potential to make books “acceptable” to readers

On the other hand, there are many authors who’ve experienced traditional publishing and shifted away from the legacy model—one particularly important example is Joe Konrath.

So, how can you help me?

First, watch the videos below and leave a Comment.

Second, tell your friends to watch the videos and make Comments.

I’m hoping there’ll be enough Comments to let me do, at least, two more posts on this important issue—What Is The Best Way To Publish A Book?

Just a few more considerations before the videos:

I realize there may be reasons for writers to pursue both types of publishing—they each have “advantages” and “disadvantages”

I put quotes around those words in the last sentence because one person’s profitableness can be another’s handicap.

Also, you may not have published or have friends who have.

I still encourage you to watch the videos and make a judgement on whether these professionals and authors seem like people you can trust [a fair and balanced evaluation of body language and voice inflection might be appropriate]

Last consideration—you may (or, all your friends may) have no knowledge of different kinds of publishing.

I’d still like your Comments on the following issue—How Do You Feel Reading, Writing, and Publishing “Fit Together” ?

OK, here are the videos—do hope you make a Comment :-)

Our Comment Link Is At The Top of The Post :-)
For Private Comments, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
* Google Author Page

21 responses to “I Need Your Help ~ Let’s Decide Which Is Better: Traditional or Self-Publishing . . .

  1. wyrdpooka December 11, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    I don’t know anything about publishing traditional or other wise, but I think perhaps the question needs to be rethought. New publishing verses old, you could just as easily ask is a printing press better then a scribe?

    We hail the invention of the printing press as one of the great leaps in human development but at the time there were many of the great and learned who were not at all jazzed by the thing. The common folk were not considered to be great thinkers and with the printing press any hash could get out there and cause trouble.

    What is causing trouble for writers and other creative sorts is the old economic model does not fit with the new tools. Write book, Publish book, sell book, get money. Works ok when you are dealing with books, physical books. But the new tools are not about physical books. The old model of making money breaks down when, really I’m going to spend 20 bucks for… enough memory to umm totally use up even 1 percent of the memory on my kindle? and you can gorge on blogs and free books legal and other wise everywhere? How do you get people to pay you for water in the middle of a flood?

    Well I don’t know but the folks who sell bottled water sure do, as sales of bottled water are at record highs and tap water is still free.

    New publishing is a bright shinny new toy, we don’t know what all it can do, we don;’t know how exactly to put it to best use, how to make money with it and how new ways of telling a story will develop. We do live in interesting times.


    • Alexander M Zoltai December 11, 2012 at 1:36 pm

      Absolutely, we do live in interesting times!

      One response to your comments about making money with e-books:

      The royalty for traditionally published books rarely goes above 25% and is usually near 15%—e-book royalties go as high as 70%

      Thanks for your comments and wondering if you had a chance to watch the videos?


  2. Jan December 11, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    I think the video about traditional publishers felt like good job descriptions but felt no author connections, what they are promoting can be jobbed out.
    The video with self publishers did give me the connection, this could be me, and made me feel like I could get back what I invest in.
    Thank you Alex, this is a good way to reassure yourself that you are making the right decision for yourself and all your hard work.


  3. John Paul Mahofski December 11, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    It is funny because initially I thought what a wonderful use of manpower after seeing the first video. Then sir I hear “never sign an unknown” in the second video and think well who needs that.
    I believe self publishing is the way to start then let them come to you after you turn some heads.


  4. Tim Kavi December 11, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    Thanks for posting these interesting videos that illustrate the two publishing options. I would tend to agree that self publishing is starting to have a leg up on the competition as far as ease of access into publication. It gives every author a chance to further develop his or her readership. I say ‘every author’ because you are going to be relying a lot on yourself as the marketing tool, unless of course you have significant money to invest etc to help with that. If you are an established writer already with an existing fan (reader) base-then it’s a total no brainer. You should be doing it, and if your old publisher isn’t getting even your old titles out into eBooks, even out of print titles, you should run and not walk about making sure you either have or can attain the rights to republish those titles yourself. However, for new authors, with ease of access and little apparent editorial review built into the system, the quality of some (not all) self published titles may be lacking. (The exception is that you might be using an eBook publisher or hired someone to copy edit or have tested it with readers who aren’t just your friends). There is no doubt that there will continue to be a problem with the glut of publications, and how to get noticed in the sea of titles. This may be all about having readers, getting the readers, and that lucky ‘buzz’ about an eBook that moves it up to a higher place. One can self publish, work really hard and still be relatively obscure, however, you never know when that might turn around, and one can hope for the best, publish across varied platforms, do great eBook marketing online and offline, resulting in the book becoming a great success.

    The Random House video on the other hand, shows that for their authors, (those who persevere and are lucky enough to be selected), that you are getting editorial, design, and marketing all in one place. I have heard plenty of horror stories however about traditional publishing in general (not Random House)–regarding things like low royalties, slow payments (sometimes once a year), and never or barely making anything beyond an advance . (And really poor if even nonexistent marketing beyond a certain low budget). Still, there is the the fact that some readers are still impressed if someone is traditionally published over someone who is not–although that line of demarcation is fading fast.

    I would have to say that the notion it is great to start with self publishing and then letting the publishers approach you after the book has become a best seller–is very sound. One can argue the point of view that if a book is that good maybe it would have been an even greater success coming up through the ranks of traditional publishing—but I don;t think that ‘maybe’ is a sure thing at all. It is all going to be decided by the readers after all, the reviewers and people who read it and the rising popularity of one title over another.

    I think to really answer this question is a relative and very personal thing for authors. It is like choosing which toothpaste you prefer. The rewards of publication, building up a readership, and higher royalties as a thing in itself, are better with self publishing. Self publishing as a spring board and short cut to traditional publishing deals are not unheard of, but you must put your best efforts out there. Traditional publishing may only have a leg up in terms of creative, marketing (in some cases) and distribution. (This ‘only’ may make a huge difference!)

    I have been both traditionally published in non fiction and self published in another genre using a pen name. I have found the self publishing format the most rewarding. In traditional publishing, my experience was that little money was made beyond the royalty, and in that case that was despite full page ads and magazine articles being written about the book. It was a specialty publisher, and the creative was good, but there were some problems with the visuals in the book.

    I would have to say that at this point my vote is for self publishing, but I feel like I have at least a fairly good understanding of marketing. However, I also think it depends upon the work, not just the author. I have also published some eBook nonfiction titles. I think though if I wrote additional non fiction titles that I thought could appeal to a broader segment of readers–or institutions that are loyal to say academic publishers–for some of those titles I might still try traditional publishing first. So it also depends upon the work.

    Thank you Alexander for what you do here. I read your posts often and appreciate how you help writers. Wishing you and all writers the best success, as they decide which way is best for them and which work.


    • Alexander M Zoltai December 11, 2012 at 9:00 pm

      Well, Tim, it certainly seems you’ve been in the trenches and have also scouted-out the landscape of both methods of publishing

      In fact, you’ve given folks a fairly good overview of many of the main pros and cons of both traditional and self-publishing :-)


    • Barbara Blackcinder December 12, 2012 at 8:02 am

      My only comment is about the glut of books that will ‘flood’ the market. It seems to me that one can find a way to glance, slide, or study thousands of book covers and synopses and find books they will want to read, as opposed to bot seeing those that never make it past the traditional publishers to allow them to be seen in the first place.


  5. Barbara Blackcinder December 12, 2012 at 7:55 am

    Big Business Publishing: I love the people at Random House. They all seem to have nothing more in mind than to publish the books they are exposed to. This video also seems to address their efforts to use non-traditional avenues of publishing. But not mentioned, and likely hidden is the process that they use to publish, including the most destructive aspects of traditional publishing, Cost, Time, and the Corporation. None of these are mentioned in the video, and anyone who has published through them has encountered these horrendous obstacles. In particular, the confrontational and greediness of the corporate nature of the business. this is where the rejections come from, and this is where the cost and lack of fair pay to the author is determined, and ultimately, although not mentioned by the friendly employees of Random House, the decision who is accepted based on their personal judgement on whether the book will make money for the Corporation, rather than the author.
    Contrarily, the very atmosphere of the self-publishers reeks of satisfaction and happiness with the whole process, including the returns, i.e., the profits received by the authors. The most telling is the author who has experienced both publishing methods, and has determined that self-publishing is much more fun, timely, and profitable. I would have to agree with that experience as opposed to having my face ground into the dirt and treated like an entrance rug to a dog house.


    • Alexander M Zoltai December 12, 2012 at 9:18 am


      Your use of “whether the book will make money for the Corporation, rather than the author” and then “having my face ground into the dirt and treated like an entrance rug to a dog house” drive your point home so hard I’m leaking tears as I laugh :-)


  6. Barbara Blackcinder December 12, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    always happy to lighten your day Alex. :-)


  7. Kelsey J. Mills December 30, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    You could take the best of both- small press publishing. They’re a lot more willing to publish new authors, and they are usually more personal. You may have to do promotion yourself, but I think it’s the best of both worlds.


  8. Jackson Arthur January 2, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    Hello Alex,

    There were many factors that I weighed before the deciding to publish my books on Amazon, but I think there were three key considerations that overshadowed all others in my mind. First, I have heard many authors talk of receiving rejection slips whose numbers ranged into the double or triple digits. With many publishing houses frowning upon simultaneous submissions and cycle times ranging into months, I simply don’t have time to wait for traditional publisher.

    Second, I believe a story should be told until it’s done. Limiting it to 50,000 for traditional publishers damages the product and limits the author.

    And finally, much of what I’ve heard so far suggests that most of the wonderful services outlined in the Random House video are reserved for proven moneymaking authors. If I am going to do most of the work promoting and marketing my book anyway, why would I settle for 15% and lose control of my own work?



    • Alexander M Zoltai January 2, 2013 at 10:32 pm

      So Good to see you here, Jackson!! :-)

      Everything you said pretty much wraps up all the major concerns that have propelled writers to seek self-publishing.


      Hey folks, Jackson has an event on Book Island in the virtual world Second Life that’s a workshop about Digital Publishing and Promotion—he even has “Office Hours”—write to me at to find out how to attend :-)


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