Approaching Publishing

The Time To Publish Looms

There comes the inevitable moment as you while away the hours revising your story that you’ll face a decision: to publish, or not to publish?

If you choose the former, you’ll be presented with another one: spend time finding an agent who believes in your story and will stop at nothing to reach a publisher who feels the same, or spend time (and money) to publish it yourself?

I am currently pursuing the self-publishing route, but put in my share of hours researching traditional publishing before I made that decision. Below are my thoughts on the decision-making process, and some links an aspiring author facing the same fork in the crossroads may find useful. This is by no means exhaustive, nor broad enough to cover every author’s experience.

Pros and Cons?

Traditional Publishing

This is the tried and true, more familiar option. You find an agent (or attempt to reach publishers yourself - some are open to unsolicited manuscripts) and they work to pitch your story to a publisher in an effort to land your name on store shelves. There are a lot of benefits to this, but they come with restrictions and compromises.

For one, you need to find and agent who will go to bat for you. That means hours spent researching and emailing query letters and samples. It means weeks spent waiting for a response. It means, unless you’ve a penchant for manifesting astounding luck, countless polite rejections. It may take months - maybe years. This is normal and expected.

Once you have an agent, they may ask for revisions to your work that you hadn’t considered. Provided you have the right agent, you’ll hopefully be on board with these changes as in the agent’s experience, it will help sell your story to a publisher. So, you spend some more time editing. Finally, you’re both on the same page and they’re off to pitch to publishers.

Much like you spent time pitching, then waiting, they will do the same with publishing houses. Meanwhile, you wait. Again.

Once you have a publisher who is excited about your book, there will be negotiations. Not only will they need a cut of the sale in exchange for everything they provide you, but they will also set the price of your book at what they believe is marketable. They will likely require additional changes/revisions to the story in order to meet their checklist for what sells. This means more editing.

Here, however, comes some serious benefits - the Publisher is likely to handle cover art, typesetting, and platform layouts for various eBook and physical copy size requirements. If you’re lucky, there’ll be some great marketing involved (though you will still be expected to market the hell out of the book yourself on your own social media platforms).

By going with a traditional publisher you’ll have pathways to landing on brick-and-mortar store shelves in addition to online stores. Depending on the publisher, there may be some clout involved for you by association. You may end up invited to book signings and conventions via your publisher.

What you give up in terms of creative freedom for cover art, overall design and marketing, as well as the time spent waiting with fingers crossed, you have the potential to make back from the publisher’s ability to provide exposure and a foot in the door of physical stores.


A decade ago views on self-publishing were very different. Traditional was the way to go if you were a real author, hard stop. Thankfully the advance of technology did what it always does, and created opportunity where there was only creative dismissal before.

The advent of eBook readers means consumers now carry entire libraries with them, and as long as they have an internet connection, purchase a new one in seconds. Industry giants were keen to take part in that, and created platforms authors could use to push their worlds directly to consumers, digitally.

The trade off, is that you will need to handle everything yourself. You’ll pay for all of your own editing and proofreading. You’ll pay to market the book, and it will only be marketed as much as you choose to do so. You’ll need to create or commission cover art. You’ll need to handle or contract out design and layout. You’ll need to acquire an ISBN.

You’ll also need to become familiar with the rules and restrictions of the platforms on which you choose to publish. Some companies have publishing options that may restrict your ability to sell your work elsewhere.

Furthermore, much as Publishers require a cut of sales, so too will many major online distribution platforms. A key difference is that it will be a set amount applied to authors across the board with no negotiating involved.

What you keep, however, is creative freedom. The IP is yours. Future rights to that IP are yours. The final cover is what you want it to be. Want to publish a new edition? That’s on you, feel free. Want to change the cover art in an attempt to generate some renewed interest? Have at it!

One Or The Other

I ultimately chose to self-publish, but not before I queried a number of Agents. Experiencing the rejection didn’t bother me. After all, they’re constantly receiving query letters. They need to choose a select few to champion in order to make the most of their time and serve their clients. I was confident I would eventually find the right agent for me.

The problem, was that pesky word “eventually”. I considered the timeline I wanted to experience to see my books in print, and it wasn’t measured in years. I began researching the self-publishing option and haven’t looked back.

Finding an Agent

AgentQuery Pretty old site design, but a great database of literary agents.

QueryTracker Another good resource to begin researching agents.

SFWA - Writer’s Beware Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America - a great post about researching literary agents that is worth checking out, with helpful guidance on red flags within the industry.

Jane Friedman - Find a Literary Agent Great post about what to look for and what to expect when searching for a literary agent.

Getting Ready

Reedsy A site dedicated to finding the right team to bring your project to fruition. Editors, Designers, Marketers, Ghost Writers, etc.

There are other sources for finding the right collaborators, such as Fiverr, which I’ve used for cover art.

Reedsy - How to Get an ISBN A specific Reedsy post describing the purpose and use of an ISBN, and how/when to get one.

KBoards A forum dedicated specifically to folks pulishing for Amazon Kindle. There is a lot of helpful information about the KDP experience/process and a large community of active authors.

TheWriteLife Contests A post listing writing competitions if that is up your alley.

Jane Friedman - Metadata Great overview post about Metadata, and determining the right keywords for self-pulishing your book to raise its visibility.

The Book Designer - Self-Publishing Basics: Introduction to Metadata Another good resource on the ins and outs of Metadata.