J.C. Martin, Fighter Writer

Reading, writing, and fighting–the three joys of life!

FoW’12: Self-Publishing v Traditional Publishing by Talli Roland


There is more than one way to get your book published!
(Click for image source)

I attended blogger buddy and self-published chick lit star Talli Roland‘s talk on self-publishing versus traditional publishing at the Festival of Writing. Talli presented a balanced and convincing argument for both:



  • Total control of release schedule, cover design, etc.
  • You keep all profits (and if your books are priced above $2.99, you get 70% royalty from Amazon)
  • Rise of e-books mean your have a wide online reach
  • You get paid monthly
  • Easy to track sales and impact of marketing strategies
  • Freedom to change prices whenever


  • You’ll have to seek out and pay for your own editor and cover designer
  • Little if any physical distribution
  • As with any business, you have to invest time and money, and there are inherent risks
  • Marketing, promotion, formatting, etc. could mean less time for actual writing (for advertising resources, Talli suggested sites such as Ereader News Today and Pixel of Ink)
  • Giving up the ‘dream’ of seeing your book on shelves
  • Existing ‘stigma’ (esp. in the UK) of self-publishing
  • Need to keep abreast of latest news within the publishing industry (Talli cited GalleyCat and Kindleboards as excellent sources)
Traditional publishing

Every writer’s dream: to see their title displayed on a bookshelf!
(Click for image source)


  • No need to invest any money
  • Editing and cover design all done for you
  • Marketing backing
  • Wider distribution: both online and physically (Another speaker in a separate talk mentioned that despite the high volume of self-published books, the top 25 books on Amazon remains titles from traditional publishers)


  • Little say in cover design, release schedule, etc.
  • Slow manuscript-to-book process means you only release a book every year or two
  • More and more likely that you’ll still have to do your own marketing and promotions anyway
  • No guarantee your book will be distributed widely, esp. to supermarkets, WH Smiths, etc.
  • Small royalties: agents and publishers take a cut
  • You only get paid twice a year
  • No access to up-to-the-minute sales records

Finally, although Talli’s talk didn’t quite make the distinction, as a published author from a small press, I feel I’d add a third category to the mix:

Small press publishing

In my opinion, small press publishing is quite different from both self-publishing and traditional publishing with the big houses. It is kind of a half-way point between the two, with many advantages from both, as well as disadvantages:


  • No need to invest any money
  • Editing and cover design all done for you
  • No need for an agent to still get traditionally published; as a result, no need to give a cut of royalties to agent
  • More intimate relationship means more say in cover design and release schedule
  • Small publishers are more willing to take on “risky” projects


  • Manuscript-to-book process remains slow
  • Need to do your own marketing and promotions
  • Less likely for wide distribution; appearance on bookshelves unlikely
  • Small publishers can seldom offer an advance
  • You only get paid twice a year
  • No access to up-to-the-minute sales records
  • No agent to help with negotiations and interpretation of contracts

Finally, Talli mentioned that none of these publishing routes are exclusive: she cited examples of self-published authors who eventually signed with traditional publishing houses (e.g. Amanda Hocking, E.L. James). On the other hand, there are also numerous traditionally published authors who later opt to self-publish, often re-releasing out-of-print back-lists on their own. (Later panels featuring agents and publishers further supported her comment, when they stated they will not discount a writer’s submission because he/she has previously self-published)

After the talk, I came away convinced that these are all perfectly viable routes to get your book published. With e-books growing in popularity as much as it is currently, industry prejudice towards self-publishing is changing, and the field of play is wide open. The route you choose may well depend on current circumstances and personal preference. Personally, I would not discount any of these routes into publishing.

What do YOU think? Which of these routes would you consider? Which would you not? Fill in the poll below and comment!

Pop back tomorrow for my final post from the Festival: notes from a panel discussion on the e-book revolution.


12 Responses to “FoW’12: Self-Publishing v Traditional Publishing by Talli Roland”

  1. Libby says:

    I’m selfpubbing this novel, may try traditional later. Just not sure this book has a wide enough audience to get a big publisher.

    • J.C. Martin says:

      That’s the wonderful thing about self-publising, Libby. Unlike big publishers, you don’t have to worry about the size of your target audience!

  2. I’m with a small publisher and have definitely enjoyed the experience. My physical books do appear in bookstores and in libraries, which is cool. They work with me on changes and the cover art. (And I do get paid every three months.) I’m happy where I’m at right now!

    • J.C. Martin says:

      Small publishers can be a wonderful halfway house between big-time publishing and self-pubbing, I agree! The support of an in-house editing and design team, the intimacy and friendliness only a small firm can provide, plus you get a bigger say in projects! Definitely happy with my decision to publish with JTP for ORACLE!

  3. E.J. Wesley says:

    Really enjoyed this examination of the processes, JC. I think it’s key to understand that there definitely tradeoffs with each one. I’m really starting to advocate that authors do this on a work-by-work basis, as opposed to an all or none career choice.

    Some works, and ideas, are just suited to a particular type of publishing. (You did a great job of pointing that out for small presses, btw.)

    • J.C. Martin says:

      Thank you for reading, E.J., although really Talli should have all the credit for delivering a smashing talk! It’s true that writers can actually do this on a case-by-case basis, and I know of many who have pursued more than one route. It’s all a matter of whatever suits you at the time.

  4. Angela Brown says:

    Very interesting. Many of the things Tallie mentioned are things I considered before choosing to self-publish my one novel while also seeking an agent/small press for another story I have. I’m not anti-any route to publishing. I suppose I’m all about seeing your dreams come true. Whether self, small press or traditionally published, that’s what matters…seeing dreams come true :-)

  5. I have debated the pros and cons of each and for me, I’m a fan of mixing up my options. I’m with a smaller publisher but I have also published some books on my own. Those pros and cons are spot on.

    • J.C. Martin says:

      Yes Clarissa, none of these options are all-or-nothing. Personally, I’d like to try all three to see which I’m happiest with, but it may well be that different projects will suit different routes.

  6. Talli Roland says:

    Yikes, looks like my comment from yesterday got eaten! My silly computer has been playing up – sorry it took so long to get over here again.

    JC, thank you for such a thorough round-up of my talk – it was lovely to see your friendly face there. And thanks, too, for mentioning the point about small publishers. A very important distinction!

    • J.C. Martin says:

      You’re welcome Talli, thanks for a very entertaining and well balanced talk! My spam detector has been spamming genuine comments, so perhaps that’s where your last one disappeared to. Sorry!

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