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Traditional or Self-Publishing: Choosing the Right Route for You

Talli Roland

It’s a wonderful time to be an author. With the option to self-publish, we no longer need to rely on securing a publisher to reach readers – we can do it on our own, if we wish. The rise of the hybrid author – one who traditionally publishes as well as self-publishes – shows that authors can pick and choose which model works for them. But how do you know the best path to take? 

I had a very satisfactory experience working with a traditional publisher for my first two novels, but with hardly any distribution in print and 99 per cent of my sales in e-books, it made more sense for me to pay a one-off fee to an editor and cover designer, and keep the remainder of the profits for myself. Since striking out on my own, I have published three novels and three novellas, and hit the top 100 on Amazon UK three times. Leaving a traditional publisher was a risk, but it’s one I don’t regret at all. Earlier this year I signed a two-book deal with Amazon Publishing and I plan to continue to self-publish, too. 

I think any self-publisher would tell you the biggest positive is having control of every step of the process. You set your own timelines, choose your own cover, and press that "publish" button yourself. You manage marketing campaigns, check your sales figures, and decide on price-points. The ability to publish as quickly as possible is also a huge benefit: self-publishers can take advantage of trends before traditional publishers (witnessed in the US with the emergence of the New Adult genre) and can grow their readership much faster than traditional publishing usually allows. A big advantage of self-publishing is also the financial reward, of course. I've been able to make a living as a writer for the past couple of years, something I couldn't do when I was traditionally published.

As wonderful as self-publishing is, it does have its limits. I've found it difficult to get my printed novel into bookstores, despite solid ebook sales figures. It can also be a little isolating – you're on your own every step of the way, and if you have a whiff of the obsessive about you, it can be difficult not to stress if your numbers start falling. Likewise, if your sales rank starts climbing, it's hard not to constantly check "just this once" to see where you're at. I'm constantly reminding myself that, while the business side of things is important, there won't be a business if I don't get busy and write more books. Being your own boss can be quite difficult if you're not motivated and dedicated to building your career. I have learned to keep a very strict schedule and not to engage in social media until I'm finished my word count for the day.

As with traditional publishing nowadays, you need to be prepared to spend a lot of time on social media – and it has to be used in the right way. Screaming "buy my book!" at every opportunity is such a turn-off, yet many authors continue to do so. I've worked hard to build relationships through my blog, Twitter and Facebook, interacting with followers there every day. When I do release a novel, my contacts are eager to help me share the news because they are genuinely my friends. But apart from promotional purposes, social media is so much fun! I've "met" so many readers there, and it's wonderful to chat with people who have read my books.

There’s no right or wrong when choosing how to release your book. As more traditionally published authors self-publish, too, any whiff of stigma is fading. It’s hard to deny that you have access to higher royalty rates, and that there have been huge success stories. Many self-published novels are virtually indistinguishable from traditionally published ones, and readers have shown they don’t care how a book is published as long as it’s a good story. 

Consider what is best for you, and what’s best for the book. Think about your goals, too. Do you want to sell many copies, or are you happy just to put the book out there? Is it in a genre that sells well as an ebook? Are you willing to invest time and effort into making it a professional product? It’s easy to throw a book up on Kindle and hope for the best, but the more you think it through, the more comfortable you’ll be with the outcome.


Talli Roland writes bittersweet and witty contemporary women’s fiction. Born and raised in Canada, Talli now lives in London, where she savours the great cultural life (coffee and wine). Despite training as a journalist, Talli soon found she preferred making up her own stories--complete with happy endings. Her novels have been short-listed as Best Romantic Reads at the UK's Festival of Romance and chosen as top books of the year by industry review websites. Talli’s website is www.talliroland.com, and she blogs here.