Why Leave the Self-Publishing Paradise and Go Traditional?

why leave self-publishingJust recently I’ve read a couple of blogs from previously self-published authors who have turned to the dark side and signed, or tried to sign, with a traditional publisher. I know it’s not the dark side and I believe that a hybrid model probably works best for a recognised writer but I don’t get it if you’re not a huge bestseller already.

This blog is all about me. I’m a writer that’ll be publishing his first two novels by the end of the year. I’m not self-published or traditionally published yet, but I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with going down the self-published route. Check out this post, or this post, if you don’t believe me. So, what can a traditional route offer versus the utopian dream of self-publishedness?

State of the Industry

It appears to be almost impossible for a first time author to sign any kind of decent book deal with a big publisher. It’s all about platform and unless you are a celebrity already, or slept with someone else’s platform, you ain’t getting into the party.

A quarter of the top 100 best selling books on Amazon are self-published. So, who needs the traditional publishers anyway?


Historically a writer would sell their manuscript, get a big advance and then wait for the royalties to start pouring in. It seems like now, if you’re ‘lucky’ enough to sign a deal, you get a small advance which will never be recouped and expect no royalties afterwards.

The Next Book

If your first book disappeared into the recesses of the stockroom and then was recalled, guess what? You’re not writing another one, forget it. The writing career is over and you have just one small advance to show for it.


Surely a traditional publisher will promote your book to the hilt? Well, you’ve received a small advance for a reason. They’re not going to be spending a whole lot on your little number. They’re pretty strapped right now and the promotion budget is going on the celebrity with the fake boobs who just slept with Ashley Cole and John Terry in a jungle.


From what I gather, the average royalty agreement with one of the big publishers is around 30%. So, if you’re book does get through the first hurdle and starts making more money then this is what you can expect. However, the royalty payment from Amazon is 70% – “More bang for your buck” as some would say. (Probably American’s rather than your typical English chap)


Apparently if you do sign a deal, and you’re unknown, then you’d be expected to continue to self-promote using social media tools etc. This is what you need to do anyway and is the sole biggest distraction of your time from writing in the first place. So, if a traditional publisher can’t even take that away then what’s the point?

Business Model

Very simply, the business model for self-publishing is to write and publish as many books as you can. The more you have out there, the higher the probability that they will be found, and the more sales you can make. Traditional publishing isn’t a whole lot different but the time between each book is dragged out because of the lead time involved in these organisations.

Joanna Penn, from The Creative Penn, has been an inspiration. I’ve mentioned her blog before and I feel like she’s one of the older kids at my school whose tried smoking before me. I completely respect her and sit up and listen when she says something. She’s trying to get traditionally published.

In her own words, she has sold 50-60,000 books by herself. She has two books out and has written a third. She makes a liveable wage every month by being a writer and yet… if she signs a deal then she’ll have to pull the first two books back (lose income) and then wait for them to be re-published again. It could also be a further wait of two years before her third book is published (yet again losing two years worth of income).

This doesn’t make any sense to me. I can see a hybrid model working for different books; so you’d have some books self-published and some with a publisher, but to have books already published and selling yet pull them back only to re-publish them again with a logo on the spine… I don’t get it.

I know I’m naive but naivety sometimes helps in a situation. Could anyone shine some light on why you would choose to turn your back on a liveable wage, prevent yourself from releasing a further four or five books in the next couple of years, just to sign with a publisher that doesn’t offer too much? Any enlightenment appreciated.

One response to “Why Leave the Self-Publishing Paradise and Go Traditional?

  1. I like the way you narrowed this down. I’m like you, I have been leaning more and more towards self-publishing – relieving all the anxiety about query letters and impressing agents (with ultimate rejection being highly likely, let alone the “Next Book” and “Promotions” issues you described above.
    I’d rather channel my efforts towards working with editors, beta readers, and promoting my work.

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