Traditional vs Self-Publishing: My Experience

I’ve recently finished working on my latest novel, Personal Assistance. It’s an exciting romantic suspense set in a Middle Eastern kingdom, in the midst of a civil war.

The beautiful and stylish heroine, Hannah, who works as the Arab Prince’s personal assistant, comes across a top-secret document that could change the course of the war. Knowing that she’s committing treason, a crime punishable by death, she flees to the British Embassy and enlists the help of a disgraced (but devastatingly attractive) special forces operative.

Tom has been posted to the war-torn country on “embassy duty” as punishment for a botched mission in Afghanistan. Suffering from survivor’s guilt, and eager to redeem himself, he’s a man with everything to prove. The beautiful Englishwoman and her devastating secret couldn’t have come at a better time.

So Tom agrees to help  Hannah get the information out of the country and into western hands – with the Royal security force hot on their tail, and a revolution unfolding around them.

Read the first chapter of Personal Assistance on the Entangled website.

What Being Traditionally Published Taught Me:

1. That even when you think your novel is finished, your editor might have very different ideas. I rewrote Personal Assistance three times, each time taking three to four months. It was a loooong process. I realised that winning the NaNoWriMo Entangled Competition didn’t automatically mean they liked the book as it was. In my case, they liked the style for their imprint, but I had to change a lot of things before they were happy with it. Some of the changes I agreed with, and some I didn’t, but in the end, being a published author means team work, and you have to put your faith in your editor, and trust that they know what they’re doing.

2. You never stop learning. This process taught me how the cogs of a publishing house work. It was an eye-opener. The self-published novels I’d written before were edited professionally, proof read and copy edited. I’d worked with professionals, cover designers and formatters, but nothing prepared me for the time delays, edits, approvals, red-tape, rewrites and deadlines that came with being traditionally published. I’d recommend even the most stalwart self-publishers to go down this route at some point, if they can. It’s an experience that makes you more professional in yourself, and pushes you to the limit of your ability.

3. Not even publishers are perfect. I wasn’t happy with my physical book cover, and I had limited ability to affect changes. I didn’t think the marketing was very good, and I did more to promote the book than with many of my other self-published novels. I wasn’t happy with the purchase price, but that too was out of my control. You realize how limited your influence is when you’re with a big publishing house and you’re ‘just the author’. Traditional publishing definitely has it’s limitations, and given the choice I’m not sure I’d go down that road again. Although, for the reasons above, I’m glad I’ve done it once.

4. Networking really makes a difference. Through the Entangled network I met many virtual on-line friends and their support and encouragement was vital in the launch of my book. That in itself is worth the journey.

5. Being traditionally published doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll make more sales. For starters… you take home less. Traditional publishers take a chunk out of your sales, and you’re left with the scraps. Unless you are making thousands of sales per book, I don’t think this is a financially viable option any more. Also, you can’t leave it up to the publishers to promote your book. Again, unless you’re a mainstream author with a solid fan base, you are going to have to do most of the marketing work yourself. Just because a publisher has a big name, doesn’t mean you get the exposure that goes with it.

In conclusion, being traditionally published is a worthwhile exercise for unpublished or self-published authors. There is a lot to learn about the writing and publishing process. It pushes you, it challenges you and it makes you dig deep into your reserves of patience and motivation. These are all great learning experiences that will make you a better author. Does it translate into more sales? Rarely. And your limited control over your book cover, the editing process and the price can be frustrating, if you’re not happy with what is provided.

Please let me know your thoughts on traditional vs self-publishing in the comments below. I’d be interested to hear about the experiences of other authors.

Thanks and happy writing!

Louise x

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