J. L. Willow

Author ~ Blogger ~ Storyteller

If I’m going to be honest, I didn’t actually know that self-publishing was an option when I first started writing The Scavenger. I was still under the impression that writers sent a printed copy of their manuscript to a publishing house and then (within a few weeks) would receive a letter back of either acceptance or rejection. I was also under the impression that this was the only way to do it. This is obviously a pretty outdated theory, a fact which I discovered quickly as I started researching. There are still companies that have you send them printed copies of your manuscript, but for the most part, things have changed a lot.

To begin, let me go over the two major types of publishing for those who aren’t familiar with them. First, there’s traditional publishing. This is along the lines of how I viewed the publishing industry for most of my life. It’s when you go to a publishing house and send them your book (or part of your book) and see if they are interested in publishing. In reality, it’s a lot more complicated than that. I’ll go more into the specifics in the pros and cons section, but that’s the main gist of it.

Self publishing, on the other hand, is done on your own. You go directly to Amazon (or another distributor) where they will publish your book for free. They will take a percent of your profits, but they will get your book out onto the market.

The decision to traditional or self publish is a big one. It impacts pretty much everything about how your book is going to be made, how it’s going to be sold, and everything that has to do with it from the cover design to the color of the paper. While you’re making that decision, here are a few things to keep in mind:


Traditional Publishing


  • You’ve got the pros on your side. When you’re self publishing, you’ll have the best of the best working for you. Before you traditional publish, it’s a good idea that you look into getting an agent. If you work well with your agent, you will be working with a professional whose goal is to get your work to be the best it can be. This also means that your editing, formatting, and cover design (through whichever publishing house you choose) will be done by people who know what they’re doing. And you won’t have to worry about any of it!
  • The prestige. There’s definitely a bit of pride that comes with being a traditional published author. It’s pretty awesome being able to say that you have an agent to represent you, and a publishing house that chose your book to be published above all the others. It’s an awesome feat that’s worth celebrating!
  • You’ll have a better chance of being in big stores. With self-publishing, it’s a long and rigorous process to get your book into stores. It’s a lot easier when you’re traditional. The companies have deals with the store chains that will be a lot more direct and help you get your book onto shelves way easier and faster. It will still take some time, but you’ll have a better chance of getting in than if you were self publishing.


  • You have to find an agent. The first step of traditional publishing doesn’t actual start with going to the publishing house. It’s highly recommended that you first find an agent to represent you. With such a wide range of books and authors all applying to get their book out there, it’s highly recommended that you find someone to represent you in the industry. The reason I put this under con is because it takes a long time, and you have to spend a while sifting through agent profiles, trying to find one that’s a fit for you. Once you get one, you’re good to go! But in the meantime, it can be pretty slow-moving.
  • It takes a lot of time. Traditional publishing is a slow and tedious process. It’s a lot of waiting around to hear from people, to see if they liked your ____, with no guarantee they’ll respond positively. You might wait all that time only to get an email stating their rejection. It’s a leap of faith that you have to be willing to take in order to get yourself out there.
  • You may not have a lot of say in your work. Once you sign your work over to the company, they’ll have free-reign to be able to work on it. You may not have a lot (or any) say in what the cover looks like or how they edit your book. It varies company to company, but some can be pretty strict. Now, the people that are doing it are professional, but if you like taking the reigns, it may not be a good idea for you.


Self Publishing


  • You get control over everything. How your book cover looks, who edits it, how much time you spend on it: it’s all up to you. You will have a say in as much (or as little) of your book as you want. It leaves a lot up to the author.
  • It’s quick. Besides waiting to get your manuscript officially approved on Amazon and some other minor waits, it’s a relatively short period of time from when you finish your manuscript to when it’s on Amazon or Kindle. Traditional publishing can take weeks or months, but the same can’t be said self publishing.
  • It’s relatively cheap. Any new author’s ears perk up at the sound of the word ‘free.’ Publishing is not cheap via any means, and having something that doesn’t cost a lot can save a lot of hassle. The act of getting your work to whatever platform you want, the publishing part, is actually free. Any additional costs like cover design, editing, and formatting are up to you. Technically, you could make those free too if you did them yourself. The only cost you cannot get around is buying an ISBN for you book. It’s roughly $125 per ISBN, but you can buy 10 for $225 and save some money later if you wanted. Click here for more information on ISBNs.


  • You have to do everything yourself. Liberty to do things yourself is a double-edged sword: you have to do everything yourself. I’m not going to lie, it’s a ton of work to self publish. I’ve spent hours doing research and taking notes, trying to find the best and most cost-effective way to publish my book. I decided to save money on formatting and do that myself, but that added another 10+ hours to my workload. It’s a lot, and authors have to be ready to become editors, formatters, marketers and whatever else your book needs.
  • It can get pretty costly. You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Hold on, Julia. You just put a pro of self publishing that it’s cheap. Now you’re saying it’s costly. Which is it?” The truth is, it can be either. It depends on what you’re willing to spend money on. I was willing to spend some money on The Scavenger to make it the best it could be, my largest bill being my cover design. Once I realized that it was going to get pretty costly, I started saving right away and had enough money once the book was finished. You just have to do some research and figure out what you afford when it comes to your book.
  • Marketing can get pretty tricky. There are hundreds of thousands of books on Kindle and Amazon. Trying to make your book appeal to a reader above all others is difficult. Additionally, you have to do this work yourself. Unless you hire someone to specifically help market your book, you have to work on that yourself. It’s up to you to get your book out to readers. Some people say that the hardest part of writing the book isn’t actually the writing of it — it’s the marketing. Something to keep in mind when you begin to make decisions.


In the end, when I weighed the pros and cons of both together, I decided on self publishing for The Scavenger. Don’t get me wrong — there’s a high probability that I’m going to be trying my hand at traditional publishing in the future. But in the meantime, I thought it was important to define myself as an author so I had some credentials to state before I started looking at agents.

What type of publishing are you thinking of doing?

Hope this helped answer some questions you may have had about the process!

— J. L. Willow

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