Friday, June 8, 2012

Traditional vs. Self Publishing: Why I Chose to Fight the Odds

Traditional vs Self-publishing: 
Why I Chose to Fight the Odds
by Ryan Graudin

These days in the writing world, there seems to be a growing rift in opinions regarding traditional publishing vs self-publishing. Why go through the endless hoops of rejection and blind-luck that accompanies the world of traditional publishing when you can control every aspect of your book and make it widely available to the public on your own?

When you look at the statistics, it’s easy to see why so many writers choose the path of self-publishing. Frankly speaking, landing a contract with a traditional publishing house is hard. This article by Michelle White dives into more details about the numbers, but it seems the odds of landing a single agent and securing a book contract is around .0001%. No matter how you look at it, those numbers are daunting and heart-wrenching.

So, as a writer, why did I choose to fight those odds?

I’ve been on both sides of the publishing spectrum. I was 17 when I self-published my first novel. It was my senior thesis for my creative writing major (I went to an arts high school), a 250-page fantasy novel entitled Shadows Fall. As a part of the course requirements, I had to self-publish the novel. This was 2005, mind you, and self-publishing was still a relatively new concept. In the end I sold close to 300 copies to my very eager family and friends.

Fast forward eight years and I’m now fortunate enough to be a part-time writer with a two-book contract with HarperTeen. Those eight years were filled with a lot of writing, re-writing, rejection and tears (I would say sweat and blood, but unfortunately typing only burns so many calories). I faced a lot of fears and set-backs, but I never really considered going back to self-publishing.

Honestly, I’m glad I didn’t. Despite the odds, traditional publishing provides one thing self-publishing doesn’t: accountability. My agent and my editor have made me write and rewrite and tweak my manuscript in ways I would never think of on my own. What I would’ve considered publishable on my own was actually only a third or fourth draft out of ten. Traditional publishing has pushed my work to be the best it can be before it faces the world.

This isn’t to say there aren’t self-published books of literary merit, or that all traditionally published books are masterpieces, but after going through both processes I’ve begun to appreciate the sieve that traditional publishing provides. As a reader, I’m much more likely to choose a book that’s first been plucked from the slush by an agent and an editor. As a writer, it’s invaluable to have a team of professionals guiding me through the process of sharing my stories with the world. They have insights and ideas and resources that are far beyond my scope. For me, it was worth fighting the odds and taking that risk to give my book the chance to be the best it can possibly be.

What about you guys? For the writers among you, what method of publishing have you chosen to pursue and why? As readers, do you hold any bias for or against a book based on its publishing process?

About the author:
When she’s not writing and drifting around the globe, Ryan Graudin enjoys hunting through thrift stores and taking pictures of her native Charleston, SC. Her novel LUMINANCE HOUR, the story of a Faery forced to guard the Prince of England, is due out with HarperTeen in 2013. You can learn about all of these things and more at You can also follow her on Twitter @ryangraudin.

This post is part of a new feature on Krazy Book Lady. Each week on Fridays, we are looking at a topic related to some aspect of publishing. If you are interested in writing a guest post for this feature, please contact me. Here are the posts for the previous weeks.

~ Indie Authors are on the Wrong Side of the Tracks by Darian Wilk
~ Why Do Indie Writers Need Editors by Valerie Douglas
~ Let's Talk About Sex ... in YA Books - Is Sexual Content Appropriate by Deb Hanrahan

Another guest post that was not part of this feature but fits in perfectly: What are the Mistakes You See in Beginner Writers by Shannon Mayer


  1. Great post!!!

    I want to dive into traditional publishing kinda for that reason & it's super intimidating to see stats like .0001%. *gulp* I can feel the layers of editing when I read a published book vs. e-pubs. I want my book to be that polished. I think.

    1. Thanks, Laura! And the .0001% odds are based on querying only a single agent. If you query widely (but still well-informed!) then your odds are going to look a bit better. Good luck and write on!

  2. Going to be honest. .. Feel like traditional publishers are too much of a machine and focus on trends, particularly in YA. I know longer trust them to pick quality writers and good work. I have read enough self-published authors out their to appreciate their ingenuity, even their execution stlll needs work. Big name publishers are so caught up in the mechanism of what they believe will sell that they don't take a chance on newer authors with original concepts.

    1. I do agree that trend-chasing is a factor in traditional publishing, but I do think you'll find that in self-pubbing as well. There's great concepts on both sides of the line. Thanks for your thoughts!

  3. I have found a lot of wonderful books that I wouldn't have if the author had gone trad. And all of these books were put through the paces before they saw the light of day.

    1. I'm glad you were able to find some great reads! No matter how they were published. In the end it all boils down to good writing, whether it was published traditionally or not.

  4. I've gone both routes as well, Ryan and have to disagree--but that's fair enough. The wonderful thing about being part of this new publishing revolution is the fact we have CHOICE. What works for you doesn't work for me--and that's totally okay. I've had opportunities to go back to traditional publishing, but I turn them down. I'm enjoying being the master of my own destiny--but I'm also a professional and a stickler for everything that goes with it, including putting out the best product I can.

    In the end, I don't think it matters which way you go, as long as you're writing and putting out really awesome books. :)



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