writers resources / writing

Traditional or Indie? I’m Really Stressed Over This

writers groupThis is my first post with Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers Support Group (#IWSG). Click the link for details on what that means and how to join. You will also find a list of other bloggers signed up to the challenge that are worth checking out. Once a month we all post our thoughts, fears or words of encouragement for fellow writers. When I found out several writers I follow were members–Kate over at SubtleKate and Rebecca–I decided to take the plunge. This was not done without trepidation: I joined a ‘Linky’ sort of group a year ago and it was a dismal failure. I know–my fault. I didn’t put enough into it. This will be different because Kate and Rebecca have my back!

I am feeling very insecure about my writing this month. I have an agent and a publisher, but they are moving like turtles on Valium. Back when I started, I wanted the imprimatur of the pros, but now, maybe, it’s enough I caught their attention. Maybe my path leads elsewhere.

I spent time talking to several agents at a recent writers conference and found them… uninspiring. I wanted to see them as the epitome of my aspirations, the answer to my questions, but instead they displayed the traditional publisher disrespect for self-pubbed authors and little interest in facing the elephant in their future.

Sure, there’s a lot to detest about self-pubbed authors:

  • their editing often stinks
  • their marketing is amateurish
  • their book covers are uninspiring
  • their writing is often questionable

But despite that, many are making a living writing, doing what they love, publishing novels and stories that niche markets can’t get enough of and mainstream media would have nothing to do with.

What it comes down to is a leap of faith. If I self-pub:

  • will I be categorized as untouchable by Big Publisher? Will they forever throw my submittals in the round file, figuring self-pub was akin to inadequate
  • does it mean I’ve given up
  • can I make enough money to pay my bills
  • will writing become boring when it becomes my job (Right now, it’s my passion. What would I be passionate about if not for writing?)

Or is it my path to freedom?



Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing TeachersCisco guest blog, IMS tech expert, and a monthly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculumK-8 keyboard curriculumK-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.

Follow me.

I’m not very patient.

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24 thoughts on “Traditional or Indie? I’m Really Stressed Over This

  1. I know that place. I hit it back awhile after my agent had taken two years to not find a publisher, despite her initial enthusiasm. She kept saying, ‘three years ago they would have snapped this up.’ She advised me not to go with small publishers because they didn’t do anything for your career and sold few books, she also advised me against self-publishing, but I had a sense that my karma was with the indie route and, sure enough, that’s where I am now, but the prejudice is real and it stinks to be painted with the same brush as those that give SP a bad name. That’s why it’s so important that the Awesome Indies and other such sites become well-known so that readers can see that there are books that stand up against the mainstream. I’d like being accepted onto the list to have the same kudos as getting a publisher, it does to me, but it will take the world a while to realise it.

    Instead of self-publishing, I set up a partnership publishing company. It’s good to have someone else involved, someone to bounce off. I like having artistic control, but it is very hard to stand out in the crowd, and it takes a while to find your feet. In the end though, a good book isn’t enough, it has to be popular and you have to be able to get it visible before you have any chance of breaking even, let alone paying the bills.

    Personally, I just got sick of waiting for others to make up their minds and I figured that if an agent had picked it up (and I got awesome rejections, one a very near miss) it must be a good enough story to be worth publishing.

    • You are one of my inspirations, Tahlia. I remember when you turned the corner and I cheered you. Is it working? Are you making enough to pay the bills and pursue your dream?

  2. Hi:) I’m not at the same place as you – yet – still hoping for that agent, but then I suppose I need to get my work ‘out there’ more and I’m not very good at self-promoting …..Oh, that’s good, my topic for September’s ISWG!
    Suzanne @ Suzannes-Tribe

    • Truth, I’m still hoping for that traditional approval. When my current WIP is completed, I’ll probably submit it to agents–but I won’t be crushed when/if they don’t fight for a chance to publish me. That’s the change.

      Next book, maybe I won’t even submit.

  3. Interesting points! I went to my first writers’ group meeting last month and was shocked by just how determined they were to get agents and publishers, when I’ve been so involved with indie publishing through those I know who’ve gone that route and authors I read.
    I can think of at least two authors who are delighted with their choice and are very successful at self publishing, so it’s definitely changing. I’m in the process of becoming an editor and proofreader, so I’m hoping I can do my bit to support writers into producing the best they can – everyone who rushes something to publication without taking true care of their work risks spoiling their own reputation and those of indie writers in general, but there are enough strong writers out there to balance them out, I think.
    Good luck with your writing! I’m enjoying my first IWSG bloghop :)

    • Thanks, Emmy! Agents seem to think all we want is to make millions of $. Most writers I know–just not true. We want to pay our bills. Why don’t agents get that? I know the answer–they want to get rich and need that one-in-a-million genius writer to do it.

      Sigh. Just ain’t me and that’s OK.

  4. Hi Jacqui, welcome to the ISWG. I am one of the co-hosts this month. I think we all want to find a fab agent and be published and earn oodles of money. But as you said above, it just doesn’t happen for most of us. I tried the traditional route for my memoir and ended up self-publishing. I don’t think I’m one of the self-pubbed authors you describe in your post. I paid editors, had my book professionally designed and am proud of the end result. And I do think the stigma of self-publishing is lifting a wee bit.

  5. Hi Jacqui. I find it interesting that when people think of self publishing the first thing they say is poor editing. Which may be true to some degree however I have read many big name authors who still have editing issues in their novels. So I wonder why it is such a stigma with self-publishing? I give kudos to all self-publishers (of which I’m one) who put their stuff out there, whether it is perfect or not. I too tried the Traditional Publishing route and actually I pulled my first book from one to self-publish. I am thrilled I chose this route. I wish you the best on your journey.

    • And it is a journey. Sometimes, I feel like I’d have a better chance of hitting the Sahara during a rainstorm than getting my book written/edited/published. Patience and I aren’t normally on speaking terms. I’m learning, though.

      • Too cute. Yes learning patience is a requirement in the world of writing, editing, publishing. Which is probably why I self published, I wanted something to happen now not later. Good luck with learning to speak with your patience. :)

  6. I am not a published author, so you can take this comment with a grain of salt. I have read the blogs of many people who are published and trying to get published. The truth is that the nature of publishing is changing. I worked at a publishing house in New York back in the early 90s when publishing was still Prime. It isn’t Prime anymore. Small publishers are closing shop. Bookstores (and I am talking the Big Ones) are having difficulty staying in business, let alone the small ones. E-Books are becoming more popular sidelining the volume of printed books. Only the large publishers are able to stay in business and they are hesitant to take on new authors. Instead they are sticking with the Tried and True.

    I agree with many of the other people who have commented. I think the stigma regarding self publishing is lifting. The reason is that the nature of publishing itself is changing. There will always be printed books, but the the E-book is going to become more prevalent. Self-publishing is going to outpace traditional publishing. In fact, I think it already has. What is going to separate the wheat from the chaff in the arena of self pub is the person who knows how to do it well.

    • I think that’s a perfect summary. Logically, there is no stigma to self-pubbing because publishers aren’t looking for a whole lot of authors (per your Tried and True comment). So we-all must mentally buck up and move on and publish (but do it well).

  7. I really think the self-publishing stigma comes from the agents and publishing houses themselves, Jacqui. It’s really worth their while to discourage self-publishing because it is in direct competition with their ‘business’. If the self-pub industry keeps heading the way it is, why will we need publishing houses and agents?

    I agree with Maggie’s comment about ‘big name’ authors who have editing issues with their novels. I’m often finding typos and missing words in bestsellers and I wonder how many hands and eyes the book has passed through before it’s come to me.

    Having been traditionally published and self-published – I’d go with self-publishing any day ;)

    • I love hearing that from you Dianne: You’ve tried both and like self-pub better. There are so many stories of great authors–who went traditional and jumped ship–who are better off professionally and financially by self-pubbing.

  8. I just listened to a very good Anne Rice video on youtube. She said don’t worry about going indie. Publishers are scanning indie books looking for the great ones. Don’t worry about what anyone else says.

    • But what the h*** does that mean? It’s more of a lottery–that your mss hits the desk of an agent who’s looking for that type of mss. It makes me cranky just thinking of the odds of that happening.

      • I take it to mean that just because you’re self publishing doesn’t mean you do everything by yourself or on the cheap, it means you keep control and take responsibility for calling in experts where needed – so you consider carefully whether you should pay for a professional editor, a professional proofreader and professional cover design. The power remains in your hands, but you take extra care to do all the things that a publisher would do for your work.
        But polishing your work as much as you can and putting it straight out to readers can make it easier than landing on the desk of the agent/publisher who’s willing to take it on – if your work is good enough, and you make the effort to get it out there, you have a good chance of succeeding. For a couple of authors who’ve gone the indie route and been very successful with it, look up Linda Gillard and Elle Casey :)

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