The Publishing Games

After years of hard work, you have finally finished. You have your manuscript in your hand and now you want to show the world what you lost sleep over. So now what? 

Welcome to the Publishing Games 

Almost every author dreams of holding a published copy of their work someday. The only issue is that with so many publishing options, which option is the right option? There has been a great debate on three different options (or tributes, in this case) that others believe to be the right choice. However, every “tribute” has both pros and cons that a new author doesn’t really know about in the beginning. So instead of shooting an arrow in the dark, hoping it hits its target, let’s shine some light on these tributes so that you can decide what is best for you.

(Note: The following information is provided bias-free. My goal is not to sway you to pick a certain publishing route, but to show you the different options. So let’s have fun, shall we?)

Tribute Number One: Traditional Publishing


Examples: “Hunger Games” trilogy, “Harry Potter” series, Stephen King novels, etc.

Traditional publishing is what the younger generations consider as “the stuff.” Typically, it’s what people think an author should do when wanting to publish their book. I have heard some even argue that you are only a true author if you publish traditionally (which I’m just going to step in here and say is total bologna). However, I cannot deny that when you go to a bookstore and scan the different aisles for your new book of the day, those books are more than likely published traditionally. So now that I’ve said “traditional publishing” several times now, you are probably wondering what all it entails. Allow me to introduce this tribute.

OVERVIEW: According to my research, if you were to select this tribute/option after you have perfected your manuscript, this is what you will look forward to — writing a query letter to find an agent, having an agent accept you, you and your agent work to find a publishing company to accept your book, they eventually accept you, they design your book until it is publish-ready, it’s published and in bookstores for the world to see.

*insert happy dancing rainbows here*

Seems easy enough, right? That’s what I originally thought, too, when I was younger and first discovered my dream of being an author. In my eyes all I had to do was write a book, find an agent, then BOOM I’m a successful, published author swimming in money and giving out autographs. I’m sure there are others who think the same thing. And although I’ll admit this would be awesome, there is a little more that goes into traditional publishing than that. And it’s not pretty. 

CONS: (information provided by The Creative Penn)

  • Traditional Publishing is slower than Christmas.
    • “Writing and editing will be the same regardless of how you want to publish. But then it might take you a year or two to get an agent. Then it might take a year to get a publishing deal and then it will likely be from six months to two and half years before your book is launched.” 
  • Say goodbye to creative control.
    • “Many authors get titles, covers and marketing angles that they’re not happy with. [. . .] You may also get an editor you don’t agree with, especially as many of the more experienced editors move up in the company or are working freelance for more money.”
  • The royalty rates are not so royal.
    • “Royalty rates for traditional publishing will usually range between 7% and 25%, with the latter on the unusually generous end. The rates will also differ per format e.g. ebook vs. hardback vs. audio. “

With all that being said, are you holding your manuscript a lot closer now? I don’t blame you. As a writer, when reading all of this information I became very nervous. There are ugly and dangerous sides to this tribute/option that you don’t hear about until doing some research and talking to the experts. It is a side the tribute doesn’t want others to see because it is, as previously mentioned, the “top dog.” When your badside shows, it’s difficult to gain a following, and yet it does. You are probably asking, if all the cons are horrifying-ly true, why would anyone want to pursue traditional publishing?

The answers lie below.

PROS: (information also provided by The Creative Penn)

  • You get cool points.
    • “Most authors suffer from self-doubt and wonder if their work is good enough. If you make it through the process to get an agent and then a publisher, approval by these gatekeepers is usually validation that your work is good enough. Even if the book doesn’t go on to sell very well, at least somebody thinks it’s worthwhile. If your definition of success includes a traditional deal because of these reasons, then nothing else will do!”
  • #SquadGoals
    • Editors, cover designers, formatters and (possibly) marketing help is provided by the agent and publisher as part of the contract.”
  • Cheaper than Haymitch’s clothes.
    • “You don’t have to pay anyone to get a traditional publishing deal and if you are asked for money, then it is NOT a traditional publishing deal. It’s likely to be a vanity publisher and you should be very careful.”
  • Prize on prize on prize.
    • “Literary prizes and critical acclaim are more likely through traditional publishing, and many literary prizes aren’t even open to indie authors.” 

(More websites with pros/cons on traditional publishing can be found at end of post.)

Doesn’t seem so bad anymore, does it? You can come out of hiding now. But you can’t forget about the cons, nor the pros. This is why so many people opt for this tribute more so than others although, as previously mentioned, it is super difficult to do. There is no guarantee that it will bring you success, but it will bring you a published book (this is something you must consider when looking into publishing that will be discussed later). The Publishing Games have only just began and it’s proven itself to be more challenging than originally thought. Perfect.

So now that we have thoroughly checked out this tribute, let’s see some others. Are they less painful? Are they more painful? Are they going to take down the Capitol?

Let’s find out.

Tribute Number Two: Self-Publishing


Examples: “Fifty Shades of Gray” series, Colleen Hoover novels, “Beautiful Disaster” series.

Good news! There is a new tribute in the house (games?) and they are not bowing down to the traditional ways. They stick their middle finger up thumb down to tradition and have created their own paths to become a Victor. Maybe you are like this tribute. Maybe even after reading all the goodies that come with traditional publishing you are still not over the darkness lingering in the cons list (that’s normal). If so, this may be the tribute for you! Let’s take a closer look at this rebellious creature.

*gets out binoculars*

OVERVIEW: Self-publishing is pretty much what it sounds like. You have your manuscript, you skip all the agent stuff, you find a self-publishing website, upload your manuscript, pick out all the goodies to get it publish-ready, and finally . . . publish.

Awe, yes, now that dream I had when I was younger is starting to come to life! This is so easy! I should have done this years ago! Several others have thought this exact same thing and even taken it a step further and actually published their material. This tribute is quickly becoming the next Kim Kardashian, it’s everywhere. And it’s getting famous really quickly. So much so that this is what triggered the Publishing Games in the first place. Traditional publishing was having a nice little dinner until Self-Publishing kicked down the door and took its place at the table without asking (rude). Nonetheless, although it has some awesome vibes going on with it that anyone can tag along with, it does raise the question about why isn’t everyone doing this?

CONS: (information provided by Book Marketing Tools)

  • You’re not taken very seriously.
    • “Because a lot of not-so-inspiring material has been self-published (along with some excellent stuff by established authors) it’s an uphill battle to gain the credibility your work deserves and which automatically comes from being published by a major publishing house.”
  • Alert the calvary! And my bank account!
    • “You need to develop and master the skills (or hire those who have them) for cover design, editing, proofing, EBook formatting, print design, printing and all the others processes that publishers typically handle.”
  • Read me if you can.
    • “You do not have a network of distribution channels that traditional publishers have and use.”

Wait! Don’t throw your manuscript away! There is still hope!


PROS: (information also provided by Book Marketing Tools)

  • I’ve got that power!
    • “You have creative and scheduling control of your book from cover to cover and from manuscript to market.”
  • “It’s my book and I want it now!”
    • “You are not dependent on a publisher who is juggling other projects so you can get your book to market much more quickly than most publishers can.”
  • I can haz the money?
    • “You have the possibility of a much larger return on your publishing investment since you keep 70-100% of sales rather than get a 15% royalty.”

(More websites on the pros/cons of self-publishing can be found at end of post.)

Now that you have two options, this is where it all gets tricky because now that you have to consider something: why are you publishing your book?

As you may have noticed, one tribute will possibly give you more fame/recognition, but the other will get the job done. Either option, you are a Victor. But which one is more worthy to you? Which one makes you feel more like an author? The stigmas of these two are very, very real as seen in this post by Huffington Post. Some have even argued that to self-published means giving up your title as an author and replace it with “marketer” (The Guardian). That’s a lot to take in. So again, it raises the question about why are you publishing in the first place? Do the stigmas matter to you?

Now that we are all successfully filled with doubt and panic over our options (much like the elections) you are probably asking what else I have up my sleeve. What tribute is going to come out and save us all from this horrible nightmare of Publishing Games? Is there a perfect tribute? 

On to the third and final tribute! (For this post)

Tribute Number Three: Independent Publishing


Examples: “Go The F*ck To Sleep” by Adam Mansbach, “Our Man in Iraq” by Robert Perisic, “what purpose did i serve in your life” by Marie Calloway

Story time: Once upon a time, in the middle of the Publishing Games, traditional publishing and self-publishing decided to meet up to end their ongoing battle. They were both sick and tired of all the stigmas attached to them. They soon realized they actually enjoyed each other’s company, then one thing lead to another and out came their child, Independent Publishing. It was a very magical moment, although sadly, they forgot to post an Instagram photo of their precious child so not many know about it. Thankfully, someone got the memo because independent publishing companies started popping up everywhere (see list at end of post). The two tributes tried to keep their kid a mystery from others so not very much is known about it, although many get it confused with self-publishing, but what we do know is this . . .

OVERVIEW: According to my research, independent publishing is similar to both tributes in the sense that you still have to get your manuscript approved by a company (an independent one) and you have a lot of control on over your work like you would with self-publishing. It is not very popular among mainstream novels, however, if you are not looking for the limelight, maybe this tribute is for you. It is viewed as a way to take self-publishing a step further but not so far that you traditionally publish. Some suggest this is good to new authors because you can reap the benefits of the two tributes. You can, however, also gain the cons as well.

CONS: (information provided by The Creative Penn)

  • You’re still not in the “cool” crowd.
    • “There’s no prestige, kudos or validation by the industry. The ‘stigma’ lessens every day, but if your definition of success is bound up with what other authors, agents and publishers think of you, then indie might not be best for you.”
  • It’s not as cheap as Haymitch’s clothes . . .
    • You need a budget upfront if you want a professional result. These days, you’re likely to spend on professional editing before submitting to an agent anyway, or at least be spending on books and courses for writers.”
  • May the odds be ever in your favor for the Pulitzer.
    • “Most literary prizes don’t accept indie books and most literary critics for mainstream media won’t review them. So if your definition of success is literary acclaim, you’re probably better off going the traditional route.”

However, as President Snow would say,

Hope is the only thing stronger than fear.

PROS: (information also provided by The Creative Penn)

  • I’ve still got the power!
    • As an indie, you can work with freelancers of your choice and you can choose the ultimate look and feel of your product.”
  • I love the power!
    • Yes, it’s hard work, but it’s certainly empowering as hell. The positive energy involved in being an indie can propel you much further, much faster than waiting in line for your turn.”
  • I can haz the money!
    • “Higher royalties. If you price your book between $2.99 and $9.99 (on Amazon), you can get 70% royalty. Traditional royalty rates usually fit in the 7-25% bracket, averaging 10%.” 

(More websites with pros/cons of indie publishing can be found at the end of the post.)

So now you are probably like me with a thousand thoughts running through your mind (and a ton of curse words) wondering what the hell heck does this all mean? Why did I write this blog? What is the point in all of this?

Allow me to explain.

As a writer myself, I wonder what path I need to take in order to publish my books, but that is no simple task. It’s also something that should not be taken lightly. Your work is more than just a manuscript. It is evidence of hard and strenuous labor. You probably were like me and stayed up almost all night to perfect a single scene. Maybe you lost contact with family members and friends in order to finish. You ripped your book to shreds several times when editing the life out of (and into) it. You cried, you laughed, you hated it, you loved it, you may have even bled all for this book. So when sharing it with the world, don’t you want to chose a tribute that will honor all that hard work? But that’s not easy when there are so many unclear paths to take.

That’s why I created this post, to show the different options and to prove that regardless of the stigmas that come with each tribute, you have to find what’s best for you. There is no right or wrong answer when becoming a “Victor” aka an author. Luckily, we do not live in a world that needs The Publishing Games. We can become our own Victors regardless of what the world thinks. Publishing is a crazy, complicated mess, but in the end, no matter what you choose, it will be worth it when you are holding that copy in your hand.

With all this being said, if the “tributes” listed above do not work in your favor (get it?) here are some other possible options for you:

  1. Self-publish first then go towards traditional. You don’t have to stay with a tribute at all times. (This is very common).
  2. Publish your work on semi-public forums for readers, for free. (Such as Wattpad)
  3. Hybrid publishing: help fund the publication of your book in exchange for the expertise and assistance of publisher (source).
  4. Digital-Only traditional publishing.

(For even more options, click on this link provided by Jane Friedman.)

So if you ever feel like . . .


Just remember . . .



Websites/Sources/Paraphernalia That Will Blow Your Mind


Extra (Good) Readings:

All about traditional publishing with a vulgar twist.

Traditional vs Self-Publishing Part One

Traditional vs Self-Publishing Part Two

Traditional vs Indie vs Self-Publishing

Successful Self-Publishing Authors

25 Independent Publishing Companies

Video on Publishing

Slideshow That Breaks Down Traditional vs Self-Publishing

Pro/Con Traditional Publishing Continued:

Pro/Con Self-Publishing Continued:

Pro/Con Independent Publishing Continued:

Written by: Chelsey Dugger for English 4730
Undergraduate Senior at Middle Tennessee State University
Advocate of Cheetos

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close