Publishing Dilemma: Trad or Indie?

As I continue to perfect the manuscript of Transgression, with the superb support of my editor, Eamon O’Cleirigh, I am in a quandary about how to get it published. Should I continue to use the independent route or seek a traditional publisher?

My first three novels were published at Smashwords and Amazon Kindle. For the third I also used Amazon’s CreateSpace option to offer a print-on-demand paper-back version. The problem is that very few people know my books are there. I try to promote them via Facebook and, over recent weeks, Twitter. But I have only a handful of followers so I can’t overdo it for fear of losing them.

Indie Book Promoters

It’s a problem that all indie authors face. There are dozens of websites that will, for a fee, post about your book to their claimed list of thousands of followers. Except that I suspect most of those followers are other writers trying to sell their books. The same goes for sites that offer reviews, either paid for or in exchange for you reviewing the books of other users of the service. And then there are organisations that provide a full promotion service, including targeted press releases. I can’t help wondering just how effective these are when the ‘product’ is a book by an unknown author.

Traditional agents and publishers have two massive advantages: contacts and reputation. Some of those contacts may well be people or organisations that get to see my tweets and the tweets of the indie book promotion folks. The point is that all of them are much more likely to be influenced by a tweet from Penguin or one of the Hachette imprints than they will be by one from me or an indie book promoter.


That’s true, also, for reviews. The traditional publishers can send a book to the literature editors of national and international media organisations and be certain the book will be read and a review published where it will be seen by hundreds of thousands of potential readers. Why would anyone not want that level of endorsement?

And that’s without the added impact of seeing piles of hard-back books in bookstore displays.

Age matters

I can’t speak for the hundreds of thousands of authors using the independent publishing route. For me, the most significant factor is age. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that agents and traditional publishers are unfairly ageist. But I can see how their criteria for taking on a new writer must include the prospect of longevity in the relationship. They are looking, not just at the potential income from the one book they are assessing, but the promise of decades of steady earnings as the author matures and develops, producing a succession of works that, whilst they may not all become best-sellers, will be well received generating significant sales volume over time. At 73, going on 74, that’s something I can’t offer.

My age influences my decision in another way. The process involved in the traditional publishing route takes a long time. You spend months seeking an agent; if you’re lucky enough to find one he or she spends many more weeks or months finding a publisher. That publisher has a schedule, a pipeline of launches extending forwards over many more months. So the timescale from submission to publication is unlikely to be much less than two years and could be considerably more. I can’t wait that long. I want my book available to readers as soon as I am satisfied it is as good as it can be.

The answer, it seems to me, is to hedge my bets. We have all heard the stories of independently published books that have been picked up by a traditional publisher: the Grey phenomenon is not unique, although it is the most notoriously successful. So there cannot be any harm in going ahead and publishing at Smashwords, Kindle and CreateSpace whilst also pitching it to agents.

Meanwhile, I need an eye-catching cover design that captures the book’s theme. And if anyone reading this wants to share their experience of independent or traditional publishing they are welcome to do so by commenting below.

3 thoughts on “Publishing Dilemma: Trad or Indie?

  1. Great post. It’s tough to do your own marketing without contacts, but it does take a long time to get your book out there if you go the traditional route, and you still have to do a lot of your own marketing.


  2. It is tough. I went with Orangehat for my first, okay only, book – What the Heck, Dec?!. While they did some of the publicity, most of if was left up to me -.tough gig when you’re working full-time. Plus, I am a writer, not a salesperson and I struggle with all the time. The other disadvantage I found are the reviews as I did them all by myself….well, the meager ones I received from blogs and reviewers. The rest of the reviews were from people I didn’t really know and during my free Kindle week, but again, meager at best. I don’t know what the answer is and as I am editing my second book, I still don’t know. I think an agent/publisher does give you the advantage of perhaps having a salary so you don’t have to work a day job, so you can help with the publicity and reviews. And age does play a part, I fear. I think it’s not only an investment issue, it may be a where-have-they-been issue playing in the back of their minds. Anyway, great article and lots more questions raised. Thanks!


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