Traditional or Self?

Publishing that is.

Avoiding clichés is one of the biggest obstacles I’ve had to overcome as a writer. An instructor at Gotham once gave me a scathing review, calling my entire 10,000-word submission cliche—characters and plot and dialogue. I never liked this instructor very much, but I learned a valuable lesson from her.

I blame it on my upbringing. I was raised in the Deep South where clichés and superstitions are both recognized and appreciated. My mother doesn’t speak English. She speaks in clichés, one long continuous stream of them in every sentence. I happen to love that about her. Sometimes a cliché says it all. Especially when we’re talking about publishing. We all know there is . . .

More Than One Way to Skin a Cat


I attended several workshops and spent hours working with my editor on my query, but in the end, I only sent it out to a handful of literary agents. We’ve all heard the statistics. Literary agents receive hundreds of queries each week, and they only take on one or two new clients a year. Do you think F. Scott Fitzgerald would have been one of the selected two?


Kathryn Stockett submitted her query to more than sixty literary agents before she found one willing to take a chance on The Help. (If you want to be truly inspired, read Stockett’s article at More.) After all, in this day of political correctness, what literary agent in their right mind would risk their reputation on a novel about two black maids and a white girl in the early 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi? Never mind that The Help stayed on the New York Times Bestseller List for YEARS and Hollywood made a major motion picture out of it. I’m not one to watch a movie more than once, but I’ve seen this one umpteen times, and I always cry at the end.

Kathryn Stockett has more patience than me. And she is considerably younger than me. When I realized I might be old and gray and wearing Depends by the time I found a literary agent for Saving Ben—and the literary agent found a publisher and my novel actually hit the shelves at Barnes and Noble—I decided to give self-publishing a try.  

I’ve never been one to do things the easy way. Not that any route to getting published is easy. But in self-publishing, the onus falls solely on the author. Writer, editor, formatter, promoter, blogger. There are no literary agents or publicists to offer advice or show you the way. That can be a good thing for someone like me who’s more than a little bit of a control freak. With role models like Amanda Hocking and Colleen Hoover, not to mention the wealth of online support available for indie authors—websites willing to review your book, blogs that provide tried and true experience, chat rooms packed with like-minded writers offering support—I think we’ll see more and more aspiring authors become successful at self-publishing in the years ahead. I certainly hope I’m one of them. 🙂



Congratulations to the winner of Write-A-Thon:

Keith Walters

(Keith please e-mail me your address at


Share your thoughts on publishing, both traditional and self.


11 thoughts on “Traditional or Self?

  1. Well, I’ve never published…well, I had one poem published in an anthology long ago, but it was through a contest so it doesn’t really count as experience. I want to publish one day, when I finish my story and get the courage to let strangers write my work. That’s why I made the blog too, to get used to strangers reading my words. I do think, however, Indie authors are more and more by the day, possibly self-publishing can be a great idea, but (and I’ll say this due to an experience of mine reading an indie book) they need to make sure they have their work properly edited before publishing, it has to be embarrassing to have a reviewer point out several typos, spelling mistakes and coherence problems.

    • That’s very true. Especially at this pivotal point in publishing, Indie authors have to work extra hard to produce a quality product, to overcome the stigma associated with self-publishing

  2. I want to be published but am unsure of which route I will take. I have entered a few contest with one MS (that I am now completely revising). It seems like you see agent success stories all the time on twitter. On the other hand, the numbers of authors self publishing is growing immensely. I figure, when I am ready to finally take the leap, I will have to truly weigh all options.

  3. I’ve always thought that people saying that one way or the other, traditional or self-published, is always the way to go to be quite silly. I think that which one is best really depends on the author and their willingness and enthusiasm with regards to doing everything. Frankly, as much as some people tout it as the be-all and end-all in a new era, I don’t think self-publishing is for everyone.

    Fact is, some authors instinctively understand formatting and judging a good cover and self-promotion and all the trappings that go with self-publishing just like some are good at understanding the ins and outs of publishing contracts (the rest of us have to put in the hard work and learn).

    In the end, each author and each book is a separate case and, when the time comes for making a decision, nothing should be rushed into.

  4. I’ve always been a big fan of the DIY (do-it-yourself) movement, so self-publishing seems perfect for me. I’m also a bit of a control freak when it comes to my creative work. But I do also want that “traditional” publishing experience. I figure my first novel or two will be self-published and I’ll try the traditional route with another and if no one bites, I’ll self-publish that one, too. I’d like to try both and compare the experience, but if no one wants to publish it… I also think self-publishing is good if your writing spans several genres or is a bit “different” from what’s currently selling well.

    • I agree with you about self-publishing being good for writers who cross genres. As I just said in the comment above, my hope is to gain a modicum of success with Saving Ben that might help me attract an agent when I query my WIP. More than one way to skin a cat . . .

      • Yup! I’ve heard that many agents/publishers like when an author has success through self-publishing. It can convince them to pick up that author. Worth a shot!

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