Traditional Publishing or Self Publishing: The Smart Choice for Writers

This is going to be just one of a series of  either/or posts… this will be the second, as some time ago I wrote about whether writers were after readers or money.

Now I’ll weigh in on the Traditional or Self Publish argument.

This is interesting to me, because a year ago, there was no argument.  J. A. Konrath had just announced that he would forsake traditional publishing in favor of self publishing, and the some quibbling had begun about the digital rights to books whose contracts preceded ebook technology, but really, if you asked anyone in the industry whether it was wise for a writer, especially an unknown writer to self publish, there was only one answer.


Not if you ever hoped to find a traditional publisher for the book, much less an agent who would even read it. Not if you wanted to be a real, published author.  Not if you wanted to find real readers for your book. Not if you wanted to be taken seriously…

But what a difference a day makes.

The same week that Barry Eisler walked away from a half million dollar advance for a two book deal with St. Martin’s Press, the same publisher announced that Amanda Hocking had accepted a two million dollar advance on her forthcoming four book Water Song series.  It was a very good month for Ms. Hocking, as she had just sold her millionth book on the Kindle Store.

Her millionth self published book.

When J.A. Konrath decided to go the self-publishing model, he already had an established fan base, readers who followed his best selling Jackie Daniels series.  Barry Eisler has also been successfully published via traditional means.  But Amanda’s story is, well, completely different (sorry, perhaps I should keep calling her Ms. Hocking, but she strikes me as more of an “Amanda”).

She built her fan base on her success as a self publisher.  After years of rejections from agents, she is now represented by one of the best agents on the planet, with one of the sweetest advances made for fiction this year. Though her “Trylle” series has recently also sold to St. Martin’s, at the time of this post, the first book remains in the Kindle store at its .99 price.

I think Amanda is smart, as is her agent, for leaving the books to be sold online (for now).  Because I think that out of the three of them, the one who is really getting it right is Amanda.

What’s the right answer? The answer to the question I ask in the title of this post?


Amanda Hocking has built a fan base on ebooks that are inexpensively sold via Amazon.  At this point, every book she sells is another potential reader for her next series.

Seth Godin recently addressed another either/or argument about free vs. paid… with a brilliant solution.  Rather than do one, do both… give something away for free (or at very low cost), and create fans who will be willing to pay for your next endeavor.

SWITCHED, the best of her books, according Hocking, goes for .99 in the kindle store.  Amanda gets her readers hooked, and then up-sells them to the next books at a $2.99 price.

A great deal of marketing for a book is now accomplished online.  How better to market the author than to have her work available and circulating digitally?  I think we’re going to see more and more writers using the eighteen months between signing a traditional book deal, and release of said book on the market to promote themselves by building a community around their fictive worlds.

Writing a serialized story that parallels or leads up to the story of the actual book would be a great way to accomplish online world building, while building a platform as well  (the viral campaign for Andrea Cremer’s NIGHTSHADE was a good example of this).

For established authors, making previously unpublished works available, or releasing related short stories that support the world of their upcoming books would be great way to keep readers engaged, and build interest and engagement in their yet to be released works.  In turn, the print books can then help to promote the online offerings for readers who want more.

Smart writers will start looking at how they can capitalize on their strengths in marketing and platform building: that is, writing.

If’ they’re not already, the should.

Have you seen any examples of this?  What are you thoughts?  Send me a comment and let me know.

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