To e- or not to e- That is the Question (orig. post Feb 9th)

To e- or not to e- that is the question:

Whether ’tis Nobler for the novel to suffer
The trends and whims of publishing world fortune,
Or to e-Book, instead of a Sea of Submissions,
And by virtual means, end them


Lake Side Publishing House, by Lovejoy & Foster

Lake Side Publishing House, by Lovejoy & Foster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To e-publish or not? Strictly speaking it’s to self-publish or not that’s the question. The rules and the game itself have changed and now as novelists, we’re faced with the decision as to whether to seek the recognition and validation of a traditional publisher rather than choosing to self-publish. The stigma of so-called vanity publishing has not been eliminated completely, but between Smashwords, Amazon’s KDP, Createspace, Lulu, Bookbaby and other organisations, it’s easy to self publish whether it is an eBook, or hardcopies printed on demand (POD). Millions of people have already jumped at the opportunity, preferring the option to traditional publishing. So if you choose to dive in, it will be a crowded pool.

There have been a number of publicly noted success stories – Amanda Hocking, for example. She’s a 27 year old novelist, from a small town in Minnesota, who tried the traditional route, had about 50 rejection letters from agents, and finally decided to self publish back in 2008. She also looked at Wal-Mart and where her work could fit in. Not in the James Patterson thriller market, but in paranormal romance – fantasy stories –vampires, witches etc- with a love story thrown in. She has now joined the ranks of Stieg Larsson and only 10 other authors who’ve sold 1million books for Amazon’s Kindle. She’s been picked up by St Martin’s Press, and has her first print book, Switched, published. The movie rights have also been optioned.

In the interview I read through NPR, Amanda emphasizes she was prepared to put in the hard work. I got the impression she was talking not so much about rewrites and edits, but self –promotion, as well as handling what was, initially, essentially running a small business. Not quite what you had in mind? – Earning the $2M perhaps, but all the marketing that would go with it? – Not so much, I imagine.

The reality is, that even if one decides (or should I say, is lucky enough) to be able to go the traditional publishing route, then unless you’re an exception, you’ll be asked to do just that – get a website, write a blog, have a social network presence. In essence brand yourself, not just your work. Times are economically hard, but also the publishing industry has changed dramatically over the past 20 years in the way books are marketed. As artists, it might seem loathsome, but the good side of this change is that more people are reading books than ever before. And that surely has to be a good thing.

For myself I’m in the middle of the rejection letter phase for, my first novel Radio Echo. I wouldn’t have considered self-publishing until very recently, but I’m now reconsidering it as an option. What changed for me is that in the submission guidelines for the agents I applied to, some asked for details of self published work – where, in what form, and what the sales been. Mainstream publishers are clearing coming round to embracing indie publishers. It helps them see if you have a marketable product, which let’s face it is ultimately what they’re interested in.

So we’ll see. You can write a good novel or rewrite until your hand falls off, but it doesn’t guarantee a publishing contract. People’s tastes are varied enough to warrant a huge range of work, and trends come and go. As a writer do you want your work read? Presumably yes. So the question is, in what circumstances and at what cost?

It’s not the 20th century anymore. It Time to get real kids.


BTW a great resource for self publishing and self marketing is Joanna Penn’s website:

She has a great blog, a wonderful series of podcasts and is a huge resource for writers in general, especially those considering self publishing.


COMMENTS from previous site:



Wed, 08 Feb 2012 07:38:10

I’d say go for it – not only can you gauge your readership and its response, but you also have the chance to be involved in your own promotion – like it or not, these days marketing is everything. You might also consider having Radio Echo  translated into Italian so that you can market it in Italy too, just a thought.

AK Andrew

Wed, 08 Feb 2012 09:54:23

Good point about gauging the readership Francesca. And what a brilliant idea having it translated into Italian -I shall definitely look into that.
Mille grazie


Wed, 08 Feb 2012 10:29:44

Not being in the enviable position yet of having my novel finished so that I can send it out, I’m still hoping to go the traditional route. But I don’t think I’d rule out self-publishing if it came to it. I think it’s interesting that Amanda Hocking, even after all her success self-publishing, eventually went to a publisher when one was offered. But your comments about agents asking you if you’d had success self-publishing is valid too. Maybe we all need to be more open to whatever avenues get the work out there.


Wed, 08 Feb 2012 22:24:03

I think that’s a really good point you make about Amanda Hocking ,Becky. I suppose at that point it might have felt like someone was taking the weight off her shoulders, but I suspect the validation aspect we’ve discussed before must have come into play. She is also (now) someone with a ‘story’ worth putting money in to publicize too. So I will continue to go the traditional route, but may consider (at some point) self -publishing along side it. The two can happen simultaneously.
Thanks so much for your comment.

Jenny Reeve

Wed, 15 Feb 2012 21:51:29

I enjoyed reading this, it certainly gave me an insight into self publication. I did not know that we could self publish. I think I must be naive, I thought that he ereader was just an electronic book, boring and lacking the feel of a ‘real’ book. I will have to look into the real concept of it I think.




  1. Noel O'Reilly says

    I agree with the others in theory. What have you got to lose? You can still get the book or a future one ‘published’ in the traditional way. And getting a deal in the current environment is akin to winning the Euro lottery. Typically, agents get about 3,000 manuscripts a year and pull about two off the slush pile and try to sell them. And that’s just the first hurdle. However, I don’t think I’m going to self publish – yet. Like you, I’m in ‘the rejection process’ but I don’t have any faith in e-publishing from what I’ve seen of it so far to bring my book to the right readership. If I ever write a steampunk novel or a straight forward dark romance then I might give it a try. Until then, I’m going to stay an unpublished wannabe and try and get better at writing.

  2. Thanks for this post, AK.

    I’m working on my 4th book, so I have been through the “traditional publishing” process.

    I am very seriously considering self publishing my next book because it gives me more artistic control. I’ll be able to choose the artwork for the cover, and the look and feel of the book. Something that I think will be a very important part of the marketing strategy for the book.

    And as we authors already have to do the bulk of the marketing (whether we self publish or go with a traditional publishing house) the thought of maximizing my earning capability from the book is an attractive one.

    I had a guest post on my writer’s blog that dealt with the issues of self publishing and it definitely swayed me. You may wish to take a look at it:

    Be sure to read all the comments, as the dialogue that followed the post were very insightful.

    • Thanks so much for the comment Doreen & the link is extremely helpful. The more informed we are about this the easier it is to make choices. Good idea to have a guest blog too about a specific issue they have some expertise in. I’ll certain consider your example.