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5 Reasons to Turn to Traditional Publishers Rather than Self-Publishing

fingers_crossed_525 [1]We are so pleased to introduce today’s guest, Meg Waite Clayton [2]. Meg is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of four novels, including The Wednesday Sisters, a writing group novel, and the just released sequel, The Wednesday Daughters [3]. She’s written for The Los Angeles Times, Writer’s Digest, Runner’s World and public radio, and for The New York Times and Forbes online. 

“THE WEDNESDAY DAUGHTERS is a heartwarming tale of a group of women who know the best and the worst about one another, yet choose to embrace each other anyway as sisters and as friends. The book is filled with memorable characters, both British and American…It’s easy for readers to imagine themselves amidst the peace and beauty of one of England’s most famously attractive natural areas.” —AMIE TAYLOR, BOOKREPORTER

Meg says, “It took me 10 years to get my first novel published, and yet I can’t imagine how different my life as a writer would be without the support of Random House/Ballantine and the lovely people there. Anyone in publishing would likely be making more money elsewhere. They are in it for the same reason writers are: because they love books.”

To learn more about Meg, please visit her blog [4], follow her on Twitter [5] or Facebook page [6]. Take it away, Meg!

It’s a new world, and none of us are dependent on the whims of New York publishing to get our writing read. But here are five reasons why you might want to brave form rejection to find a traditional publisher:

1. Let’sStartwiththeEditing.

Yes, you can hire some pretty good copy editors these days, and even some decent book doctors, but they won’t have skin in the game the way an editor at a traditional house will. My editor goes through multiple drafts with me, and loops others in for fresh reads as well. Her reputation depends on the success of The Wednesday Daughters [7] nearly as much as mine does. My writing is far stronger thanks to everyone who pitches in at my publisher [8]. It’s not just about findingtypos, althoughthatdoesmattertoo.

2. What Sells Books?

The most successful self-published authors have tremendous marketing and publicity savvy. Many come from years of working in those fields. If that’s not you (and it’s certainly not me), why not try to align yourself with someone who does it full-time every day, and does it well? For every self-publishing success story, there are literally hundreds of thousands of books bought only by the author’s mom and dad and a few close friends.

Okay, yes. It happens at publishing houses. But far less frequently. Your editor’s mom and dad are probably buying, too. And perhaps even your publicist’s.

3. Unless Your Mother is Named Oprah…

One answer to what sells books is word of mouth. But the fact is that someone has to start the word. Many self-published authors offer free books, and that’s great. But the result is a lot of free books from which readers can choose, and the challenge of distinguishing yourself. With a traditional publisher, the avenues for starting the word are varied and many—and sprinkled with free paper copies as well as e-ones. Booksellers. Bloggers. Television and radio. Reading groups. Major book sites. The publisher’s stamp of approval gives readers a reason to have a look, too.

If your Mom is named Oprah, or if you have lists of radio-hosts, book-reviewers, and journalists who are good enough friends to do you a BIG favor and put their own careers at risk in the process … well, read on.

OK, if your mom is named Oprah, just go ahead and do it yourself.

4. Attention, Target Shoppers.

Do you have any idea how many books are sold at Target Stores [9]? At Costco [10]? In airports and at grocery stores? I didn’t either, but trust me on this: the answer is HUGE.

Never mind at traditional bookstores.

The second answer to what sells books is placement. Online sales still account for only a portion of readers. Many, many books are sold by readers browsing in bookstores, and by shoppers coming for toothpaste who just happen to pass by an end-cap of books. Self-published authors can’t even get into bookstores on a nationwide scale, much less at the front of independents or Barnes & Noble or elsewhere unless they’ve already found such great success that the stores need them more than they need the stores.

5. Writing Time is the Best Time.

But here’s the most important thing: Every minute of your life in sales is time–and energy–away from writing. Yes, I still spend time getting the word out. I have a website that I manage myself [7], even though my publisher offered to do that for me when they bought The Wednesday Sisters [11]. It’s a better site for the input of my publisher’s marketing team, though. It has fun pages for book groups and other readers [12], for example, for each of my four novels. You can find me on Facebook [6] and Twitter [5]. You can meet me at a bookstore in Arizona in the heat of summer, on book tour [13]. (The glamorous life!) But the folks at my publisher tell me the most important thing for me to do is write the next novel. And I take that to heart.

Yes, it can be tough to face the rejection almost every author goes through [14] to get published traditionally. But if you recognize that even the most successful authors have been, say, rejected by 56 agents, like Kathryn Stocket was with The Help, or faced six years of rejection, like Julia Glass did before publishing Three Junes, which went on to win the National Book Award, it becomes just part of the process, a story you can someday tell about how hard-fought your success was. Good luck!

Unboxeders, if you’re leaning toward self-publishing, have you considered Meg’s points? If so, what specific strategies do you use, or intend to use, to ensure a viable career? Take your thoughts to the comment section. As always, we appreciate a respectful debate.