The Questions

Publishers – Why Go Traditional When You Can Self-Publish

Publishers are trying to get you to buy books. Yes, a true statement. So are authors.

There are a number of reasons a person writes a book:

    1. They have a story in them to tell
    2. There is a desire to make some money with their imagination
    3. They want to be popular

Let me explain something here – I’m a writer, author, editor, and publisher owning a small press with four imprints. People always ask why when self-publishing is becoming so popular and people who do so still enjoy high book sales. My answer is another questions – would you rather have a hotdog or a steak? They come from the same animal but they are different. A hotdog is processed scraps of meat no one in their right mind would eat if they weren’t ground up and mashed together. But a steak! Yummy! Cooked the way you want it the mouth will water as the aroma of searing meat dances in front of your eyes.

Being a publisher, I read a lot of books. Probably around seventy a year. It means there’s a lot of crap and a lot of amazing stuff. Just in the last year alone, for pleasure, I’ve gone through a lot of self-published books that have sold well but could have been a lot better if they were traditionally published. Why? The majority of it is due to editing.

When you hire a professional editor for your self-published book you’ll get a good editing job, but not the best. They are interested in getting paid, but they know it doesn’t have to be a good deep dive into the work to collect their paycheque. In fact, most self-published books are so full of errors and repetitions it drives professionals like myself insane.

Great Covers

Realizing River City - By Melissa Grunow

First, a publisher will make sure your cover art is fantastic and you won’t end up on Lousy Book Covers with the rest of the world shaking their head wondering why. I’ve seen some bad book covers in my life but the ones found here are just beyond bad.

If you want to do your own book cover, I applaud you. But know what you’re doing before putting your kid’s kindergarten artwork on your cover. Like, really! From poor cut and paste to unreadable fonts, thinking clever is the way to go really is not what you should be doing at this stage of the game. Make sure your cover is high resolution or people will think something is wrong. Blurry is not the way to go, unless the picture is telling the story of the book through such. This is one of the differences between self-published and traditional.

Note: Not all traditional publishers take the time to make a good book cover, so look at the artwork they have on other books and that will tell you something about their professionalism.

Amazing Editing

Let me share something I’m very proud of. In 2017 my company published the first time author Johan Thompson. Generally, an author who’s not in North America has a lot to prove in order to get published by me. It’s not because they are bad authors, but because the audience reach is not as great. But Johan presented a very interesting two part story wrapped into one novel of considerable length. Due to the subject matter, it went to our horror imprint.

The book sells, but not as well as we would like it (hint – read the reviews and understand this book is on Kindle Unlimited). In order to tighten up the story and all the little issues in it, we put the manuscript through six rewrites. They ranged from minor to major based on the issues found. This make the whole story amazing. Johan was tired of getting the “One more thing to look at” emails I sent him because it meant I found something that didn’t flow or contradicted a different scene. This is the content edit, and something a lot of self-published authors don’t do. It cleans up the story. At the end, he expressed surprise when I announced the book would be advancing to SPaG (Spelling, Grammar, and Punctuation editing). This is our final step and one that is glossed over by an editor hired by a self-published author.

In the end, we have a novel with a rating of 4.8 on Goodreads with one reviewer stating “…and perfect editing!!)” Interesting how that reviewer mentioned the editing. Guess they read a lot of self-published books. Take a look at the reviews and what a traditional publisher can do for your work –


Yes, you can find self-published books in bookstores everywhere, but you know what you see more of in bookstores? Traditionally published books. If the number of self-published books is higher than traditionally published ones, why are there still more traditionally published ones in bookstores? Think on that for a while. It is because traditionally published books are generally better. People express more joy in reading them because of the professionalism of the publication. There is more eye appeal. Less editing errors (though 5% is the industry standard). And all in all they are better books because we pick the cream, leaving skim behind.

A traditionally published book will have a further reach, and the money behind it to advertise (something a lot of self-published authors don’t do). What type of gas do you want in your car’s tank? Dirty, skunky gas three years old or the high octane stuff?


So many authors tell me they want to get five books published in one year. Good for you, but understand they will not be very good unless you took five years to write them all. One book a year is usually what an author can do and still keep their writing high quality. That is, unless they submit a very rough draft.

I remember one person saying they publish one book a month. They are novella’s (under 50,000 words) but still, that’s a lot of writing to put out there without edits. Yes, they are self-published and their work shows it. From grammatical errors to spelling mistakes to plot holes, their writing could be a lot better if they only took the time. This is what a traditional publisher will do for you, take the time to make your work worthwhile.

History Lesson

In 1980ish, the mother of my childhood best friend let it slip that she wrote romance novels. Her name is Virginia Henley. Her first novel went to a publisher who said they loved it but the work needs to lose 40,000 words (it had over 180,000 words). She did it, but under protest. The work came out in press a little over a year later.

Albeit, at the time there was only vanity press as an option, but she understood the value a publisher brought to the table.

Virginia is still writing (god love her), and hopefully she will keep writing for many years to come.

Summing Up

The purpose is we all have the ability to write fantastic prose when a professional is helping us. So why not go traditional publishing it give your book a boost? It is something you’ll be glad you did in the long run.


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