Updated August 2023
Should I try to get my book published traditionally even though it’s hard, or should I self-publish?
Traditionally publishing and self-publishing both come with unique difficulties. For example, if you choose to query literary agents in search of a traditional publishing deal, you WILL get rejections and you will get lots of them. (It’s said that the difference between an amateur writer and a professional one is that a professional is an amateur who didn’t quit!) However, if you choose to self-publish, you may run across difficulties of designing your book and, later, how to market and sell copies.
Either way, publishing isn’t an easy road. Before you begin any publishing endeavor, you should be sure to do your research and choose the path that’s right for you.
How do I know when to reconsider my desire to get a paying book deal and pursue other options instead?
Writers get rejection letters. It’s a rite of passage that doesn’t end. Every time you open a rejection letter or email, you should give yourself a big pat on the back. Why? The fact that you sent out query letters at all means you’re ahead of the game (because you’re ahead of writers who give up too soon or who don’t have an effective submission strategy). Each rejection is a symbol of your positive, go-get-’em attitude, and you should celebrate that accomplishment!
It’s been our experience (working in publishing since 1994) that, if a writer wants a traditional book deal, he or she should not give up on that goal until they have sent out at least 100 queries to literary agents. (Even then, a paying book contract may still be available, especially if your book appeals to the niche markets that small presses often target.)
In short, if a traditional book deal is your goal, go until you can’t go anymore. Then, keep going. That’s how character (and literary celebrity) is born.
Remember also that the publishing industry has shifted tremendously in previous years, and the stigmas around self-publishing have vanished entirely. And if your heart is still set on a book deal, keep in mind that after you successfully self-publish, you might be able to revisit the idea of querying literary agents!
Got a question for Ronnie about the book biz, poetry, short stories, or other creative writing? Send your question to email@example.com. And if you want to chat in real time, why not come hang out with us on Twitter?
And finally, remember: If you’ve been trying to get your book published and are looking for someone to help take the frustration out of the process, consider Writer’s Relief or Self-Publishing Relief!