Betwixt and Between in Traditional Publishing versus Self-Publishing

The writing life is always interesting and it has its share of ups and downs.  However, it is up to the author to ensure there are more ups than downs.  That being said, what I really want to talk about is traditional publishing versus self-publishing.

I have been interviewed often and reference the beginning of my journey into the world of  published author.  It began with a large traditional publishing house in Toronto.  My manuscript was well-received and I was asked during the year it was there do not send it out anywhere else.  To me, this was a sign that they were considering my work. Sadly in the end, not so.  Just before Christmas I was informed that the young adult budget was cut and they could not proceed with Wake Me Up Inside.  

Thwarted, but not completely devastated, I decided to send it out to a smaller publishing firm located in Southern Ontario.  I was happy she accepted emailed submissions (to quicken the process) and most of our communication was using this format.  I was informed that she had many projects underway and unfortunately she would not be able to look at my project for some time.  However, the next day I received a rather excited email proclaiming once she took a look at it, she could not stop reading it and was going to publish it!  Oh, how excited was I?  Very! Although a part of me realized until it’s actually in print there was no cause to celebrate just yet.

For one month, I did not hear any news from the publisher.  And then sadly, in response to one of my emails asking her if everything’s okay, she responded by saying “I am so sorry I had to close my doors.”  Was I upset? Not at all.  Disappointed, yes. All I could think about was this poor publisher and the projects she really wanted to share with the rest of the world and now did not have the resources.  I understood where she was coming from because my father, sadly, had to close his doors.  The good news – once he started up his company again and settled his former debts, he did exceptionally well in his business.  I wrote an empathetic email in response to her sad email and hoped she would one day return to the publishing world.

The third attempt was with a medium-sized publisher that also accepted emailed submissions.  And for six months our communication was the same asking me please do not send it to another publishing house.  Whoops.  A pit in my stomach formed as I remembered the last time I was asked to do this.  My response?  I emailed back and respectfully withdrew my submission.

In the meantime, I had heard about ebooks and was not quite certain where that would lead this author.  I began to inquire about it asking various online publishers what does it entail and what will they do for my book as far as the marketing for it.  The response was “Do you want to publish your work for the rest of the world to read?” I answered “Yes, of course.”  An author does not spend two or so years of their life writing a novel unless they are sure they are going to see it through to the publication process.  The marketing end of things of course was left to me.  I thought I can handle that.  I signed up with Bookbaby and they uploaded it to many online buying sites such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple ebooks, Sony ebooks, and many more.  The sales for Wake Me Up Inside made me a paid author.  This means I sold many more ebooks than my personal investment of producing the ebook online.  I actually made a profit!  I will never forget receiving my first cheque from Bookbaby and it is now framed next to my computer.

However part of me, being the author that I am, was not happy with the original version of Wake Me Up Inside.  And in the process of selling the ebook which was marketed mainly through this website, I had many readers email me and ask if I would consider putting it into print.  They had an aunt, or parent, or friend that preferred reading the book while holding it in their hands, feeling the quality of the paper and appreciating the artwork first hand.  (I have since discovered that many readers of Wake Me Up Inside loved the book so much when asked if a friend or relative can borrow it, their answer is no.  I’ve been told that they felt while reading my book, it was like a personal journey of their own discovery).  I considered the printed format for a while and finally decided to pull my ebook offline and waited the appropriate number of months while Bookbaby withdrew it from the online sellers.

Using this time wisely, I did two things.  Firstly, I rewrote the parts of Wake Me Up Inside that I considered to be weak.  Secondly, once finished, I sent it off to Fitzhenry and Whiteside in Toronto for an opinion, only.  You see, I am a librarian and as a student page was the receiver of all purchased books.  I admired this particular publishing house and was happy to send it to them for a final opinion – should I pursue the publishing of this book or not?  I was thrilled to hear back from them and was told “Yes, definitely pursue the publishing of Wake Me Up Inside.  You just need to find the right publisher with the right budget.”  When I read these words I screamed with delight!

In truth, the reason I wanted to know if the book was good enough was because I wanted to self-publish it.  My confidence was growing and I knew if I could just get it out there, readers would want to buy it.  After researching online for weeks on end, I finally found a Canadian self-publisher named FriesenPress.  And that’s where my book is to this day.  Now FriesenPress also uploads the books to many online sellers from, Barnes and Noble, Kobo ebooks,, and many, many more.  It is also available through Ingrams Book Distribution which allows it to be sold in bookstores all around the world. Just go to your local bookstore and they can order it in!  How amazing is that?  No shelf space required for the bookstore owner.

The funny turn of events for me, is that I’ve sold more paperbacks than any other format and when I’m interviewed the interviewer often forgets I’m self-published.

In my last interview I was told ‘I’m so happy that publisher picked you up and I’m sure all the readers of your book are happy too.’  It shocked me.  I almost corrected the interviewer but we were live on air.  I really just wanted to thank her for that!

I am not sure where you are at as a writer, author, reader dreaming of writing, or passionate about books in general, but I thought I would share my journey in self-publishing Wake Me Up Inside for the public audience.

Where will I go from here?  Stay tuned.  A writer’s life is for courageous and passionate dreamers.  Book Two in the Paige Maddison series is next.

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