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Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing
Episode 6830th May 2023 • Writing Break • America's Editor
00:00:00 00:14:22

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The theme for this episode is thrillers. We are also discussing traditional publishing versus self-publishing. Which publishing model is the better choice for authors today?

Music licensed from Storyblocks:

“More Jam Please” by Raighes Factory

"Vlog Lofi HipHop Background" by OKO

"Scorching Action" by Jon Presstone

"Thru the Fields" by zoze

"Samba Dream (Instrumental)" by Sleeping Ghost


Rosemi Mederos:

If you have plot bunnies coming out of your plot holes, it’s time for a writing break.

The theme for this episode is thrillers. We are also discussing traditional publishing versus self-publishing. The Writing Break cafe is open, so let’s grab a table and get into it.

Author and literary agent Andrew James has launched a new agency called Frog Literary, which will be dedicated to representing a wide range of LGBTQIA+ voices, including those from marginalized communities. Frog Literary is currently accepting submissions.


It’s a lot of fun.

Now how about we stretch out on the Overthinking Couch to discuss what makes a good thriller?

One fun thing about reading thrillers is that they let readers escape into a world of danger and suspense while still feeling relatable. You could be that spy, that killer, or that person in peril. To use a famous example, the plot of Misery by Stephen King is thrilling, yet as a writer you might have experienced an extra layer of fear while reading it since it’s about a writer who is held prisoner by his number one fan.

YA thrillers have become more popular in recent years, with many adult thriller writers trying their hand at writing YA thrillers. How different are YA thrillers from adult thrillers? Literary agent Rosemary Stimola recently told Publisher’s Weekly, “Protagonists are younger and may experience a coming-of-age that speaks to the heart in a very personal way. Beyond that, readers of YA thrillers look for the same experience that adult readers seek—complex characters with surprising or hidden motivations; a fast-moving plot; high stakes; unexpected twists, turns, and a red herring or two; and tension and suspense that build to that ultimate climax.”

Sub-genres of thrillers include epic, horror, legal, and psychological. Thrillers often blend in with other genres, such as fantasy, sci-fi, crime, and mystery. What makes a novel a thriller is the suspense and the anticipation of future crimes.

But what makes a thriller a hit? Stimola says, “For me it all depends on the first chapter. There has to be a narrative voice that speaks to my ear and flows; there has to be a character who captures my attention, and when I get to the end of that first chapter, I simply have to want more.”

Links to these stories can be found in the show notes of this episode and on

Let’s continue today’s thriller theme by taking a trip to an independent bookstore dedicated to mysteries, thrillers, and detective fiction.

few years before it opens. In:

I am happy to report that Penzler is still the publisher at The Mysterious Press as well as the owner of The Mysterious Bookshop. The bookstore offers not one, not two, but eight mystery book club subscriptions, shipping throughout the USA. If you’re attending ThrillerFest, look for their pop-up store.

As for the bookshop itself, it features floor-to-ceiling dark brown bookshelves, green carpeting, and a dark brown leather Chesterfield sofa, which we will be occupying during today’s writing tip.

But first, let’s check out an independent author.

In keeping with this episode’s celebration of thrillers, we’re looking at the multi-award-winning book Weepers by Nick Chiakras.


Weepers is available in hardcover, paperback, and audiobook. And you can read it for free with Kindle Unlimited.

Well, the time has finally come to discuss traditional publishing versus self-publishing.

While there are some publishing houses that accept unagented submissions, traditional publishing typically starts with finding a literary agent who is willing to represent you. This agent will then pitch your manuscript to publishing houses. If a publishing house is interested in your book, they will offer you a contract. This contract will include a number of terms, such as the advance amount, the royalty rate, and the marketing and distribution terms.

With self-publishing, you are managing the entire publishing process and building your editorial team as you go. This includes editing, proofreading, cover design, interior design, marketing, and distribution. Some brave authors even attempt to do it all themselves.

As I’ve said before, I believe the future of publishing is self-publishing. But what about the here and now? What is the better choice for authors today?

With traditional publishing, your book gains access to a wider audience. Traditional publishers have a network of distributors that can get your book into bookstores and libraries around the world. This means that your book has a much better chance of being seen by a wider audience than if you self-publish.

Additionally, traditional publishers have in-house editors and designers who can help you improve your manuscript and make your book look fabulous.

Traditional publishers also market and promote your book. For example, they might send out ARCs to book bloggers and reviewers and run advertising campaigns.

All that sounds terrific, so why wouldn’t you go for traditional publishing?

For starters, there’s the wait time. We’re talking years. It takes time to find a literary agent, find an interested publishing house, negotiate the book deal, edit the book, design the book, prepare the book for publication, market the book, and distribute the book. Some authors work on their manuscript for years, and once they’re done writing, they don’t want to wait any longer to get it out into the world. And some authors write books that are timely and would be less relevant if they had to wait years to publish it.

Then, there’s the money problem. Traditional publishers offer low royalties. Yes, a traditional publisher might help you sell more books than if you were doing it on your own, but they take quite a bit of those royalties, and your literary agent also takes a cut.

And, of course, there’s the control issue. Once you sign a contract with a traditional publisher, you will hand over control of your book. A while back I shared a story about a Vietnam veteran who was told he needed to change portions of his memoir or the publishing house would terminate his contract. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence. Some authors submit, and some choose to walk away, thereby restarting the publishing process.

Publishers also have the final say on cover design, book pricing, and marketing campaigns. When it comes to marketing, authors often complain that their publishers do not do enough to market their book. Additionally, publishers expect their authors to do quite a bit of marketing as well.

The process of traditional publishing can feel unfair at times, but does that mean self-publishing is right for you?

Self-publishing speeds up the publishing process and leaves you in control of every aspect of your book, including its content. Self-publishing also means you get more of your royalties.

Still, the upfront cost of self-publishing can be expensive. You’ll have to do a lot more project management and marketing, and you won’t have as many avenues of distribution open to you as a traditional publisher would have.

Knowing yourself and what you want to achieve from your writing will help you make the best choice for you right now. Keep in mind that you are not locked in for life to either of these publishing models.

Once I get to this point in the explanation, most of my clients are able to reach a decision on which publishing model they want to pursue.

If neither option is feeling just right, no worries, Goldilocks, because next week we are going to discuss a third publishing option: hybrid publishing.

Until then, remember, you deserved this break.

If you would like us to visit your favorite independent bookstore, feature your favorite independent author (even if it’s you), or discuss something you’re overthinking about, please email me at

Thank you for making space in your mind for The Muse today.

Writing Break is hosted by America’s Editor and produced by Allon Media with technical direction by Gus Aviles. Visit us at or contact us at




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