Why I Want My Women’s Fiction Published By A Traditional Publisher

Some people work out in a gym.  Some people work out at home. Some folks want to power walk with headphones.  Some want to sweat to the oldies.  Some want the support of a workout buddy or personal trainer. Some want fancy machines and some just want a mat in front of the TV and Jane Fonda leg warmers and a headband (who me?). If you do either of them right, one method  isn’t better than the other in terms of quality of the workout.

To me, the where-to-workout conundrum is a little like self-publishing vs. traditional publishing.  There isn’t right or wrong. Just like there are diehard gym rats and at-home fitness aficionados, there are writers with their dukes up on both sides of the publishing fence.

My thought, as a gym-goer and someone who wants to be traditionally published, is to do what is right for you that will actually get you the results you want.

For me and my novel — being traditionally published is what will work. Traditional publishers distribute books to the places my readers get books. So, that’s where I want to be — in bookstores, big box stores, online and in libraries. That broad umbrella of women’s fiction Jael McHenry wrote so eloquently of means I’ll need wide distribution to reach a diverse group of consumers.

Another reason I’m opting for traditional publishing? It’s a group effort. Writing is a wonderful yet solitary profession, and with a traditional publisher you benefit from the input of trained professionals when it comes to editorial input, copyediting, marketing, cover design, and sales. Publishers create ARCS and send them out for review, books are eligible for review in the trade publications, and for awards.

All of a sudden (after years of writing and editing) there will be a team behind my book. (note the optimism?)

I’ve been internet-admonished for saying self-publishing isn’t for me.  I’ve even felt picked on for coveting inclusion in the publishing machine. I’ve been asked why I feel I need the validation of an agent or publisher to think my book is good enough for a mass readership.

I’ll tell you why.  Because very often — these people actually know.  And there is no shame in wanting acknowledgement within an established industry. There’s no harm in looking for recognition from stalwart professionals. Don’t self-published authors want the recognition of their peers? Readers? Reviewers?  Same difference. (I love that silly saying.) But in my case – for my writing – for this book – for me – it’s this way or the highway or, in writerly terms, it’s this way or it’s going under the mattress.

I admire writers who self-publish with excellence and enthusiasm.  I have the same drive, the same dreams, the same raison d’être.

I just want to get there in the way that works for me.

Do you think self-publishing is a good option for women’s fiction? How do YOU want your book published? Classy dissension is welcome. Nastiness is not. 

57 thoughts on “Why I Want My Women’s Fiction Published By A Traditional Publisher

  1. I’m like you, Amy. I want the traditional publishing model for the very reasons you state: having a team around you and the distribution advantages. Plus, I am a crappy saleswoman, which -wrongly or rightly – I view as one of the main jobs of a self-published author. I’m 100% a marketer, but not a salesperson (I’ve tried my hand at entrepreneurial endeavors and didn’t care for the stress of hard sales). I’m not naive, though. I know there will be stress within the traditional publishing world – that part of my job will also be selling and marketing … but there’s some comfort (I think) in knowing you’re not going it completely alone – that you have a team working toward the same goals: the success of your book.

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  2. I concur with your comments, Amy, and with Melissa’s, above. I too admire those who self-publish, and for many it can be a wonderful way to transmit and promote their work. It also takes guts – in spades!

    However, I lack the gene necessary to self-promote; to get the word out, and spread it around. Sure, I don’t mind giving a shout-out to others, and I am a huge supporter of women’s fiction and chick lit (there, I said it!). But personally, self-promotion and marketing would be an exercise in futility. I’d rather leave it to the experts – agents, editors and publishers – and concentrate on continuing to improve my writing.

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    • Melissa,
      I still think we’ll do a lot of promotion with a traditional publisher. But that’s ok with me. Maybe I’ll stuck in an old dogma – but I want to be published – not publish myself. And I know there are writers that want no part of traditional publishing. I think there’s room for everyone. 😉

      Amy

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  3. Great post. I agree wholeheartedly. I think there’s a place and time for both and it’s up to individual writers to choose what feels right to them. I’m being traditionally published by Kensington next year. I have the highest regard for the editorial process. But maybe sometime in the future I may choose self publishing, depending on the project and where I am in my career. It’s great to have options.

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  4. I don’t read women’s fiction and I plan to self-publish, but I believe that people should make the choices that are right for them. If you don’t succeed in getting a traditional publisher to take your book, self-publishing is still an option. We’re in a volatile transition-time and people tend to take sides. If you’ve done the research and looked at both sides of the issue, just ignore the naysayers and follow your own path. Women’s fiction is popular, so your book, if well-written, will probably do well in any format.

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  5. Thank you, Amy! I completely agree. I respect those self-published authors who have the drive and talent to become success stories. I also suspect I’m not enough of a salesperson to join their ranks. I’ll market and promote like mad, but a traditional publisher simply has more resources. That is the right route for me to go, but I won’t fault others for choosing differently.

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    • Kim,
      You’re singin’ my song. I guess I just felt like I was sometimes berated for NOT wanting self-publishing, so I wanted to explain my reasons, one of them being – for me, it’s what being published means.

      I never understood how some people could want respect for their choice but not offer it to others. But that’s just me. I’m a live and let live kind of person (for the most part!)

      🙂
      Amy

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  6. Dead on post,Amy. I think people who get invested in arguments on either side should think about whom they’re trying to convince…themselves?

    Writing is an intensely personal venture – why would choosing the venue you publish in any different?
    Laura

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    • Laura,

      I’ve thought that too. And having a path that’s different from mine is a good thing. I love learning how writers reach their goals. I just try to ignore evangelical self-publishers.

      Thanks for chiming in.
      Amy

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  7. Every person should follow her own path. A few times I have felt like people on a path different from my own are jeering at me. Writing is hard enough without drawing lines between us. I want to pursue traditional publishing too, much for the reasons you mention. I especially like the idea of the team behind my book (should I ever get so lucky!).

    Choose your way and don’t give up.

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  8. Interesting commentary from everyone – thanks. I agree with Amy as well – more for the ‘group effort’ mention in the posting. I write; I would never profess to be an editing or agenting genius, and having a trusted professional second and third opinion is crucial when wanting to make a book the best it can be, even before it gets to the marketing stage. I understand why people would self-publish, but having the backing of professionals who know their stuff is invaluable for me. I need that verification and validation.

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  9. I long for the help of professionals, but since I haven’t succeeded in traditional publishing I’ve tried POD (not a happy experience) and am on the home stretch with a collection of stories with a tiny indie. I’m no good at self-promotion and have a limited (very limited) amount of cash available, so once again, crave the help of the team you all mention. the trick is to make it happen!

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  10. I was so happy to read this, especially this part: in writerly terms, it’s this way or it’s going under the mattress. It’s the same for me. And it’s frustrating to hear that you were internet-admonished for wanting something different for your book. Sometimes the culture of niceness only goes one way.

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    • I’m glad you could relate, Kim. I’ve always said if this novel doesn’t get published, then the next one will. I think if it doesn’t sell I’ll let some friends read it – maybe I’ll photocopy it at Kinko’s – but I won’t self-publish it. I’ll just put my heart into the next effort.

      I think because it’s a DIY publishing culture these days, people look for approval for what’s relatively new. I get that. And, I just downloaded a self-published book from Amazon. I’ve read a great self-published book by Bonnie Turner called Face The Winter Naked. I’m not against self-publishing, I just don’t want it for my books.

      Whoa, that was a bit of a tangent! Sorry! Thanks for stopping by and chiming in.

      🙂
      Amy

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  11. I agree with you 100%!!!!! No self publishing for me either!!!!

    I am with a small, primarily digital, publisher- Lyrical Press. They have been fantastic..complete professionalism all the way. And I love having that team of people behind me, helping me see the flaws in my story when I can’t and believing in me to write the best book possible.

    My publisher is small, so I do keep working toward finding an agent who can get my book in front of bigger publishers who will get my book in front of a larder audience.

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  12. Your analogy is perfect! I’m a team effort exerciser. ☺ You won’t find me going for a solo run or sitting alone on a bike. I do best when I’m working out with others, whether it’s playing tennis, taking a spin class or working with a personal trainer. And you’re right – the best choice is what works best for YOU. Not a right or wrong way to do it. I’m pursuing the traditional publishing route for that reason as well. I want a team behind me and while I’m willing to self-promote and market my book, I don’t want to do it alone. Another great post, Amy. Keep ‘em coming!

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    • Hi Catherine,

      I work out in a gym and love a good coach or trainer — but shy away from classes. I think this is mirrored in what I love about working with my agent. He gives me advice, pushes me to reach my potential and steers me back on track if I need it. The rest of the publishing puzzle? I’m not there yet, but as a former journalist and sometimes essayist, I know the power of an excellent editor.

      It’s a long road, but worth it I think!

      🙂
      Amy

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  13. Three cheers for traditional publishing. Maybe I’m a romantic, but I grew up dreaming of a writer’s life like Fitzgerald and Hemingway–minus the alcohol and suicide, of course. Their passion for the written word, and their patience and persistence is worth striving toward. My goal is to be among the ranks of the traditionally published if for no other reason than out of respect for those who have gone before.

    I’m not knocking self-publishing. I believe some people are natural self-promoters and will do well there. I don’t have that constitution. Maybe someday. Never say never. But my debut novel needs to pass through the traditional process or like you it’s under the mattress.

    Thanks for the post. Nice to hear I’m not alone.

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  14. The beauty of publishing in today’s market is there are all kinds of choices for all kinds of people. Depending on the goals of the individual self-publishing, traditional publishing, or a combination of the two allow writers to get their work in the hands of readers. Kudos to you for finding what works best for you and sticking by it.

    Nice, thoughtful post.

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    • Erika,

      You are experienced at this! 😉 It’s true, there are many ways to reach our goals as writers. Focusing on what works now for us is what will enable us to get there. Wherever “there” is.

      Thanks for your spot-on comment. 🙂

      Amy

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  15. I don’t have anything against the idea of self-publishing in the future but for the time being, I agree with you. I do feel publishing a book is a group effort and I look forward to the feedback and improvements my book will see because of professionals who really know what they’re doing. It’s not that I doubt myself and my own knowledge, or that I need approval, I just know that I will never stop learning and growing and improving as a writer and I’m not too proud to say I’m excited for the kind of help traditional publishing will bring.

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    • Hi Mallory,
      We want what we want – no reason needed! And sometimes I find I’m exhausted explaining my choices. So that’s when I channel my inner-two-year-old and when someone asks why, I say, BECAUSE.

      Good luck to you. Keep going!

      🙂

      Amy

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  16. Great points here, Amy! I’m so far from publishing a novel, but at this point I have “traditional” in my head too. You make a great point about the distribution issues.

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  17. I agree, Amy. Various people have tried to talk me into self-publishing and I just don’t think it’s right for me. The very best thing for my book, I KNOW, is to have a traditional publishing team behind it. Also, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting someone (whether that be an agent or editor) to tell you, “You know what? This is publishable and I want to help make it happen.” I don’t think I’ll have a problem with self-promotion — if anything, I plan to self-promote AS IF I were self-published. I would simply feel better about self-promotion if I had that team behind me, cheering me on.

    Great post! I wish bashing would quit on both sides of the publishing issue. What’s right for one person and that person’s book isn’t always right for another. There’s nothing wrong with going in either direction. It’s what you make of it that counts.

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    • Ashley,

      Ditto, ditto, ditto. And ditto. 😉

      As for understanding how much work an author does, even with a NY publisher, I think that debut authors understand this because of the internet. All hail the internet!

      (can you tell I’ve had a reeeeeealllllly long day?)

      Amy

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  18. Unfortunately Ashley, even if you have a publisher…and even a big one from NY, a newbie author gets virtually no promotion what so ever. Most authors have to self promote, new or not.

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    • Exactly. Which is why I said “cheering me on” rather than “doing it for me” like some writers tend to believe. Much of an author’s success — especially that of a newbie — depends on how much they’re willing to self-promote as well as the resources they’re willing to tap into and the risks they’re willing to take while doing it. =)

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      • It never ceases to amaze me how many authors there are out there who actually do think a publisher will just do it all! Even the editing. Doesn’t work like that anymore!! LOL!

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    • Absolutely, Stephanie, they sure do! But I know a lot of debut authors — women’s fiction authors — who get good support or better than good support. It all depends on the book and the publisher. I think these days all authors are jumping on the self-promotion bandwagon.

      I think that writers new to online resources might think publishers do it all – but people who are seasoned and regular readers of publishing websites and blogs are pretty savvy. I have an agent and am doing tons of editing and revising before going back out on submission! It’s a lot of work no matter which route you take, you know? In the end – what’s important is fulfilling your dreams to be a published author!!

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  19. I think it’s all about what works for you honestly. I chose to self-publish but mostly because I don’t have the patience to wait around on a traditional publishing house to read my work. Yes patience is a virtue, but one I don’t claim.

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  20. I think the reason I shy away from self-publishing is that I know I’m capable of being published in solid mainstream outlets because I’ve done it before, with individual pieces — glossy national magazines, high brow literary journals, and small presses.

    But only my best work ever merited this. When pieces got returned — it was sually because they weren’t “finished.” A few years, a few tweaks — and they found a home. I hate to put out something that’s just not “done.”

    When I’ve published in small presses — I haven’t really been edited and I wince at that. So definitely — writers need editors, collaboration, the group mind. I’m one of those people who think none of the Beatles (not even John Lennon) was as good solo as the group was together. We know that Gordon Lish directed and shaped Ray Carver to be the distinct writer he was as much as Martin Scorcese directed Robert DeNiro to be the great actor he is. No man — or woman — is an Island.

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    • I agree with you, Christina. You’re also a very literary writer which goes along with my comment about reaching the right readers. I think genre authors are really successful self-publishing — but mainstream and commercial authors — not as much. For me, as you know (well) I have been writing and revising my book for so long with the idea of traditional publishing and I must see it through! And of course, I couldn’t have done it without you.

      (Christina has been my CP and friend for almost 5 years!)

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  21. I completely agree! Things may change down the line, but for now, traditional publishing is how I want to go. I must admit it’s sometimes hard, though, when so many other writers around me are announcing book deals through digital or self-publishing routes. I have to tune them out and keep reminding myself that the road I’ve chosen is longer.

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    • Digital publishing is traditional publishing, in the sense that you have to submit and be accepted and you work with an editor, etc…. The only difference is most of these small houses do not require an agent..but that may change too. Good luck! 🙂

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      • Digital is becoming traditional, Stephanie, you’re right! I would go with an e-publisher if the more traditional paper book publishing doesn’t work out. I think folks still consider paper books plus ebooks traditional, while just publishing as an ebook is still on the fringe to some. I read most of my fiction in ebook format, but I’ll admit that they’re published by big publishers. Change is good – slow – but good! Thanks for chiming in!

        🙂
        Amy

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    • Kimberle,
      Sorry I didn’t respond sooner. I hear you. With books being published all around us, it’s even harder to wait it out for agents and editors. I’m determined though, and won’t be deterred. At least not yet! 😉

      Amy

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  22. Caution: not many small and POD publishers (‘ve worked with 3 thus far) do any editing at all, and their proofreading is completely undependable. If you pay nothing, unless you’ve landed a contract with a well-known major house, don’t look for help.

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    • Hi Joan,

      I think that authors are learning this as they interact with different kinds of publishers — so thank you for the reminder!

      For me, traditional publishing means that the author doesn’t pay for the services of the publisher or the production of the book — at all. Of course, that’s after the contract and/or royalties. I think many authors know they should hire editors way before that phase! I did!

      Good luck with your books!
      Amy
      Amy

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    • My publisher is small and primarily digital, Lyrical Press, but we do A TON of editing…usually 3 rounds of copy edits, then 1-2 rounds of line edits, then a galley proof. I don’t pay a dime. And I know of many other small digital publishers that are the same: Dessert Breeze, Ellora’s Cave, Cobblestone Press… I have author friends who are with these publishers. It’s too bad that the three experiences you’ve had have not been good.

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  23. My digital publisher offers a print version about a year after the digital version is out. I have no idea whether the titles are selected, or just come up automatically. I’m the prefect example of someone who wanted so badly to get out there that I didn’t ask the right questions, and when I did, I trusted the answers. One publisher I was pleased with at the beginning went belly up before he got to my ms. C’est la vie.And it helps to start not to late in life, so you have plenty of time to learn and fools around.

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  24. Amy, love this post!

    Many mentioned the “group effort” found in traditional publishing. And many mentioned not being good at “self-promotion.” Here’s the thing: There’s going to be some self-promotion involved with traditional publishing, but with traditional publishing the writer is promoting a piece that has been fully vetted by professionals. The writer already has a leg-up on pimping a worthy read. With self-publishing many writers promote works that lack a standard of professional vetting. It’s like trying to sell a non-FDA approved drug. I prefer my drugs go through the federal standard of testing before imbibing.

    The fact remains, anyone can self-publish. Anyone. More and more are going that route. But not everyone can withstand the reality of professional editing.
    For me it’s either traditional or, like you, a road-trip to Kinkos. 🙂 And like you I’ve been at the receiving end of admonishment from the self-pubbed crowd – another reason I won’t ever go that route. Never, never!

    Trad or bust! It’s my dream, so there. lol

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