Thursday, February 10, 2011

eBook Publishing or Traditional Publishing: How to Decide Which is Right for You

image by freeditigal

There comes a time in every modern writer’s life when she asks the question: should I write an eBook or go the traditional publishing route? I am now at that crossroads.

I have been working on a book project for the past few – okay, several – years. In all this time, I have never once considered self-publishing the book. I have put so much effort and research and thought into the project, I want the validation that comes with traditional publishing. I gotta see that book on the bookshelf of Barnes & Noble one day.

But recently, I came up with an idea for another non-fiction book that is barking and nipping at my heels all day long. It isn’t going to take years to research and write this book. It’s a good idea. I want to start writing it now, not just labor over a proposal and wait with fingers crossed someone else’s approval. But at the same time, I don’t want to be hasty. It would be a lovely little feather in my cap to have this book published via the traditional route. So what to do?

Here's how I made my decision - might be useful for you, too.

1. Make a good old-fashioned pro/con list. I provide below my thoughts on the general advantages and disadvantages of eBook publishing. It’s not an exhaustive list - you may come up with more items of your own.

Pros for eBook publishing

Cons for eBook publishing

  • Can start writing immediately while creative energy for the project is high

  • Can publish and sell the book immediately when completed

  • Author has total creative control over content, design, title, etc.

  • Shorter publishing process.

  • Production and distribution costs are low

  • Retain all rights

  • Receive a significantly larger share of any profits

  • Potential for residual income
  • Most people don’t buy eBooks
  • Topic may not be suitable for/popular in eBook format.
  • Not as prestigious as print books with traditional publishers.
  • Author responsible for 100% of marketing
  • Can’t put the book on your shelf.

  • No free editorial assistance
  • May not earn a single penny

2. Assign a value to each item on the list. Using a scale of 1-10, I gave each item a numerical value with 10 being “very significant” and 1 being “not at all significant.” I liked this process very much as it gave me an opportunity to really examine my motivations. For this book, I am clearly motivated by having something wholly within my creative control as well as by the prospect of residual income. My final total was in favor of eBook publishing, 55 points to 43 points.

3. Listen to your gut. There’s still a little voice in me that says – go for it! Go for the traditional publisher! And wrapped up in that voice are fantasies of book signings, seeing my book on someone’s bookshelf, talking about the book on the Today Show…..

Whatever. That’s not my gut talking. It’s a few rogue cells in my brain who aren't taking into account my true objectives. When I take a look at that pro/con list with my assigned values, both my reason and my gut assures me that the eBook is the right way to go for this project. Plus, I kinda like the idea of all the new fantasies I can conjour: publishers begging me for the rights to my eBook, promising me vast sums, three-book deals, stays in luxury hotels…..

What have you decided for yourself: eBook or Traditional Publishing? Why?


  1. A great post. I have written six novel, while freelancing, raising two kids, and following an AF pilot husband from Asia to Central America and every corner of the US. Although my novels have all won multiple pre-pubbed contests, they had a difficult time finding a home in a traditional publishing house. (For many years, I received rejections solely on the basis of the setting of my novels - French Revolution. I could not accept that I was the only one who wanted to read a nove set in that time period) I was recently offered a contract by a epublisher who also prints paperback. Like you, I wanted to hold out for a traditional publisher, but in the end I decided it was better to really polish it up and see it in print versus sitting on my bookshelf in a binder.

    I have so enjoyed your blog posts. Thanks for this one, too.

    All the best.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Leah! Good for you for foraying into the e-Publishing world. I think today's writers are very lucky to have such an option. Good luck!

  3. Thanks! This confirms why I set up my own website and e-published my book. I did it so I could have total creative control, create a community around my book/content, and update easily and multiple times per year (there's information that goes out of date quickly). Plus, now I have the freedom to edit and expand whenever I want, which I think will be part of the appeal to people wanting to buy.

    I just discovered your blog, it's great! Thanks again :-)


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