To Self-Publish or Not to Self-Publish — That is the Question

Guest post by Author, Sandy Steen

To self-publish or not to self-publish. That is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind…well, you guys know the rest. But the fact is Will Shakespeare’s publishing life was a lot less complicated that our modern-day publishing world.

As writers we all want our work to sell but first we must answer the BIG question: Do I want to publish through a traditional New York publisher or Toronto if romance is my genre? Or, do I want to self-publish? Here are the pros and cons for traditional publishing.

Traditional Pros:

• Advance paid

The average advance is between $3,000 to $5,000 these days. Because there are fewer slots to be filled the publishers are very picky about new submissions.

The manuscripts better be clean as a whistle, well-edited and with no errors in spelling and punctuation. In other words, print ready.

• Cover art provided
• Editing is provided
• Distribution, both domestic and international
• Semi-annual royalties paid

Traditional Cons:

• Fewer publishers than 5 yrs. ago / fewer spots
• Most houses only accept submissions through agents
• May be months before your work is accepted or rejected
• Depending on schedules may be 12 to 18 months to publish
• Must conform your work to publisher’s guidelines
• Have to warehouse your books
• No marketing provided. When I say no marketing, I mean none for the little guys. The publishers only provide for their top-selling names-NYT best seller list names.
• 6% of cover price is probably best royalty you can expect.

The 6% figure is per Harlequin and that’s for paperback and digital. As far as I know only authors like Nora Roberts, Stephen King, Connley, Cobin, Patterson and others of that stature get 10-15%. (They probably do better for hardback but hardback is way out of reach for anyone publishing for the first time).

New York has to see that the writer has enough of a sales record to warrant that and frankly, it takes years. It all depends on the contract, of course, but the bottom line is you have to sell a TON of books before you get substantial royalties.

Now for the second half of the question concerning self-publishing. Did you know that until the mid-nineteenth century, most American authors published at their own expense? For example, Walt Whitman self-published and sold his 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass. But, **self-publishing is not for everyone so here are the pros and cons.

Self-Publishing Pros:

• Write your story the way you want, no restrictions
• Publish immediately, no waiting
• Track sales yourself month to month
• 70% of cover price for books priced below $9.99
• Can use print on demand-no storage required
• Royalties paid monthly after reaching a set dollar amount. Amazon sets the dollar amount for royalties paid. You have to earn $100 per month to receive a monthly statement otherwise you get it when you do earn the $100 worth of royalties not sales. I might add that if books are priced over the $9.99 the royalty rate drops to 35%.

Self-Publishing Cons:
• Pay for editing
• Pay for cover art
• Pay to have manuscript formatted or learn to do it yourself
• Do your own marketing using Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.

After pointing out all these pros and cons it’s still going to be a difficult decision. It all depends on whether or not you are willing to have an established publisher sell your book with all of the waiting and low royalties.

Or, if you want to move faster with your work and publish it yourself with out-of-pocket expenses? There is a lot of work in both choices. You simply have to decide what you want and what you’re willing to do.

Sandy Steen has been publishing since 1986, beginning her career writing contemporary romance before switching to mysteries. Her favorite things are film noir movies, cooking and spending time with her family and friends. You can find her online at:

Her latest novel, “Murder, He Howled” is available on And coming soon, the first in a 3 book steamy romance series, “Lone Star Lovers.”

to-self-publish-or-not_Murder-he-howled Lone Star Lover _CADE eBOOK COVER

**Referred to Amazon and Createspace. Amazon, or Kindle Digital Publishing (KDP) publishes only ebooks. Createspace is the print on demand arm of Amazon.

2 thoughts on “To Self-Publish or Not to Self-Publish — That is the Question

  1. This information by long-time writer Sandy Steen is spot-on for helping writers choose which route to take when publishing a book.

    For those who haven’t read Sandy, do. I loved her romances, but in my opinion, she shines with her new Parker Doyle Mystery series. Her dry wit is at its best.

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