Eleven Reasons Writers Wait For a Traditional Publisher

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(Photo compliment of Morguefile. To follow the artist click here.

If you’re a writer then you know how difficult it can be to sell your book to a traditional publisher. Even the first step of finding an agent to read your manuscript can be daunting. But once an agent decides to represent you and become your team leader she has to submit your proposal to viable houses.

During that time, you wait.

When no one takes the bite you wait for your agent to submit again. Once a publisher requests the full manuscript you wait a little longer, hoping they’ll buy. If they aren’t interested in your project you wait again. If they buy, you wait in between editing.

It’s realistic to wait two years from the time you finish your novel to the time you’re published– if you wait for a traditional publisher. But for some writers, it’s worth the wait.

Why? Here are eleven reasons.

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Reasons Writers Wait  for a Traditional Publisher

  1. Validation. Editors from publishing companies see hundreds of manuscripts every year. They see poor writing and great writing, beautiful stories and flat characters. They see it all, so if they’re willing to buy a book it probably means the story is good enough for them to bet on. They’re willing to spend a bucket of time and money that a book will have an audience. Some authors need this validation to give them confidence in their writing talent.
  2. Fulfilling a dream. For some writers, getting published by a traditional publisher has been their life-long dream–to get the call from a publisher who believes their book is worthy of publication. Most anyone can self-publish, but not everyone gets a contract from a traditional publisher.
  3. An Editor In-The-Know. Some authors want a team approach to publishing. They want experienced companions in the editing and design process, ones who know what makes a salable book. They believe a traditional publisher will triple check their words until they’re polished and fully edited.
  4. Formatting. They know how to format pages for all the varied reading devices too.
  5. Titles. Some writers are great at brainstorming titles, but editors have more experience with which titles sell and why.
  6. Bookstores. Most traditional publishers have a wider distribution of books. An author’s book will have a greater chance of sitting on the shelf in a bookstore and a library for readers to find.
  7. Brand Name. Some writers are looking for a publisher who has a great reputation because they believe readers will associate them with that “brand.” Even though they may have a growing platform, a traditional publisher can increase that quicker than they can.
  8. Design process. Covers sell books. Publishing houses have the staff and the experience to help authors get noticed.
  9. More readers. Traditional publishers typically have more readers and greater marketing methods. (That’s not to say authors won’t have to pitch in on this endeavor, but they’ll be a part of a working team.)
  10. Visibility. Authors are more apt to get a TV, radio or talk show engagement due to the relationship the publisher has with the media.
  11. Career. Some authors want to be known as a novelist, a writer with a career writing novels. They plan on writing more than one book. Landing a deal with a traditional publisher will help launch their career quicker and give them the credibility as a novelist.

As you can see, there are many benefits to wait for a traditional publisher. Maybe you have a different reason. Please share yours below.

There are also many reasons to self-publish. If you’re not sure which way to go, check out Rachelle Gardner’s field guide for authors, How Do I Decide? Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing. 

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Which one is for you and why?

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  1. Robin says:

    Love the post, Michelle! Great reason!

  2. Great post Michelle! I have heard so may horror stories with respect to traditional publishing, vs. self-publishing. Many of us fledging writers have no idea as to which road to take . “To go traditional, or self-publish. That is the question.” Sadly, I can’t make up my mind. Thank you so much. Blessings.

    • Hi Johnny. It’s a tough decision–and a personal one. I hope to have an ariticle on the benefits of self-publishing soon too.
      Are you watching the awards tonight? Who’s going to win BEST PICTURE? Any guesses?

  3. When I started out, five years ago, the internet wasn’t as huge a resource as it is now. So I definitely KNEW that traditional publishing was the best way for my book to reach the most people.

    Now, you can have a huge platform and ready-made audience, thanks to blogs and twitter and FB. You can hire someone to design a really awesome cover for not the hugest of $$. Editing is probably the biggest fee, if you self-pub. But this is the year I have to weigh these things and look seriously at my end purpose–getting my books in the hands of the readers. Sometimes, it might be worth the wait…sometimes not.

    Lots to ponder this year. I have two books–one still out on submission and one ready to go out.

    • Hi Heather,

      I love your gmail address. I get a visual of you chasing your kids through the living room with your viking helmet on. Ha! Thanks for contributing.

      Tell me again, do you write YA? What are your titles? Who do you hire as an editor?


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