Friday, April 19, 2013

Thoughts on the Flux of Self-Publishing versus Traditional Publishing and All the Stuff In Between

by Lorilyn Roberts.

In the future, I predict publishing books will take on the business model of commercially produced products:  The public will buy the books they like regardless of how they are published. As a popular commercial sums it up, it’s not complicated.

While many rules have changed, others are nonnegotiable. You better write a good book, hire a top-notch editor, and grace the front of your book with an outstanding cover. You will need a rocket full of energy to launch it and not enough hours in the day to promote it. Otherwise, your book may end up in the slush pile of broken dreams.

In spite of the challenges, the new norm is a win-win for both the producer and the consumer (the author and the reader). But for the uninformed, it has also created a void that needs to be filled. The biggest problem with this new norm is the lack of training for self-published authors. As the founder of a network of authors (John 3:16 Marketing Network), many of whom are frustrated, the lack of training in what it takes to market and the unrealistic expectations of what can be achieved is legend. I could give you many stories, including my own. While consumers will slap down a debit card for a Starbucks latte without a second thought (including me), ask someone to spend 99 cents on a book from you, an unknown author, and you will feel the parting of the Red Sea. You wonder if you have B.O. or bad breath.

As a self-published author, I have made my share of mistakes. One of my books had an amateurish book cover and a well-known author told me so. I quickly learned that I can’t sacrifice quality to save money. I grew up a lot that day—people notice the good, the bad and the ugly in books. If I am in this for the long haul, I better not be looking for a quick buck or I will be disappointed.

To that end, I would encourage writers and hopeful authors to think of writing as a business endeavor—approach it with that attitude. It’s not a hobby, it’s a job. Talent and willingness to learn will serve the serious writer well, along with some good business savvy.

The goal should be to build a platform and seek out readers who will fall in love with your book this year and come back and read future books—and share your books with friends and family. That mindset will serve those authors well who are serious about writing and marketing. It’s a business. The industry deserves that kind of quality.

Despite the challenges, I am glad the publishing world of the future won’t be controlled by a few highly successful companies. In the past, those publishers held a monopoly on the market. If I were a betting woman, I’d say they missed some real gems. What other answer is there for why some authors had so many rejections for excellent books? No wonder many writers gave up. The world will never know what books they didn’t get to enjoy. Not every wannabe author has the gumption to keep knocking on closed doors.

I can tell you that traditional publishers have never looked twice at me. I am too old for them to invest their cash in but too young (or stupid) to believe I can’t start another career. When I crawl into bed at 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. in the morning, after writing a few words on the computer following several hours of broadcast captioning, I sometimes wonder if I am insane. Still, I wouldn't trade what I’ve learned for any contract from any publisher.

Why? Because knowledge is power. While some information just doesn’t stick in this old brain of mine like I wish, that doesn’t mean I am going to give up. After all, we live in a world of information overload. I sometimes tell my daughters the C-drive in my brain is full. I need to delete something before I can take in any more information.

But with that power come opportunities. Today is a readers’ world in spite of television and computers and smartphones and tablets. In fact, it’s because of the plethora of these gadgets that more people are reading. Perhaps we make our hopes and dreams too small—too many rejection slips have convinced some they can’t make it at all. The journey is what it’s all about. And for me at least, I know the outcome is in God’s hands.


Lorilyn Roberts is a Christian author who writes children's picture books, adult nonfiction, memoirs, and a young adult Christian fantasy series, Seventh Dimension. The first in the series, The Door, was just published (October 2012).

Lorilyn graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Alabama, which included international study in Israel and England. She received her Masters in Creative Writing from Perelandra College and is a graduate of the Institute of Children's Literature.

Lorilyn is the founder of the John 316 Marketing Network, a network of Christian authors who are passionate about promoting books with a Christian worldview.

To learn more about Lorilyn, please visit her website at or blog at You can follow her on twitter at To connect with her personally, you can contact her by email at


  1. Hi, Lorilyn
    Thank you for your comments. I hardly buy books because I have barely times to read them and when I read them, I forget everything else around me so I feel guilty not spending time enough with my son or housework or God. If takes time also if you have to write a review. If I buy a book nowadays, it is really on the subject that I'm looking answers for. It might also be for a self publisher, a lack of finances and time to go all the way to marketing it.
    I have to take in consideration my free time, finances and perspectives. Above everything, my motivation is key to take all the steps towards having a book launch.

    1. You are right, Sana. That's why I tell myself I am in this for the long haul. I am still single parenting, and my children must come before my writing. My older one is 21 but she still lives at home, is in college, and even she still needs me -- you never outgrow being a parent. They come before writing. So thinking long term helps me to be patient and wait on God.

  2. I tend to buy many books on Kindle, simply because I don't live in an English-speaking country, and it is easiest for me to buy the English books I want. I think, for me, it really doesn't matter who the publisher is. I find that I read all kinds of books--self-published and traditionally published. They are all available for Kindle. It seems you can't usually get published traditionally unless you're famous in some way (speaker, personality, etc.), and most writers aren't. I really appreciate people like you who use their energies to help all of us get our own dreams on the market.

    1. Thanks, Lou Ann. I appreciate your comments.

  3. Good post
    Being a writer is definately not for the weak of heart--its a journey of ups and downs
    I think self published authors have a unique opportunity that the internet has opened. It's all begins with building relationships with others-- which is a little different on a computer screen

  4. You are right, Charles. Writing is a solo affair, but when it comes to marketing, it's really all about relationships.

  5. This was such an encouraging post. Thanks for your tenacity & leadership

  6. I think the backlist is going to become increasingly important if self-published authors want to make any money at this. You can't just publish one book and expect to make enough to buy more than a week's worth of groceries.

    I wish I agreed with you on writing quality though. There are a lot of books out there that are so poorly edited, I can't read them. Yet, judging by their Amazon ranks and their reviews, they do well. I try to worry about my own editing instead of focusing on theirs, but you still can't help but wonder.

    I would also say that we shouldn't lump all publishers together. eBooks have given rise to a lot of small publishers that work with writers at all levels of experience. The Wild Rose Press gave me my start - in ebook and paperback. I thought I was a good writer before working with them (don't we all?) but they helped me become a better writer. There is a definite value to working through a publishing house.

  7. You make a lot of excellent points. I'm glad you posted this. People always say you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but an amateurish cover makes the whole book seem rinky-dink and dull. It's an immediate turnoff.