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  • Ariel Mendez


Updated: Feb 1, 2023

When I started writing my first picture book manuscript, I thought traditional publishing was the way to go. I didn't understand there were other options or what those options were. I joined a local writing group, KidLit Drink Nights. It was a really fun monthly gathering of writers discussing latest projects or publications over happy hour drinks, laughter and good food. Here, I met with traditionally published authors who shared their wealth of knowledge about the industry.

And you know what? It sounded to me like traditional publishing isn't all it's cracked up to be. I heard frustrations about payment. I heard complaints about lack of marketing and promotional support. There was little communication or updates from publishers about how many copies sold. And so much more! It just seemed that for all of the hard work we writers go through, the holy grail of traditional publishing really wasn't all it seemed to be.

On the flip side, all the self-published authors I spoke with were very happy with their publishing experience. After comparing both paths to publishing, it was evident that with my first picture book I would be self-publishing! The decision was almost too easy.

Here are my top three reasons why I chose to self- publish my first picture book.

  • Time

Anyone who has written a book knows that the writing experience takes a lot of time. After you have gone through the writing and revision process, you can begin querying agents- if you want to traditionally publish, that is. You may get rejected, a natural part of the process, or you may get offered agent representation. After this step, your agent will submit to Acquisition Editors who will then acquire the rights to your book. Once your book is acquired by the publisher, your book will go through the production process that may include book cover, artwork, interior design, editing, proofreading, printing and distribution. All of these steps add up to a lot of time; on average 2 years. Are you willing to go through the long timeline and possible rejection? I wasn't up for it with my first book; I didn't feel ready for such an uphill climb.

  • Money

Self-publishing costs money. Especially self-publishing a professional quality; it can all add up to a significant expense. A good book cover design, a good editor, a good proofreader, interior book designer, and illustrator are all examples of costs that go into producing a book.

With my first self-published book, I wanted to cut costs as much as possible. I taught myself digital art and did all of the illustrations and the covers (hardcopy and paperback). I did not pay for a proofreader, which I regret but simply couldn't afford at the time. When self-publishing, the author has to take on all of these costs out-of-pocket. With traditional publishing, all of these expenses are covered by the publisher; this is largely why it is hard to get traditionally published, producing a book is a high cost and a publisher is assuming that financial risk.

Though, I encourage authors to not let money deter them. Kickstarter is a really great way to raise the funds for your book while also pre-marketing for sales. If you want to know more about Kickstarting your picture book, check out this article.

  • Control

The most common complaint I heard from traditionally published authors was their lack of control over the publishing process. Some authors wanted more input on the cover design but the publisher did not allow it. Some authors did not see any illustrations until it was already published. A couple of authors were acquired by publishing houses, but their manuscript got "shelved" for one reason or another and was never officially published; as in, their project simply stopped in-house. Another author thought their book was out of print, only to receive random royalty checks 5 years later!

The truth is, when a publisher acquires a manuscript they are really buying the rights to publish it. When that happens, no one, not even the author, can publish it in any printed form. This means that the publisher has all of the executive decision power and does not need to invite the author into that process; in fact, you sold them that right to leave you out of it. Some publishers are collaborative, but I would say it is not the norm to have a collaborative publisher.

If you want a modicum of involvement in the publishing process, maybe you should consider self-publishing or hybrid publishing. If you don't know what hybrid publishing is than check out this article.

I'm happy with my decision to self-publish my first picture book. Though, I am also open to traditional publishing for future projects. In the end, the main question should always be what is the best way to reach the reader? Whatever you decide, go for it!

As always, I wish you the best on your writing endeavors! Was this helpful? If you want more articles and resources like these, join my email list to receive my free Self-Publishing From Start To Finish Guide.


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