Best Reasons to Be Traditionally Published

by Stephen Oliver

I’ve been a writer for nearly eleven years and a traditionally published author for the last two. I tried self-publishing ten years ago, but that was a lot of hard work without much gain.

It’s been a long journey to traditional publication since then, but it was much accelerated when I joined The Writing Gym some five years ago, where I learned to write, edit, submit, market, etc., my books.


When I started at the Gym, I had around 140,000 words written, part of an epic fantasy novel and a dark urban fantasy anthology. On the advice of my writing coach, Annalisa Summea, I also wrote an episodic YA space opera novel.

The anthology and the YA novel have both been traditionally published within a month of each other.

Since joining the Gym, I’ve completed three more anthologies in the dark urban fantasy series, one of which is in the hands of the publisher, and I’m working on the fifth volume. I’ve also started on the sequel to the space-opera novel.

In addition, I have another eighteen books in various stages of completion. This brings the total number of words I’ve written to 1.4 million, ten times as many. Oh, and the epic novel has progressed from 35,000 to 108,000 words, with an estimated 50,000 more to come. I have no intention of stopping anytime soon because I’m having far too much fun!

During this journey, I’ve discovered there are many advantages to traditional publishing:

• Companies like Barnes & Noble take on the books of traditionally published authors. They’re the largest brick-and-mortar booksellers in the US; they have approximately 600 stores across the US. This is exciting for a newly published author like me because my books are available to more people who prefer the smell and feel of books while reading.

• However, they have also embraced the online, eBook, and audiobook markets, which are growing by leaps and bounds. Those are vast markets besides paperbacks, meaning my books are even more available, garnering more potential fans.

• For authors like myself who write YA fiction, among other genres, Barnes & Noble specializes in books for the younger reader. The biggest buyers of such books tend to be parents and other relatives, meaning that my blurbs are aimed at them as much as the actual readers themselves. Writing a good blurb is a skill in and of itself and helps to expand the potential number of buyers of my books.

• Many production companies, movie studios, and TV producers are leery of self-published and vanity books, although there are a few well-documented exceptions. Having a book traditionally published, even if it’s by a small indie company and not one of the Big Five, is an accolade not to be ignored. It means professionals vetted and edited the book, implying that it reaches a particular standard. That level of professionalism isn’t a guarantee of salability for the movie or TV series, of course, but it does help winnow the grain from the chaff. Just ask the agent who’s shopped one of my books out to four companies.

• Many “critics” are also wary of self-published and vanity books because many are written, uploaded, and put on the market without properly editing or even spell- and grammar-checking. This results in shoddy, low-quality books that have given self-publication an air of being the resort of the incompetent and those who can’t get a contract. Traditional publication is a kind of kudos, meaning that the publisher believes they can make money from it, i.e., it’s worth their time and effort to put it out there for the author.

Although self-publication may seem easier and quicker in the short term, in the long term, traditional publication is the better option for a writer who’s in it for the long haul. And I thoroughly recommend that you find yourself both a writing coach and a support community of like-minded writers. I found both when I joined The Writing Gym, and they’ve supported me since I began there.

If you’re serious about becoming a full-time author, try the same path as I did, and I’ll see you in the bookshops someday.

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