reading books

That old argument: Self Publishing vs Traditional Publishing


I had another blog planned. However, I’ve been listening to self-publishing podcasts and traditional publishing came up as it usually does.

I think there is merit in both and some people agree since there are hybrid publishing systems combining the two. However, the biggest advantage to self-publishing is that a well written book has a venue toward being read. There is less chance in traditional publishing.

The merger of the publication industry narrowed the book selection process with fewer people doing the selecting and fewer venues for authors to sell in. Also, publishers took less risk by using just a few plot lines. Readers’ choices declined while publishers compensated by using marketing ploys like best seller lists that did not really list best sellers. I’ve heard many readers who selected a best seller and wondered why, after reading it, that it was ever published.

Agents are not at fault because they need to select books editors want. Editors must select what is quickly profitable or get fired. Corporate management will not adjust leaving the decision for change up to the reader.

My goal has always been to look elsewhere than best seller lists and the big five publishing companies for something to read. Going to the other end with self-publishing is usually not good, either. There are too many self-published books of poor quality. At least books traditionally published are readable.

I seek out small, independent presses. This is where I have found books rich in diversity and vivid story telling that could become classics. While hybrid publishing helps improve self-published authors, these presses are where a well written book has a chance to being read for a long time.

Given all of this, I’m likely to self-publish my books. I’d rather not, but it’s fruitless to pursue an agent because my books do not fit the standard plot line. I’d like to find an independent publisher, but they are hard to find in my genre (hint: become more recognized). Instead, I will professionally edit my books and put them out there. Maybe one day, someone on a podcast will talk about my book. I hope it’s a podcast I listen to.

Six rules I use to find a book to read

There are a lot of books I want to read that get lost in the many books I don’t want to read. So, I came up with six rules to help me sort through all these books and pick the right one (hopefully).

  1. Ignoring book covers

In Brenda Ueland’s 1938 book If You Want to Write, she states that “writing does not get better with a fancy, loud package.”

I found that few book covers have anything to do with the book’s content. The only thing I pay attention to on the cover is the author’s name and title.

If the author’s name is big or bigger than the title, I won’t read the book. The publisher is selling the author’s name rather than the contents or story. I found these books to be not well written and boring.

As for the book’s title, I look for something unique. In other words, I have no clue what title catches my attention until it does.

  1. Who is the author?

I want to see a picture of the author smiling. If the author is giving me a grim look, I wonder why the person is angry after getting a book published. I don’t want to read a book from an angry author.

The credentials of non-fiction authors should show experience and education on the topic. I think fiction authors who publish three or more books a year are rushing to publish rather than paying attention to what they write.

  1. Who endorsed this book?

Endorsements from individuals, like other authors, are irrelevant. They can easily become favors to each other. However, endorsements from organizations are more valid because the reviewers need “likes” to get paid. These endorsements are hard to come by. Individual endorsements are easy.

  1. About the book: Multiple authors and point of view

I avoid books written by more than one person. For non-fiction, it seems the authors are always arguing with each other. In fiction, the different styles of writing are just irritating. Another irritation is second person narrative (example: you thought this and you did that). How does the author know what I’m thinking or doing?

  1. From start to the middle of the book

I do not read books that start off with some vicious, violent scene or a string of profanity. The author is using shock writing to attract readers. If there is a plot, it generally consists of more violence and profanity that becomes the story. Some readers like shock writing. I do not.

So much effort is given to writing an opening that many times the rest of the book fails. I find that the middle of a book is where writers struggle the most. A story or non-fiction kept strong in the middle means a lot. This is the problem with books online. Publishers make sure only the start of the book is seen, not the middle.

  1. Non-Fiction versus Fiction: Likes and Dislikes

For non-fiction, I look for a topic that interests me in a subject I want to learn more about, something that hints at a new discovery, or where an author presents a different viewpoint. To me, a non-fiction book should be something I learn from and that makes me rethink what I thought I knew that was all wrong in the first place.

I generally avoid creative non-fiction books. I think many of these are more fiction than non-fiction.

I like a wide range of fiction genres, but not the commercial, mass market driven books. Publishers are more interested in making easy money than providing anything worth reading. I don’t want to read a book that I can’t remember what it was about after I read it.


There’s a lot of bad books either because of poor writing or awful topics. These are easy to weed out by glancing at the title or a brief look at what’s written inside. But, there’s also a lot of good books, just not ones I’d like to read.

These rules help me improve my chances at finding something I like. However, sometimes I find a book I really like by ignoring everything I listed here.

Quote: Read to let the words be the writer’s mentor.