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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Book Review : "How Do I Decide? Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing - A Field Guide for Authors" by Rachelle Gardner with Michelle DeRusha

Someone needed to write this nook, and we're lucky that Rachelle Gardner wrote it.

Ms. Gardner is a seriously important literary agent, who has, for the last several years, written one of the most informative blogs for writers around. I speak from experience - I learned a lot from her.

"How Do I Decide?" opens with an introduction to the world of traditional publishing and self-publishing (with cogent explanations of vanity presses, subsidy presses, and the like). The world of self-publishing can be confusing; here one may find clarity.

Next, the meat of 'how do I decide' is addressed with a checklist of factors that may or may not be important to an aspiring author. If you answer the questions honestly, you'll come through with a clear idea of what method may be best for you.

Next, Ms. Gardner compares and contrasts the advantages of tradition publishing vs. those of self-publishing. They're deeper and more telling than one might expect.

A huge advantage of traditional publishing is that of quality control - a book will go through an editorial process that's designed to put the best possible product on the shelves. First it goes through the agent, who will offer suggestions for improvement. After it's sold it goes through an editor at the publishing house, where more changes will probably be requested. These 'filters' take 'control' away from the author - but the use of fresh eyes will catch things many authors will miss.

The same goes for the physical production of the book. From cover art to typesetting, the publisher takes responsibility. and has a vested interest - and experience - in putting out the best product.

The advantages that self-publishing offers are control and flexibility, with a bigger downstream 'cut' of the profits than a traditional publisher could ever hope to give. The self-publishing author is not beholden to anyone concerning content or production, and can maintain a consistent artistic vision through writing to production and marketing.

A very welcome addition to these chapters are the inclusion of the first-hand experiences of several authors, from both the traditional and self=published worlds.

Finally, there's another checklist, to help make a final decision on which way to go...and the advice, get going.

The last chapter contains resources for both types of publishing. It includes independent editors, and cover and format designers for those who want to self-publish, and links to how to find an agent for those who prefer the traditional route. Also provided are books and websites that can provide help in understanding the publishing world.

Do I recommend this book? Yes. Unequivocally. I wish I'd read it before I started to pursue publication.

Any criticisms? A minor one - I would have liked to see Ms. Gardner weave some of her own experiences into the narrative. I had the sense of a lot of wisdom and experience hovering just outside the pages, but not fully tapped.

You can buy "How Do I Decide? - A Field Guide for Authors on Amazon, by clicking here. It's $3.99, on Kindle. If you don't have a Kindle you can download a Kindle reader, free, for your PC.

I was given a free copy of this book for the purposes of this review.


  1. I met her!! Okay, I hugged her!She is lovely, very soft spoken, very nice. And smart as a whip!!