Creative Control: Reflecting on My Traditional Publishing Experience

Every self-published author has a reason for going the indie route. For some, it’s because they’ve grown tired of querying publishers and agents, only to be rejected time and again. For others, it’s because they’ve been traditionally published already, have established their name and their following of loyal readers, and are now ready to see what they can do on their own. For others still, it’s because the autonomy of self-publishing is appealing. There are a whole host of other reasons in between.

For me, self-publishing was how I chose to step into the world of authorship simply because I was curious about it. If you don’t know the story alread, about three years ago I had been freelance writing, producing short romance stories and novellas for a flat rate fee. Wanting to know what my writing was really worth, I began to look into Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. I liked what I saw, and decided to go for it.

It has never been my intention to remain a self-published author, however. In the back of my mind, I’ve always wanted to land that coveted publishing contract. Three years later, I’ve done it. My book, A Noble Deception, comes out August 27th from Boroughs Publishing Group, and I have to say, I couldn’t be more proud. At this point, I’ve been through the preliminary stages of working with a publisher. My book has been through a developmental edit, a line edit, a copy edit, has received a cover, and has had a back cover blurb crafted just for my story.A Noble Deception_tent-2

Throughout my self-publishing career, I’d heard about the reasons why authors should choose self-publishing over traditional. One reason in particular always frightened me: that you have to give up creative control of your work. It’s a chilling prospect for writers who agonize over getting their characters, their settings, their plots and their style just right. Having to give that control to someone else, to change as they see fit … well yeah, it makes you antsy. In a recent article, self-published author Sheila Sheeran tells reporters that she “never felt that traditional publishing was the best route for realizing her dream, as she was unwilling to compromise her voice or the stories that she developed.” Put more bluntly, a post on The Book Designer blog says, “When you get picked up by a publishing house, you’re signing over the rights to your book. It’s quite possible that their editor will make you change stuff you don’t want to change – including the title.”

Yes, this is a very real possibility. If you work with a publisher, they’re going to want to change things about your book. But having gone through the process now, I’ve learned that it isn’t quite as scary as I thought. Having read all these frightening posts about how my book was going to be changed around and butchered and altered until it was unrecognizable, I had become quite pro-selfpub based on the propaganda out there. I admit this fact with chagrin now, because the experience wasn’t like that at all. My experience was exciting, to tell the truth. My editor did come back with some suggestions on the developmental edit, but you know what? She was entirely right about them. Her instinct and professional experience about what would make it better was bang-on. I willingly made those changes because it made my story stronger.

It’s been going through the process that has really hammered home the point for me that publishers and editors and cover designers and all the people that work for traditional and digital-first publishers … they’re professionals. The vast majority care about their work, about the books they take on, and about their authors’ long-term career health. That’s something which the blog posts and articles on “Why You Should Self-Publish” neglect to cover. Whatever creative control you stand to lose by giving up the rights to your work, you stand to gain in other things by giving your rights over to a professional who knows the industry, who knows the audience, and who knows your genre.

Of course, not every publisher is honest and reputable, and not every author is going to have the same experience I did. With this new wave of digital publishers, anyone can set up a website and call themselves a publisher and fool hard-working authors into believing they’re offering a legitimate publishing contract. In those instances, I can of course see that giving over creative control might be detrimental to a manuscript’s success. But you can usually tell these publishers by the quality of their website, by the calibre of their authors, and by the pedigree of their staff.

I’ve had an eye-opening experience, working with a publisher for the first time, and I’m being honest when I say that it’s been a really empowering experience – empowering because I’ve learned to let go of my inhibitions and fears about giving up the rights to my work and trust in someone else’s professional experience. My book and (I anticipate) my career have come out better for it. At this point in time I suspect I will always be a hybrid author to some degree, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with a traditional publisher so far, and look forward to continuing to do so.

So, to my fellow self-published authors out there who may be wary of giving over the creative control of your manuscripts like I was: don’t let the self-pub propaganda stop you from trying to get traditionally published, if that’s what you really want. I’m a firm supporter of the self-publishing industry. Heck, I even run the Indie Author Feature with Coffee Time Romance and More. But we really need to see both sides of the publishing coin to be able to tout the virtues of one or the other.

5 thoughts on “Creative Control: Reflecting on My Traditional Publishing Experience

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  1. I’m glad you had such an enjoyable experience with traditional publishing. In my opinion, we need both sides of the publishing coin in this day and age. It all comes down to what each individual author wants. If her dream is to be traditionally published, I say go for it! If an author wants to do it on his own, I say more power to you. What I don’t brook is when authors bash other authors for going one way or another.

    I personally love being an indie author. I love the freedom, the creative control and the fact that I can hire those same professionals to make my book shine.

    It’s a brave new world! 🙂


    1. I agree totally, that it’s each author’s individual choice (and I sincerely hope I didn’t come across as putting down self-publishing). Being an indie author is such a great option these days, both as a stepping-stone to a traditional career and as a career path in itself. I’m glad you’re loving the indie author journey. I’ve loved mine, too, and will continue to do so. As you noted, I just think it’s important for indie authors to know both sides of the publishing coin, and you bring up a great point – that it’s no longer one or the other, that you can mix and match 🙂

      It’s funny, too, because I’ve seen the same bias from the other perspective. I’ve listened before to a traditional author put down self-publishing and dismiss it as the avenue of failed writers … of course she didn’t have all her facts straight, and had no idea that there was at least one successful self-published author in her audience. I kept quiet and simply chuckled to myself 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this post 🙂 I kind of feel like I might end up on the same journey. Self pubbing really interests me, but I think I might end up becoming a hybrid author – that’s my goal. Boroughs Pub looks awesome, congrats 🙂 I LOVE your cover btw.


    1. I’m so glad, Stefanie. Thanks for commenting! I’ve loved every step of the journey with the cover, and am super thrilled with the cover they did for me. I’m so glad you like it! Being a hybrid author is a great goal. As N. N. Light says in her below comment, it’s a brave new world, with many different viable options for emerging authors 🙂


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