Writing and Publishing

Should You Go with a Traditional Publisher or Self-Publish?

Be open-minded about the options available for book publishing and then pick the best one

Traditional Publishing is the New Vanity Publishing

My goal as an author has always been to be a hybrid author, one who self-publishes some books and goes with a traditional publisher for others. What changes over time, however, is the emphasis I place on one over the other. On this, I waffle frequently. Some days I favor the allure of being traditionally published and on others, I lean toward self-publishing.

Though I embrace both as viable options, many people do not. It seems that many writers view one of these two options as the only choice for rational people, while outright dismissing the other for those uninformed. The problem is that some land squarely in the camp of traditional publishing as the only way to go, while others adamantly pursue self-publishing as the only sane choice.

I understand both perspectives.

What I don’t understand are people who are so obstinate toward their point of view and so biased against the alternative. They need to open their eyes: both traditional publishing and self-publishing have their pluses and minuses. Consider them, evaluate them, and then go with what seems best for your particular book at this particular time.

That’s my plan.

Here’s why:

Traditional Publishing: Traditional publishing pays authors to be published. But getting a traditional publishing deal is hard. In most cases, we need an agent first, which takes time. Then our agent needs to find a publisher to publish our book, which takes more time. Then our book goes into their publishing machine for edits, marketing, production, and so forth, which takes even more time. It often takes several years from writing a book to having a traditional publisher make it available to the public—assuming it happens at all.

Once we land a book deal, assuming we can, traditional publishers do most of the work and take all of the financial risks. Yes, they still want us to help market our book, but they do everything else—as we lose most of our control over the product and the outcome.

However, once the only real option for authors, technology has provided a viable alternative: self-publishing.

Self-Publishing: With self-publishing the author becomes a businessperson, investing money into a product in hopes of turning a profit. Success isn’t guaranteed, but the benefits are many. The author maintains control over the product, can get it to market fast, and will make much more per book. There are no gatekeepers to stand in our way, no one judging the size of our platform, and no one turning our baby into something we don’t like. 

[bctt tweet=”Being traditionally published implies a stamp of approval.” username=”Peter_DeHaan”]

Self-publishing was once decried as vanity publishing, but now I actually see traditional publishing as the new vanity publishing. Being traditionally published implies a stamp of approval. It says we’ve been accepted, our work has gained approval, and we have jumped high hurdles. This strokes our ego.

I get that. I want that.

Yet the very things that make us attractive to traditional publishers—a stellar book and a huge platform to promote it—are also the very things that make us an ideal fit for self-publishing, where we control the product, take a risk, and make a profit.

I get that, too. I want that.

My leanings, one way or the other, change often. What I do know is that I want to publish books, and I’m taking a hybrid approach to get there.

Writing and Publishing

Recommended Podcasts for Writers and Content Producers

Podcasts Provide Practical on-the-go Instruction


I listen to many podcasts, between ten to fifteen hours a week, that cover writing or publishing. I listen in the car, during lunch, on walks and as I work around home. I access all through iTunes and listen on my iPod.

I select podcasts to help me become a better writer and indie-published author. With so much content to listen to, I don’t want to waste my time.

Here is a list of my current podcasts. They are in approximate order of how long I’ve listened to them.

Though I don’t listen to every episode of every podcast, I do listen to most of them. And I never skip a single one of my favorites.

This list is long and, no doubt, daunting. Don’t let it overwhelm you. Pick one to check out and go from there.

Writing and Publishing

Do You Suffer From Marketing Inadequacy?

The success some authors have in marketing their books can overwhelm writers or even cause them to give up

Do You Suffer From Marketing Inadequacy?

Last week we talked about how to deal with writer envy, of how to avoid having the abilities of other writers overwhelm us. While the threat of writer envy does assault me from time to time, I’ve mostly come to peace with my writing ability. I know I am good and am getting better. I may never be really great, but I’m okay with that – most of the time.

However, the flip side of writing ability is marketing proficiency. I must admit that I sorely struggle with my lack of promotional prowess. I’ve taken classes (even at the graduate level) and understand the theory. I know what to do, yet my gut churns when it comes to implementation. Too often it feels smarmy. Yet when I press through, I do well, but too often, I don’t bother to push myself to act.

I see other authors who successfully promote their books into the stratosphere of success, book after book. Their results devastate me—especially when the book isn’t well written. The sad reality is that a marketing maven doesn’t need to write a good book to make a lot of money. They just need to excel at marketing. I am envious.

So if we’re not good at book marketing, don’t want to do it, or even feel it is beneath the art, what are we to do?

[bctt tweet=”What is an author to do who isn’t good at marketing their books?” username=”Peter_DeHaan”]

Give Up: We could just forget our passion to write, our dream to create art, and move on to a less frustrating, more profitable career. Yet would that make us truly happy? Or would an unsatiated compulsion to write roil in our souls? I think we all know the answer.

Ghostwrite: Writing for others as a ghostwriter, writer for hire, or collaborator allows us to write—and earn money—without the need to market. I like this. I do this. Yet I also want to see my name on the cover. True ghostwriting assignments don’t provide that option.

Write But Don’t Market: This is a built-it-and-they-will-come mentality. We focus on the art of writing and forget about the business of writing. In rare instances, it works. Usually not. Don’t pin your hopes on this strategy.

Outsource Marketing: I’d love to hire someone to do all my marketing for me. It would be so freeing. Yet two questions nag at me: Would it be cost-effective? (likely not), and would they produce acceptable results? (doubtful).

Press Through: Every job has fun aspects that we like and other chores that are, well, chores. We must slog through the difficult toils to resume the joys of creation.

I’ve considered each of these five responses. I often vacillate between them. Though I seldom consider quitting any more, the other four considerations pop up each week. I don’t have an answer, but as I try to figure one out, I will continue to write.

Writing and Publishing

A Salute to Print Books

On The Media discusses books in their March 11 podcast

The March 11 episode of On The Media, titled “Print is Back, Back Again” shares an array of interesting segments on books. It’s too good not to share.

Here are the topics covered:

These segments give those who read books and write books and publish books things to celebrate, things to make us smile, and things to shake our heads over. Yet put together they salute books, book writing, and book publishing. Long live printed books.

You can listen to the entire show or select specific topics using the above links. (It is also available through iTunes.)

If you love books, you’ll love this episode of On The Media.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.




Writing and Publishing

How to Format Web Addresses in Books

Authors advised to format web addresses to ensure readability and usability

Three Tips to Formatting URLs

When a book includes a web address, either in the text, a footnote, or in the front and back material, how it is formatted is important. There are two considerations: readability and usability.


When a reader comes across a web address (sometimes called a URL or uniform resource locator) it should not slow down the reader or impede the flow of the text. Having it in blue and underlined, as is the traditional method for websites, does not look good in a book. Black text and no underline is ideal in this regard for print books.

If the author has control over the web address, here are two tips:

  • Make it short
  • Use all lowercase

Of course, if the link is a reference to another site, authors cannot make these adjustments and must use the source as presented. Some web addresses are unwieldy and dramatically reduce readability. If possible avoid these behemoths in your text.


The other consideration is usability. When the book appears in an e-reader (or PDF file) the link must be clickable.

  • Web addresses should start with www. or https://. If they don’t initially have one of these two prefixes, check which one works (usually they both will) and add it. This will ensure the web address will convert to a clickable link.
  • Subdomains in the format of “” will usually not convert to a clickable link, either. In books always precede a subdomain with https:// as in “”

If you follow these steps, when you make an ebook or PDF document, the web addresses will automatically convert to a clickable link. By default, the text will usually change to blue and maybe underlined. While this does affect readability to some extent, it confirms to readers that the link is active.

Following these simple steps will ensure web addresses in your book are both readable and usable. Your readers will appreciate this.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.



Writing and Publishing

Let’s Make the New Year Your Best Year Yet

Let’s Make the New Year Your Best Year Yet

We talk about writing books, producing books, and marketing books. Successful writers must do all three. Neglect one element and your book will fail to meet expectations and reach its potential.

Even if you find a traditional publisher they will only handle the second requirement: publishing your book. Unless you are an A-list author they will do little marketing for you and expect you to put forth most of the effort.

And if you self-publish you must master all three: write a great book, produce an excellent product, and sell it effectively. Few authors naturally excel at all three. These are learned skills.

What do you shine at? What do you struggle with? Look at your weak area and commit to improving it this year.

The first step is writing a great book. Without compelling words, the rest doesn’t matter. Not really.

However, writing a great book is just the first step. Next is producing it. This includes careful editing by skilled editors and a professional cover by an experienced designer. I’ve seen otherwise good books fail because of sloppy editing or an amateur cover.

Last, and perhaps most critical, is telling others about your book. We call this marketing. And though some artists think of marketing as the dark side of their craft, it is essential if you want to make money from your book and put food on the table.

Marketing starts with a great website, an email list, and an engaged social media following. Then there are ads, promotions, and pricing strategies.

Whether it’s writing, producing, or marketing, look to round out your skillset for this year and make it your best year ever.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.




Writing and Publishing

A Year in Review: Top 10 Book Publishing Posts in 2015

As 2015 winds down and we get ready to boldly move into 2016, here is our annual year in review list. The top ten posts on The Book Blog for 2015 are:

  1. Why We Need a Book Proposal for Every Book We WriteGet Ready For the New Year
  2. Five Steps to Write Back Cover Copy For Your Book
  3. What Do Readers Care About?
  4. The Two Extremes of Self-Publishing: Both Are Wrong
  5. 7 Reasons Why Books Are Rejected
  6. Three Reasons to Comment on Blog Posts – and One Reason Not To
  7. What Email Open Rates Mean
  8. (this post contained obsolete content and was removed.)
  9. Becoming a Hybrid Author: A Case Study of Author Robin Mellom
  10. The Three Parts of Book Publishing

And here are two more that would have cracked the top 10 list, but they were actually written in 2014. Even a year after they were posted, readers continue to find and enjoy them:

  1. What’s the Difference Between a Category and a Tag on Your WordPress Blog?
  2. WordPress Primer: Seven Tips to Get Started Right and Minimize Confusion




Writing and Publishing

You May Be One Blog Post Away From a Book Deal

An online friend wrote a blog post that went viral. It elicited emotion. Passionate comments spewed forth in support and opposition. Because of the firestorm his post created, a publisher offered him a book deal. He turned his blog post into a book.

You May Be One Blog Post Away From a Book Deal

This is one-way blogging that can result in a published book. Though we can’t plan on this occurring or even scheme to make it transpire, it could happen. Possibly.

So each time you post on your blog, do so knowing that it could result in a book deal. Maybe. Yeah, right. But it might. Don’t hold your breath. It could happen, but it probably won’t.

After all, having written 1,500 posts none of mine have ever gone viral; no publisher has ever knocked on my door waving a coveted book contract. Yet it could happen, but it probably won’t.

So aside from this one-in-a-million, perhaps one-in-a-billion, the chance of this happening,  Blogging can:

Build Our Audience: Each post can expand our reach. As people appreciate what we have to say they follow us and share our words with others. Over time we grow an audience. We build our platform.

Sharpen Our Writing: With each post our writing improves, we write better or faster or with more passion. If we truly need to write a million words before we get good, then each post brings us a couple of hundred words closer.

Hone Our Voice: As we write, various styles emerge. Eventually, these all converge into one cohesive, consistent comportment. We have found our writing voice.

Provide Feedback: Blogging allows us to get quick feedback. We learn what elicits a reaction and what doesn’t. We realize when an idea is half-baked and when it is fully formed. Let’s handle these things with the correctable, immediacy of a blog and not the permanence of a book.

Form the Habit of Writing: By showing up to blog on a regular basis, we demonstrate to publishers we have established the discipline, the habit, to write regularly. They can expect we will do the same for our book and not let them down.

[bctt tweet=” Each blog post can move us one step closer to a book contract.” username=”Peter_DeHaan”]

I blog for these reasons. I also blog because I have something to say and because people appreciate what I write. Yes, I do a blog to move me closer to a book deal, too. It may not happen quickly, but it will happen.

Writing and Publishing

Do You Want People to Buy Your Book or Read Your Book?

We all want people to buy our books and then read our books. That’s the ideal. But what if we can realize only one of these two outcomes? Would we rather have people buy our book or read it?

In the first scenario a lot of people would buy our book but they never actually read it. It sits around unread and later moves to a bookshelf and later still ends up in the trash. No one ever reviews the book or lets us know how much they enjoy it.

In the second scenario, readers download our book for free, read someone else’s copy (that wasn’t paid for either), receive an advanced copy, or finds a pirated version. We receive a boatload of positive reviews and everywhere we go it seems someone says how great our book is. A lot of people read our book and love it, but we never make one penny from it.

Both these situations are extreme, but if we had to select one, which one would it be?

If we pick the first, then our primary goal in writing a book is to make money. If we pick the second, then our primary motivation to write is for the love of the art. Neither one is wrong, but by themselves, for the long-term, neither one will fully satisfy.

We need people to buy our books, and we need people to read them. The first need is practical and the second need is emotional. We must have both to sustain ourselves as writers. Without the money we starve physically; without the feedback, we starve creatively. Don’t be caviler about either; we need both and shouldn’t dismiss one as unnecessary.

We must write books that will make money and that people will want to read. The money doesn’t have to be a lot, but we need to make something. Our readers don’t need to be many, but we need to have at least a few.

Of course, we’d prefer to sell lots of books and have lots of readers. Isn’t that what we all dream for—even if we don’t say so or are afraid to admit it?

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.




Writing and Publishing

How Not to Write a Nonfiction Book

A friend, who is also a prolific reader, once shocked me. Talking about nonfiction books, he said: “I only read the first chapter. Then I page through the rest and stop to read anything that’s interesting.”

How Not to Write a Nonfiction Book

My incredulous look encouraged him to explain. “Most nonfiction books pack their entire message into the first chapter. The rest of the book just rehashes it.” While some books warrant a more thorough investigation, he claimed most didn’t.

I’ve tested his theory. He’s right. Most nonfiction books present all of the essential information in the first chapter. Yes, the subsequent chapters do expound on the first chapter’s truths, but they do little to add substance to the main concept. In too many nonfiction books, I learn 90 percent of the main material in 10 percent of the time by just reading the first chapter.

[bctt tweet=”Most nonfiction books cover everything in chapter 1. The rest of the book just rehashes it.” username=”Peter_DeHaan”]

I see three reasons why this happens:

1) The author doesn’t have enough content for a book. Some ideas, really great ideas, are simply not big enough to fill a book. Maybe it’s perfect for an article or even a blog post, but not a book. Yet authors may try to stretch an article into a book.

2) The author has a word count goal. Publishers (or agents) want a certain length book. They require X number of words to fill Y number of pages. That’s what best fits their production process or what marketing feels the buying public expects. After all, if we spend $15 on a book, we expect it to have some heft. As a result, authors stretch their words to hit a target. But that doesn’t make for a good book.

3) The author doesn’t know how to write nonfiction. There are all kinds of instructions on how to write fiction, but the amount of information on writing nonfiction is nonexistent in comparison. Maybe the assumption is that nonfiction is easy to write and requires no training. In fiction, we learn how to grab readers’ attention, keep them turning pages, and skillfully guide them to a satisfying conclusion. We would never reveal the ending in chapter 1 and then explain how it all happened. Yet that is precisely what too many authors do in nonfiction.

The more I think about this, the more I realize what a huge problem this is. Maybe I should write a book about it. No, on second thought, I only have enough for a blog post.