Self-Publishing Versus Traditional: A Conversation with Two Authors

 On June 18th, I moderated a panel for Sisters in Crime/LA at Barnes and Noble, Valencia, with two fabulous authors to discuss the above topic. Sue Ann Jaffarrian and Pamela Samuels-Young (bios at the end) brought two very different perspectives to the conversation, and I, as moderator, got out of the way. A big shout out to Lori Christian and the staff at B&N for a great job setting up the venue.

Publishing is definitely changing, and the changes are making self-publishing an option that more authors--even established authors--are looking at with interest.

Pamela noted that there is a lot of work involved in self-publishing, but Sue Ann pointed out that authors who aren't in the top tiers of traditional publishing have many of the same responsibilities. The author is still expected to foot the bill for travel expenses to marketing venues such as book signings and conferences. 

Control is a major plus in self-publishing. While Pamela has to find vendor herself such as copywriters, cover designers, and distributors, the author has say in the entire process. No more bad cover art selected by the publisher. One place to look for freelancers is on Elance , but make sure you get at last two recommendations from authors who have used the person's services. Sue Ann pointed out that her publisher has gotten her books into many foreign markets without her having to worry about it. In fact, sometimes she's pleasantly surprised by a royalty check!

Is an agent necessary for a self-published author? Pamela prefers a literary attorney. Since you don't need to shop the book, an agent is an unnecessary expense. Just make sure your attorney specializes in the business of books. Pamela also suggested joining the Author's Guild, as you can get free advice on contracts as one of their benefits.

Much of Pamela's marketing is done through book groups. She meets with them in person, over the phone, and via Skype. Sue Ann suggested that authors think outside of the box when they look for marketing opportunities. She sells books when she speaks at charity functions. Being a paralegal, she also speaks and sells books at legal functions.

The two hard-bound editions of Pamela's books came from book clubs. Otherwise, it's too expensive to go with hard covers. Both authors preferred trade paperbacks.

One of the more difficult parts of self-publishing is getting book reviews. Pamela suggested Pump Up Your Books , which is an on-line book promotion agency. They can put you on a blog tour and get reviews. Reviewers can become fans, as evidenced by one online reviewer who came to see Sue Ann.

It's only fair to point out that, though both authors have won awards and been on various best seller lists, they still have day jobs. Only a lucrative television or movie deal and the big bucks that go with it would entice them to write full time. One point: Full time authors don't have insurance, though the Author's Guild is able to offer some type of plan, depending on what state you live in.

Both authors also recommended that authors subscribe to Publisher's Lunch and Publisher's Marketplace as a way to keep up on publishing news.

How much social networking do the authors do? Sue Ann considers her blog personal, which can sometimes cause problems when readers don't agree with the author's opinions. Both authors are on Facebook, and Sue Ann has learned to take advantage of the opportunities there, including a FB page set up by fans of her books.

What's next for these authors? Pamela is busy at work on her next novel, and Sue Ann intends to self-publish a short story on Kindle.

Sue Ann Jaffarrian is the author of three series--plus sized paralegal Odelia Gray Series, The Ghost of Granny Apples Series, and now the Madison Rose Vampire Series.  In her “other life” Sue Ann is a paralegal and a motivational speaker, and she just hosted a talk through sisters in crime for writers on how to find an agent. You can find out more on her website.

A corporate attorney in her spare time, Pamela Samuels-Young has written four novels, one standalone “Buying Time” and three series books featuring savvy African-American attorney, Vernetta Henderson. She’s a self-help speaker, and her talks for writers include “Self Publishing in 10 Easy Steps” and “Finish That Book Despite Your Day Job”, and if you can’t make it to a talk, you can find her CD “Writing Your Novel Despite Your Day Job’ on her website.


  1. Interesting points and both authors are right on. You need to do what works best for you. I am with two small independents who publish in trade paperbacks and e-books. Personally, writing and promoting take so much time, I'm happy to have my publisher do all the rest of it.

  2. Sounds like a great forum for writers, to get both POV's. Thanks for bringing back the info for the rest of us, Jackie.


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