My Little Story Corner

For the love of picture books

Traditional Publishing versus Self Publishing: The Adventure Tales of Two Different Worlds

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Little lady dream pic

Romi Sharp
April 2014

Ever wondered how to publish your first, or next book? Would a traditional publisher or a self publishing venture be more suitable for you and your work? The following article compares each avenue, highlighting their advantages and disadvantages, through an entertaining and enlightening storytale.

There once was a little lady. Really, she was just a big child at heart! And what she loved doing most was writing children’s stories.
The little lady had a dream; not the kind where you need to have your eyes closed. No. Just the opposite. She had her eyes wide open. More than anything she wanted to have her own story published; to teach, to entertain, to inspire.
So, to learn everything there was to know about the writing industry, the little lady searched, and read, and watched, and imagined, and wrote, and wrote some more.

Now, the little lady had a good, polished story, ready for the world. But, looming in the shadows, came her biggest conundrum… To traditionally publish, or to self publish? That was the question. And that’s when it began. The little lady imagined herself being the heroine in adventure tales of two different worlds…

In a little kingdom, far, far away, there was a magical Publishing Castle full of editing elves and designer fairies. The little lady longed to ride her magical flying book straight through the Castle’s door, and then she would be able to enjoy all the delights of the wonderful world within. She tried, day after day, but with no success, until one sunny morning, the door remained open and she was in!
Oh, it was a joyous occasion! The elves and fairies gave her a special crown to wear, and filled a treasure chest full of gold, just for her! They read her book over and over, and told her kind words about it. They even made it sparkle and shine with a fancy layout and beautiful artwork, all the way from the front to the back and every page inbetween.

Finally the book was complete, and each day, the elves and fairies would fly on the shiny new book to show other magical kingdoms all over the world. Soon all the little people wanted one for themselves. The little lady was feeling overjoyed with pride and excitement.
She was able to meet other great authors, too. ”I really appreciate the publisher’s support, input, distribution network and financial capital to back publication”, writer Aleesah Darlison told her, and this gave the little lady much encouragement and belief that her decision to fly here was a good one.

But, whilst the elves and fairies had been working so hard to make her book just perfect, with a nice front cover, editing and illustrations, the little lady realised that she missed her home dearly as it all had taken so long. She also would have liked to help with a few tweaks here and there, but little ladies were not permitted to handle the special equipment.

More time passed, and the little lady found that the elves and fairies showed off her book less and less, and flew other, newer and more shinier books around the world more and more. They also only put the ‘royalty’ gold into her treasure chest twice in a year, and even then it wasn’t much.

So, the little lady decided to return home, with her crown and treasure chest in tow. And do you know what she did as soon as she got there? Yes. She started writing all over again!
Little lady crown pic

The little lady suddenly snapped back to reality, but pretty soon she was daydreaming again. This time about another tale in another world…

Somewhere in outer space, in a distant galaxy, was the Selfie Pub Planet, where very busy and self sufficient martians would roam. There were bubbles of ebooks floating around, and a special printer that produced shiny, new books whenever someone asked. The little lady marvelled at this world, and thought how exciting it appeared.
She headed over to the bubble machine and special printer. Some most helpful and friendly martian editors and designers approached the little lady (with bucket loads of golden glints in their eyes).
”It’s been surprisingly easy…”, a fellow author, Caylie Jeffery said as she stepped in to offer advice. ”…I’ve put together a book that is worthy of any book shop…”

As the martians and the little lady each contributed a bit of a poke and a bit of a prod, within moments out of the printer popped her beautifully printed story! She also placed all her story’s words into the bubble machine, and pretty soon they were floating around the galaxy in the translucent spheres!

But now what? She was left all alone. Her book in hand, and another out in space, but no one to help her share them with the universe.
”…I’m prepared to do my own marketing… Mainly because of the messages it has to offer. But I also have the support and backing of so many people I’ve published my work with and attended conferences with, who also believe in me and what I write about”, Caylie Jeffery advised.
So, with these uplifting words, and a newfound boost in her step, the little lady found a shooting star to jump aboard, and went racing across the atmosphere.

She visited this planet and bounded to that,
Shouting out loud from the star on which she sat.
She joined stars with other authors that she knew,
And invited the whole galaxy to a fancy Book ‘Do’!
Boy! That was tiring, but well worth the work,
The gold sparkles fell down from the sky,
Quite often, with high profits, that was the good perk!

But sure enough, the little lady eventually started to lose heart. Fewer people in the galaxy wanted to ride the shooting star with her, and nobody invited her to share her book at Book Fairs and stores back down on Earth.
And what’s more, the galaxy became a cold and surly place. Space rocks started pelting down on the books that stank like rotten eggs. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, one huge space rock came plummeting right towards the little lady, and hit her square between the eyes…

But don’t worry! The little lady quickly recovered, and couldn’t wait to ride the shooting star across the galaxy all over again!
Little lady shooting star pic

So, readers… Whilst these tales obviously depict my personal hopes, dreams and fears, there are many home truths about the book publishing world(s) that I will make clear in the following tables (in case my stories made absolutely no sense whatsoever).

Traditional Publishing
l Distribution and exposure is very broad, locally and internationally.
l Experienced editors provide valuable and constructive feedback.
l Publishing house will cover formatting, illustrations and cover art for you.
l They have huge marketing power and support authors in their marketing efforts.
l Most will give you a large advance upon signing the contract.
l Invited to book launches, Book Fairs and other events to promote your book.

l Slow process from submission to publication- can take upto 18 months.
l Authors don’t get to make many decisions regarding their book.
l They usually control choice of title and cover art.
l Some are ineffective at marketing so authors need to promote themselves.
l Royalties paid twice per year, rates are low, between 6% and 25%. That’s upto 99c per book sold.
l Short lived – books removed from bookstores within weeks if not selling.

Self Publishing
l Print On Demand and design services are available.
l Publication is almost immediate – fast turnaround time to produce.
l Authors make decisions and changes as needed, ability to control artwork, price, cover, title.
l You can write and publish whatever, whenever you want!
l Royalty rates are high – 50% – 85%.
l No financial risk to publish ebooks.

l Hired editors are not as experienced as those working at traditional publishing houses.
l Authors need to do all the marketing themselves. Reduced potential sales avenues – bookstores and Fairs hard to get into.
l Authors need to pay for editing, formatting, graphics and book production.
l Bad reputation as more potential for shockingly written books to be published.
l Fewer sales.
l Upfront fees are high when printing your own book. Lots of leftovers if you can’t sell!

Now to make a decision. To Traditionally Publish or to Self Publish? There is no definate answer. Each avenue has its’ highs and lows. Maybe just try both!
But this is what I do know:
BELIEVE in yourself and your work.
KEEP persisting and growing and learning.
Put YOURSELF out there, meet others, share your ideas.
KNOW what you want to achieve.
KNOW what your marketing plan will be.
KNOW what other similar books / authors are doing.
BE creative!
BE responsible for YOU!

l Interview with Aleesah Darlison, author of ”Little Meerkat” and ”Puggle’s Problem”.
l Interview with Caylie Jeffery, author of ”Bedtime Stories for Busy Mothers”.
l Keith Martin Smith, article: ”Self Publishing versus Traditional Publishing: An author guide”.

To support me, the author, in my quest to publish my own children’s books, and to join in a community of writers, teachers and parents, please visit my Facebook page:

Thank you!
With Kind Regards,

Romi Sharp.


Author: Romi Sharp

Qualified teacher, reviewer, writer and avid picture book fanatic, constantly immersed in the world of children's literature. Founder of My Little Story Corner and Just Write For Kids.

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