Traditional Publishing Perils

Traditional Publishing Perils

Hello Rebels, and welcome back to my life. So I’d like to do a little bit of a follow-up to my last video by talking about traditional publishing.

When I started writing, it was because I was listening to the Self-Publishing Podcast, and so it might not be a huge surprise that I decided to publish as an indie.

I didn’t want to go through the process of finding an agent and maybe or maybe not being accepted by a publisher, and waiting years for my book to come out. That’s just not how I like to roll.

But even after finding some success as an indie, I highly doubt I would ever take a traditional publishing deal, even if it was offered to me, except in some very rare, specific circumstances.

Now this is not to say that traditional publishing is inherently bad. Traditional publishers have done great work with many great books, and in fact the majority of my favorite books of all time were traditionally published.

You could say that’s because indie publishing didn’t exist when they were written, but even today you have fantastic authors like John Green and Chuck Wendig releasing great books through the traditional system.

But there are quite a few pitfalls when it comes to traditional publishing, and if you’re trying to make it as a writer, it helps to be aware of them.

First off: not every publisher is a traditional publisher. I know that sounds weird, but let me explain.

If a company says they want to publish your book, that doesn’t mean it is now traditionally published. There are a ton of companies out there who actively prey on up-and-coming authors, offering to publish their books but doing the bare minimum required to get that book to market.

These companies hope that, despite their own lack of effort, they will somehow get their hands on a book that ends up becoming a hit, and then they get paid.

If a company wants to publish your book but doesn’t want to offer you an cash advance, you should be extremely wary of working with them.


I’ve had an online friend tell me their book got picked up by a publisher but that they then actually LOST money on the deal.

Yeah, no, uh-uh. That scenario is impossible with any honest, reputable publisher.

But even a more reputable publisher won’t necessarily work hard to make your book a success. It depends on your agent, the editor you happen to get, the publicist you happen to get, and a wide variety of other factors.

In traditional publishing, 40% of all books published lose money, 40% make their money back, and 20% make significantly more than their money back, but it’s more due to luck than any significant amount of publisher control.

And publishers live on that 20%, and if you hit it, they will start to do more to promote you, and will probably give you better advances for future books.

So you could say that getting accepted by an honest, reputable traditional publisher gives you about a 20% chance of future success.

Here’s some other things to remember about working with traditional publishers:

Especially on your first few books, if you disagree with your editor, too bad. The publisher has the final say on changes made to your book and if you’re too difficult to work with, they can and will drop you.

If you don’t like the cover your publisher comes up with, too bad, it’s going to print anyway.

If you think the publisher is charging too much for the ebook copy of your book, too bad, you can’t control that at all.

Right now, the publisher of The Fellowship of the Ring is charging $7.99 for the paperback edition on Amazon. But the Kindle edition? $9.99. That’s stupid. And publishers do it all the time!

Again, there are many great publishers out there doing fantastic work. And there are traditionally published authors who put out great books by working with them.

But when you hear an author, especially a really big one, talk about how much they love their publisher and their editor, and they couldn’t do it without them, realize that THEIR publisher will not be YOUR publisher, even if you get accepted by the same publishing company.

And even in the best case scenario, you are relinquishing a massive amount of control over your book and how it is published.

That might be fine for you. I’m sure most traditional authors don’t want to worry about covers or how to distribute their books online.

But they also can’t complain when something goes wrong. As it frequently seems to.

That’s it for today, Rebels. An extra special shoutout to my supporters on Patreon, who make my YouTube channel possible. I will see you tomorrow. Byyye.

Garrett Robinson

Over 100,000 readers have read and loved Garrett's books, like the fantasy hits Nightblade and Midrealm. He's also a film festival favorite with movies like Unsaid, and a tech guru who posts lots of helpful how-tos for writers and filmmakers over at

Share This