Have you made any money with your writing yet, friends? If not, that’s fine, we’re in this together. After all—gotta keep that term “starving artist” going.

Another way to make money with your writing is the pretty obvious option I’ve yet to discuss: publishing a book. Nowadays there are two ways to go about this, which has greatly opened up the market for up-and-coming writers. A decade ago, self-publishing was viewed as a joke in the publishing industry. And many times it was, with people either being conned by a “vanity” publishing company that requested loads of money to publish a book, or creating a product that was laughable in quality. This is not the case anymore: self-publishing, or “indie” publishing, has made enormous strides in legitimacy. It has truly leveled the playing field for new authors.

You’re probably thinking, “But I want to see my books on the shelves of Barnes & Noble, Ashley,” or “I’m basically the next J.K. Rowling/Stephen King/Dean Koontz, only waiting to be discovered!” Those are both great thoughts to have, and are frequent beliefs when first starting to break into the publishing industry. Unfortunately, your bubble is going to burst (as mine did) when you start doing research into what exactly it takes to get published traditionally and see your book in the front window of a bookstore.

Remember: writing is an art, publishing is a business.

That’s why it’s important, and even career-changing, to have an open mind to indie publishing as an option for your work. There are many professionals that have voiced opinions about the two industries on the Internet—some advocates for the traditional route, and a growing support for the freedom and possibilities that self-publishing offers. It’s important to have a sound understanding of both, and a realistic idea of the chances you have of getting your book published/being successful if you self-publish.

Through copious research on my part, in this post I’ll give an overview of the route you’d follow for both types of publishing, as well as some great resources and supporters of both.


Traditional publishing goes like this:

  • Write a book and edit it to the best of your abilities, or hire a freelance editor from a company such as Midnight Publishing to tighten and professionally polish it.
  • Write a query letter (a one-page synopsis of your book and a little more about yourself) and send it to literary agents. Technically, you can send your manuscript straight to publishers; however a lot of them refuse to look at a book if it is not represented by an agent. Thus, it will most likely go straight into the slush pile, never to see the light of day again. So head to a lit agent first.
  • If a literary agent decides they like your book and want to represent you, then your agent will begin to submit your manuscript to publishing houses that fit your style, genre, book length, etc. Unfortunately, in traditional publishing things can be very specific, since they are in the business of not making money, not just books.
  • A publisher agrees to buy your book, at which time you, the agent, and the publisher will haggle over rights (print, digital, audio, foreign, etc.), your advance payment (what you get up front for the book, before copies have been sold), and your royalties. Royalties are a percentage of the profits made as your book continues to sell over the coming months; and that’s if it does sell.
  • After working with the publisher’s editor and changing—or refusing to change—certain things about your manuscript, the publishing date is set for about a year and a half out. During those months the book will be copyrighted and assigned an ISBN number, have a cover designed, and be formatted for print and/or e-book.
  • When your release date looms, the publishing house may do a limited amount of marketing for you in setting up book signings, a tour, etc. If you’re a first-time author, this most likely won’t happen, and you’ll be in charge of marketing the book yourself. Hope and pray that your book is placed in a prime spot in Barnes & Noble, because if it isn’t…it might be swallowed up by the dozens of others that are on the shelves as well.


Self-publishing, on the other hand, goes something like this:

  • Write a book, exchange it with critique partners, edit it, send it to beta-readers, edit again.
  • Hire a freelance editor or work with a company like Midnight Publishing that will pair you up with the most appropriate editor from their team to collaborate and polish your manuscript.
  • Hire a graphic designer to create your book cover, or make your own using programs such as Cover Creator from CreateSpace (free), Adobe Photoshop ($99 and up), or BookCoverPro ($97 and up). There’s more info about this in the 2014 Guide to Self-Publishing by Writer’s Digest.
  • Hire a formatter or format your book yourself so that it can be distributed from various platforms (Kindle, Nook, Apple, etc.). Ksenia Anske, a self-publishing maven and genius, gives her recommendation for the formatter she has used with her books here, as well as information about her own self-publishing experiences:
  • Distribute your book on the various digital platforms available, and also explore the option of print-on-demand books through Amazon’s company, CreateSpace.
  • Market your book. This is where having a blog comes into play (hopefully you’ve been building a budding readership and fan base already), doing a blog tour, setting up book signings at local bookstores, writing guest posts for prominent blogs, sending your book to reviewers online, and interacting with your readers via social media. Ksenia Anske also has advice about how she’s marketed her work; and it worked.
  • Start writing your next book! What separates self-publishing from traditional is that you have the power to share that next book with the world. You don’t have to go through more hoops to find a publisher who is willing to buy it, negotiate the rights, wait another two years for it to be distributed, yadda yadda. And when you self-publish, the more titles you have available, the more opportunities readers have to find you.


In my next post, we will discuss how to make money doing freelance work and ghostwriting.

Until then, keep writing and keep dreaming!


For more information on Ashley R. Carlson, see “About the Author” below and find her dilly-dallying at her:

Twitter: @AshleyRCarlson1


Midnight Publishing offers skilled and affordable media architects for manuscript editing, self-publishing consultation and guidance, and author marketing. The ultimate role of the editor is to help the author connect with the reader. A good editor enhances that connection, providing another eye and view for the author. Our editors are artists of language, grammar, and the mechanics that help a manuscript take the journey from ordinary to great. Midnight Publishing also offers self-publishing consultation, query letter editing, graphic and web site design, business copy writing and editing, and more.

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Midnight Publishing’s founder, Lauren Wise, on Twitter: @MidnightWriting