Indie vs. Trad

Indie vs. Trad?

Independent or Traditional Publishing. Which route do we take? The answer is fairly simple: E-publish first, Traditional publish second, Make millions of dollars third.

So you’ve written the Great American Novel. You’ve edited the work to death and are confident it is a masterpiece, worthy of the Pulitzer. The next step in becoming a world renowned author is to upload your work to Amazon’s Kindle network. It’s easy to do and you have instant advertising the first month or two as the novel is displayed on the “recently published” search menus. You should even see some sales fairly quickly, as long as you’ve priced you masterpiece reasonably well.

I recommend 99 cents to start, just to get the ball rolling. After you made a few sales, then you can hike the price. At the risk of being labeled a Kill Joy, I wouldn’t hope for that one customer who’d pay you a million bucks for your little treasure.

“99 CENTS?” You cry out aghast. “But my work is Pulitzer quality!” You defend.

Yes, we’ve all written Pulitzer worthy material. Heck, I’ve written four books myself that I am certain will ALL be nominated for that award. (I’m settling for being nominated in lieu of winning. Don’t want to be too uppity you know…). The name of the game here is to attract large numbers of readers and the only way you’re going to do that is to draw them in with a very low price.

Ok, so you’ve set up your book on Amazon. I recommend also doing the same at Smashwords. This is significantly harder to do, but once you’ve accomplished this, your ebook will now be offered in a variety of formats that any consumer will be able to download and read on nearly any device.

In this day and age, you the author, are required to market yourself aggressively in order to produce sales. When I first learned of this, I was very disappointed. I really didn’t want to do anything to make my millions, but alas, I realized my thinking was “slightly” flawed and discovered that if I was going to get rich quick, I was going to have to work for it… bummer.

I researched the marketing aspect of publishing and discovered two books that stood out from the rest…  and I’ll tell you what they are at the end of this presentation. Just kidding…  Don’t you just hate it when a sleazy salesman man-handles you like that? I just want to choke him with his own cheap polyester necktie.

Anyway, here are the two ebooks:

How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks – All for FREE:

We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media:

Phewww…. That was a lot of work. Now that you’ve done all of that, uploading, downloading, reading and don’t forget praying, you now can focus on the slow moving turtle that is the process of traditional publishing. UGH, just the thought of it sickens me. I’m not traditionally published, not yet anyway, but I do have an agent “peddling” one of my books (Tear in Time), so I do have some familiarity with the whole laborious process.

The first thing I recommend is to buy “2011 Guide To Literary Agents” . ( ). It’s a bargain at $18.66. I spent weeks trying to research any and all agents on this planet. This book does in a few hours what the internet took me weeks to do (and the results of the internet were abysmal). This book is loaded with agents of all flavors. For me, I found a hundred agents that represented my kind of work. I would have paid double to save myself that much wasted time.

So…  you have this great book. Your next step is to comb through it and pick out all agents (like I did) that could possibly represent you. Using an Excel spread sheet, transfer the contact info of each agent onto it. I know this really stinks, but I know of no other way to record the data. As I said, I did this with one hundred agents. It took me a day to do it (8 hours/approx).

I then compiled a query letter. The internet has butt-loads of examples of query letters to choose from. It will push you to the edge of madness trying to figure out which to follow. In the end, I picked the most profession example I could find and modified it to my liking. Here is a copy of it:

Month, day, year

Manuscript Submission Request

Presented by:
Christopher David Petersen

State, zip code
(xxx) xxx-xxxx (cell)

Dear “Agent”,

I am requesting permission to submit my manuscript for your evaluation. The working title is “Tear in Time”. The word count is just over 91,000 words. The classification of this book crosses several genres, namely: Suspense, Action/Adventure, War and Historical.

After an emotionally trying surgery, Dr. David Warner descends in a hospital elevator, triggering a time portal that leads to the Civil War, circa 1862. Stepping through the elevator doors, the time portal disappears behind him and now Dr. Warner must overcome the hardships of a primitive war, as well as discovering the secret to his return . He is befriended by Dr. Jebediah Morgan, an old Civil War doctor, and together the two embark on a journey that takes them through the greatest battles of the war, eventually returning to the time portal and ultimately, home.

Brief Synopsis:
As Dr. Jebediah Morgan fights to save the wounded at the battle of Chattanooga, June 1862, Dr. David Warner struggles to save a young girl’s life in present day. A victim of a drive by shooting, her wounds are too great even for Dr. Warner, resulting in her tragic death. Devastated from the loss of such a young patient, Dr. Warner stumbles out of the operating room and into the waiting elevator. Moments later, as the elevator stops at the bottom floor, the doors open to another time. Beckoned by Dr. Morgan for assistance, Dr. Warner steps through the rear of the elevator and into the Civil War. In an instant, the elevator disappears and Dr. David Warner is trapped in time. As the reality of his situation becomes more clear, David realizes the one man who can help him return is Dr. Morgan. Tough, intelligent and resourceful, Dr. Morgan helps David acclimate to the rigors of life as a Civil War surgeon. Their travels together take them from one infamous battle to the next, enduring the harshest of conditions, surviving combat, all the while discussing topics that range from modern medicine and modern living, to future history and the speculation of some of life’s most profound questions. As the two trade rolls as student and mentor, they develop a deep bond that carries them far beyond their own respective times.

(I’ve removed the ending to the novel for obvious reasons. In my real queries, the ending would be included).


Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.




Christopher David Petersen

State, zip code
(xxx) xxx-xxxx (cell)

After composing the plot and brief synopsis, I filled out the body of the query letter. Using my data from the Excel spreadsheet, I simply emailed the letter off to each agent ( a few at a time), making sure I recorded who and when I sent it off to. This is important so I’ll say it again. Make sure you record who you sent the letter to. Agents don’t like to get the same info twice and will reject you for your unprofessionalism.

After that, just sit back and watch all those lovely rejection letters flow into your inbox…  And flow they will, which leads me to my own editorial…

Traditional Publishers are losing to self-publishing. This is not news. We all know this. Because of this fact, they are only taking work that has limited or NO risk. Therefore, they are passing up a lot of great work. A few years ago, there was no prestige in self-publishing (unless you made a million dollars). You weren’t considered a “real” writer unless you were traditionally published… not so anymore. There is a long list of self-published authors that have changed the way the world is viewing the self-publishing side of this business. Basically, if you’re selling books and getting good reviews, you are legitimate.

If you market your name and books well enough, you can actually make more money self-publishing than you can if you have someone else publish for you.

So the next question really is… is it even worth it to even push your novel toward the traditionally published world? Absolutely… having your book published by a large publishing house adds further credibility to your name. Consider it an advertising tool. Every piece of data that elevates your status as a writer will bring in more readers and help create further sales. It’s just that simple.

I hope this helped.

31 Responses

  1. Nice post, Chris—well rounded, un-biased, and informative. You even made me laugh a few times, which is icing on the cake. Keep up the great work.

  2. Wow, I’ve been accused of a lot of things but “well rounded” isn’t one of them. Thanks for your reply. I really appreciate it.

  3. Hey Chris:

    Great info. I’m glad I started following you on Twitter!

  4. Great post, Chris! You’ve listed some good tools here. Thanks!

    • Thank you for the kind words.

      Stay tuned… I plan on releasing secrets to making a million dollars in an upcoming post. It’ll be password protected and will only cost $1,000 for access…. WELL worth the price of admission.

  5. […] Christopher David Peterson has an interesting post Indie vs. Traditional. […]

  6. Hi Christopher,

    Nice blog. Thanks for the marketing info. =)

  7. “So the next question really is… is it even worth it to even push your novel toward the traditionally published world?”

    Perhaps that depends on just what’s on offer. Here in Britain we have just seized the number two spot on Kindle UK despite being an unknown author without an agent or publisher.

    Do we now need an agent / publisher? Not if they’re going to take control, but then do much the same as we’re doing already, with perhaps a few paper copies in a few shops a year down the road, and taking a chunk of our earnings for the privilege.

    If an agent / publisher can offer us translations, placement on overseas platforms, and a paper version that is guaranteed some serious promotion ON THEIR PART, all well and good. But if not…

    We’re selling twenty thousand copies a month without their help, just on Kindle. Hardly James Patterson figures, sure, but we’ve only been going a few months.

    Our manusctipt has been with the latest prospective agent for an eternity. We’ve sold nearly forty thousand books while waiting for a response…

    Traditional publisher are living to a nineteenth century calendar. Yes, they still have a lot to offer the big-hitters, no question. But if you’re just starting out? Unless they are promising something very special, why bother?

  8. A fabulous post! Thanks for the humor and the great links. I’m still working on my first “official” draft of my novel, which I hope to complete by May 1, 2011. I’ll probably spend some time sifting through it and editing, but I’ve bounced back and forth on Indie vs Tradition. I probably will until the very end. HA!

    Anyway, thanks!

  9. […] or go with a conventional trade publisher? Christopher David Peterson has an opinion on that and he shares his thoughts here. His idea? Both, of course, but he think you should self-publish […]

  10. I enjoyed your post. Thanks for the great links and I love the idea of using Traditional pub. as an advertising tool. 😉

  11. Thank you. I always happy to help out if I can.

  12. Nice blog. So far this year I’ve sold more than 250,000 eBooks and I can confirm that having an agent and a publisher is a huge help. Definitely try to get an agent if you can. 🙂

    • I have one, but I’m not going to wait on her to forge my destiny. That’s my job, so I’m working both ends of that candle. If she sells my book, great… but if she doesn’t, then I’m still selling as an Indie. No harm/No foul 🙂

      • Hmmmm. Not sure that it’s as simple as that. Candles generally are designed to burn at just one end… I don’t think anyone has ever made a success from a candle that burns at both ends….. Still, what do I know? No doubt you’ll be up there with Joe and Amanda by the end of the year! 🙂

      • Yeah Stephen… there is no doubt I will be there with those two greats. Does standing next to them, asking for their autographs count as being up there with them?

        Thanks for reading, btw…

  13. I am English. Does this mean I can’t write the Great American Novel?

    Yours anxiously,

    Lexi Revellian

  14. Great post!
    But I was always under the impression that a trad. publisher wouldn’t want to know if your book had been published on Kindle? Seconds and all that.

  15. Great post and exactly what we did (we, being myself and Mark who has already commented) and it is paying dividends. I couldn’t agree more with what you have put. Specially the part about keep a spreadsheet with agents on it!

    We have sold approximately 40,000 books in the time a London Lit agent has been sat on our book deciding whether to represent us or not.

    We have now also been contacted directly by a VERY big agent as a result of being on Amazon. Sure, nothing may come of it, but the fact remains the same, the book has been noticed and has made money whilst we decide what to do with the rest of our offerings. If we get a DTP deal further down the line, then it will be because of publishing it on Kindle, not because we subbed to an agent.

    I also agree with Stephen (who kinda knows what he is taking about) I think the win-win and the smart money is on those who do/have both, an agent & Publisher, plus the ability to self-pub. Which way around that happens, I guess is up to you!


  16. Very informative points and directions in here. Thank you for sharing!

  17. Yeah… marketing is the toughest part of writing, mainly because it’s time-consuming and difficult to determine what is and is not effective

  18. Top Blog, Chris. It all rings true. You have been there, done that and wear the Tshirt. You give shrewd advice. I like the ideas -run with foxes and hunt with hounds. Trad publishers will follow Dodos into obsolensence if they do not accept the fact that modern writers are not just scribblers and scribes. They are entrepreneurs who do not accept fools gladly.

    • Hi Dennis, thanks for commenting. After self-publishing for a year now, I’m pretty convinced there’s very little a big publisher do for me and absolutely nothing an agent can offer. It’s now a self-publishers world.

  19. Chris I have to say i like your post other than your referral to Smashwords that I consider them a bottom feeder in the industry………first you don’t get a quality conversion, and secondly you give them a percentage of your sales until hell freezes over just for the crappy conversion……….

    The big elephant in the room as far as indie publishing has always been distribution……….even if you can get it you loose 55-70% of your profits just to get the distribution ………….ebooks have several cool things about them but the most important one is that you can distribute your own product to every retailer out there yourself and take 100% of the profits without including a distribution fee in the mix……….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: