Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing by Embassie Susberry

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Embassie Susberry

Embassie Susberry

Embassie Susberry, an originally self-published author who has over 2000 ratings on Amazon, on how she’s found the shift to traditional publishing, and the differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing.

Like most people who write, I never wanted to be a self-published author. I grew up in a time before Amazon and for me, self-publishing looked like authors trying to push their books relentlessly at unsuspecting readers. That be not me, Lord.

I studied English and Rhetoric in college. I attended writers’ conferences. I spoke with authors, publishers…agents. I learned that while I might have some talent, there was no market for the genre of fiction that I wanted to write. In the interest of full disclosure, I was doing my best to enter the Christian historical fiction market. That is not an easy industry to break into if you write from the Black American point of view (but that’s a story for another day).

It was a woman in my church who told me that it was time to put my books on the market. So, in 2014, with a heavy heart weighed down by disappointment, and more than a little embarrassment, I followed her advice. Since then, I have self-published eighteen novels and I am so happy that I have done so. Self-publishing has been an experience that is perfect for me. So perfect, I don’t foresee a time when I won’t be doing it—even if I continue to traditionally publish. With that said, now that I am also a traditionally published author—the very thing I dreamed of for years—I have learned a few things. There is a lot of advice out there for aspiring authors about self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, but these are few takeaways that I have gotten from the whole process:

  1. Teamwork

Code Name ButterflyOne of the first things that I discovered when I signed with a publishing company was that I would have a team assigned to me. There is someone who works with me on the structural edits, copyedits, marketing, and advertising. It is a very smooth, well-oiled machine that has been built by professionals in their fields. I am provided with deadlines to meet and so long as I do my part (which is mostly writing), everything flows like a river.

In self-publishing, while I highly recommend creating your own team, at the end of the day, it’s all on you. I work with a small group whose sole focus is on the editing portion of the book process—particularly the structural edits. But editing is not their profession. They are precious volunteers who love me. I have had to find someone to do my covers. Should I choose to do marketing, I have to research what company to work with and decide how much I want to spend on their services. I have to make the final decision that the novel is ready for publication. I have to decide whether there will be paperbacks or audiobooks and what that whole process will look like. This can be very frustrating because a great deal of this administrative portion of self-publishing is not in my wheelhouse. It’s all very time consuming, and I do have a day job. I would love to just be able to write a book, upload it to the masses, and move on with my life. But it’s not that simple.

  1. Vision

My road to being traditionally published was slightly different than I had anticipated in the sense that I was asked to write a novel as opposed to shopping around a novel that I had already written. This meant that ultimately, I had to stay on target with the vision that the publisher had for the characters and the story. I cannot tell you how many times I compared this opportunity to that of an artist being commissioned by the Medici (I can be dramatic). It has been a fun and challenging experience for me to capture what is in my imagination and marry it to what has been laid out before me and I have become a better, stronger writer because of it.

In self-publishing, you write your own vision. If that vision happens to change mid-story, then it doesn’t matter because you are in control. I have more than one series that was only supposed to include three books but suddenly there was a fourth story to tell. I have sat down to write one book only to write another. Who’s going to tell me to get back on target? Nobody. For good or for ill, I make my own narrative decisions.

  1. Notoriety

Despite all of the books that I self-published, it was not until I released my fifteenth novel that I finally decided to describe myself as an author. When people asked about my writing, I referred to it as a hobby. Are you an author if no professional has validated it as so? I wrestled with this question for years until I released a series that I worked hard to create; a series that I was able to write now that I never could have written ten years ago. Time and consistency proved to me that I am a writer—with or without a publishing company.

But the fact is, traditional publishing is the gold stamp of approval. I have family members who never purchased a single book of mine until they learned I would have one coming out with a traditional publisher. I have friends who did not take my writing seriously until I told them I would be traditionally published. When people hear that I’ve self-published, they always smile politely but when I tell them that I am also traditionally published, then their spines straighten. Even now, in the year of our Lord 2024, it is just how the world works—particularly amongst non-literary folks. Therefore, regardless of how you get published, it is important to make certain that you know why you write and who you are writing for. The answer to these questions will be the buoy you need to keep afloat in those insecure moments.

These are just a few of the differences that have stood out to me as a writer—I have not even touched on the topic of money or the nitty gritty details of marketing and advertising. But ultimately life is an experiment and there are many different paths to success—however you define that. There are self-published authors who have managed to build a substantial and huge sales following without ever traditionally publishing once and there are some traditionally published authors who are widely successful and still choose to self-publish. What you think should be your path to greatness is not always how things work out. And that’s okay.

(c) Embassie Susberry

About Code Name Butterfly:

Code Name ButterflyInspired by the incredible true story of Josephine Baker’s role in the French Resistance, this is a heart-wrenching, unforgettable tale of the strength of the human spirit in the darkest days of World War II.

In the City of Light, one woman will stand against darkness.
Paris, 1941. With Nazi occupation imminent, journalist Elodie Mitchell plans to return home to Chicago. But an unexpected invitation to a Josephine Baker show changes everything.

Mistaken for the star, Elodie is whisked backstage, where she uncovers an underground resistance movement hidden beneath the glitz and glamour.

Drawn into a whisper network of spies, Elodie accepts a perilous mission: to go undercover as Josephine’s cousin and gather vital intelligence.

In a world on the edge of darkness, Elodie must summon unwavering courage to protect her beloved adopted city and its people – and getting caught is not an option.

A wartime epic about love, bravery and fighting against prejudice in all its forms, perfect for fans of Kate Quinn, Marie Benedict and Pam Jenoff.

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Embassie Susberry is a practicing attorney in Chicago, but when she’s not doing her day job, she’s reading or writing what she wants to read.
Code Name Butterfly is Embassie’s first traditionally published novel. She has over 2000 reviews for her self-published novels on Amazon with average ratings of 4.7 stars.

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