Traditional vs Independent Publishing

by Bobbie Hinman
(Bel Air, Maryland)

Who better to blame it on than a fairy?

Who better to blame it on than a fairy?

Traditional vs. Independent Publishing: I've tried it both ways...

I'm the author of The Knot Fairy and The Sock Fairy.

I am also the author of seven cookbooks. Those were published by a large, traditional publishing company, while I published the two children’s books independently.

Notice I use the word "independent" to refer to my publishing method, rather than the word "self." To most of the world, self publishing often means poorly edited books with skimpy illustrations, poor story lines and run of the mill covers. On the other hand, when I say that I am an independent publisher, I seem to garner more respect.

Traditional vs. Independent Publishing: Traditional

When my first cookbook was published by Prima Publishing Co. in the 1980’s, I thought I had arrived. Instantly my books were in bookstores nationwide. I figured I would just sit back and collect my royalties while happily writing my next volume.

We all know how that works: it doesn’t. After the hoopla of the initial book launching began to wane, and the publisher directed his attention to his next featured attraction, I realized that if the book was going to be successful, I would have to step into the arena of marketing and promotion. And I did. I traveled all over the country as a featured speaker and guest on radio and TV shows. I even appeared on the Regis Philbin show.

I visited schools, hospitals, bookstores - basically any place that I could arrange an event.

The result was a total of seven very successful cookbooks and a burned out author.

Traditional vs. Independent Publishing: Independent

Several years ago I decided to re-invent my career. My bachelor’s degree in education and my minor in children’s literature were calling to me to re-enter the book world.

My first children’s book is the tale of the mischievous fairy who flies into children’s rooms at night and is responsible for the knots and tangles in their hair when they awaken.

I just KNEW that any publisher would jump at the chance to publish my book. After all, I AM a published author.

I sent copies of my manuscript to five traditional publishing houses. The result was five letters wishing me luck and informing me that they do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Several of the publishers suggested that I contact a literary agent instead. So, I sent a number of query letters to literary agents. The result was a number of return letters telling me that they do not accept unsolicited clients.

This seemed to be a classic Catch-22. Now, I know that authors have to face the fact that rejection is a part of the entire process. And I’ve been to the lectures where published authors stress the fact that you haven’t really entered the book world until you have received your first rejection, and that this simply means that you are really on the path to having your book published.

Well, that’s all well and good if you have time for this. But, to be honest, I’m a grandmother now, and I wasn’t sure I had the time to spend waiting around while filling a shoebox with rejection letters.

I thought long and hard about independent publishing vs. traditional. I knew that I would be solely responsible for marketing the book. However, I realized that I had been anyway with traditional publishing.

Traditional vs. Independent Publishing: Independent Wins!

I had also learned something along the way that some independent publishers fail to realize: In order to compete in the book world, you MUST produce a high-quality product!

So I formed a corporation and launched my own publishing company. I did mountains of research. I studied hundreds (maybe even thousands) of children’s books. I hired the best illustrator I could find. I hired a very talented graphic/cover designer. I hired an editor.

I was very choosy about the printer I hired. I invested a lot of time and money, so failure was not an option.

Two years later, The Knot Fairy was born.

Three months later, I was thrilled to order my second 5000-book printing. It’s now another year later and the book has won two awards and has been selected for the BookSense Children’s Pick List.

My second book, The Sock Fairy, is coming soon.

Would I recommend independent publishing? Yes, but if you are going to do it, I strongly suggest that you do it right.

Let’s face it. As independent publishers, our books are judged more critically and held to a higher standard than traditionally published books. If independent publishing is the wave of the future, let’s make our books the very best.

Visit Bobbie's site, Best Fairy Books.

Read another traditional vs. independent publishing story. This author actually turned down a contract offer from a traditional publisher to publish himself.

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Apr 14, 2009
by: Anonymous


Wow, it sounds like you've done a lot of research. Would you mind giving advice as to how to go about choosing the "best" editor, illustrator, etc.? I'm not sure where to begin!


Mar 02, 2008
Intending to become an independent
by: Anonymous


What an inspiring story! I wish you continued success with your endeavors. Now I need to go turn myself into an independent publisher...

Mar 02, 2008
A role model for independent publishers
by: Cynthia Polansky

Bobbie hit the nail on the head with her article on the realities of the book publishing industry.

She is also the perfect role model. Despite the odds and stumbling blocks, she believed in her work enough to ensure that her books were available. And the children's book market is the luckier for it!

"The Knot Fairy" and "The Sock Fairy" are beautifully written and illustrated books that immediately and completely engage young readers.

Mar 01, 2008
Traditional vs. Independent Publishing
by: Steve B.

Talk about a busy lady... You're not just self publishing, you're renaming it!

What a tremendous account. I know visitors are going to be glued to their screens reading it, and entirely inspired by it. I also know they're going to want to know more, namely...

How'd you move 5000 books???

That's great! I'm sure it exceeds the sales by most self publishers (and the sales of some traditionally published books as well).

I'm looking at your Events Schedule on your website. It's March 1st as I write this. I see 6 events over 6 days in three states scheduled for March. In April I see, scheduled, so far, 6 events in 4 states over 7 days.


If you don't mind, could you come back to the site and fill out the Comments box below your page and tell us a little more about scheduling events AND the travel? I'm sure everyone would like to know!

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