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Control Freak:
The Differences Between Self and Trad Publishing


After self-publishing my paranormal action book Life’s a Witch online and then in paperback, I ended up landing a 3-book deal with Simon & Schuster and have since been having a lot of fun learning the differences between the two forms of publishing. From creating outlines and working with an editor , to 6-week long writing deadlines, to the infamous edit letter , to attending BEA, it’s been an incredible and eye-opening experience so far. And that’s why IndieReader has asked me to keep this diary. To let all of you in on my journey and give you the inside scoop on the different forms of publishing and what they entail.

In this post, I wanted to talk about the control you give up as an author when you choose to go the route of traditional publishing. I think that one of the most attractive things about self-publishing, is that the author retains complete control over their book. There’s no one to tell you to change certain plot points, you set your own price point and make one-hundred percent of the decisions when it comes to your novel. When you sell your book to a publishing company, you’re giving up your right to make all the decisions on your own.

When I decided to sign with Simon & Schuster, I had no misunderstandings about what I was getting myself into. Because the truth is, when someone’s paying you for your product, they now own the right to create something they think will be successful. In other words, it’s not just about you and what you think anymore. And to be honest, I’m actually fine with this (most of the time). Don’t get me wrong…I love being in control. When I worked as a magazine editor, I loved choosing who our cover models were, deciding which articles we’d send to print and giving my input as to the design and fonts we used throughout each issue. But for me, I know that S&S has a whole team of people who have been working in this industry much longer than I have and know what they’re doing. Otherwise, why would I have signed with them in the first place? So, if you’re a control freak and are unwilling to bend on things, traditional publishing might not be the right place for you.

What I’ve been surprised to learn though, is that just because I’m not in total control, it doesn’t mean that my input doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s just Simon & Schuster (I have no other publishers to compare them to), but I’ve always felt as if they’ve included me in the process. Every step of the way, I’ve been asked what I think or have been able to make suggestions. Of course, mine isn’t the only one that matters and ultimately there are so many people involved in every phase of publishing that no one person’s opinion trumps all (at least that I know of).

Nothing proved this more than the creation of my book cover for What the Spell? When Simon & Schuster was brainstorming ideas for the cover, they came to me first to get my ideas. Being that I live in NYC and can mosey over to the S&S offices whenever they need me to, I had the luxury of meeting my lovely and talented cover designer, Krista Vosssen in person. We had a chance to chat a bit about the book and I gave her descriptions of the main characters (even telling her which celebs I would cast in the movie-version) as well as any art ideas I had for the front.

Now having a feel for my main character and the story itself, Krista searched for a cover model that would bring Brooklyn to life. I didn’t get a chance to see the girl they chose beforehand, but when I saw the photos later, I was blown away. The girl looked exactly like I pictured her—she was even wearing a similar outfit to one she donned in the book (and this was actually a coincidence!).

Once we had the image down, Krista began to work her magic on the design of the cover. The first version she created showed Brooklyn close-up with a purple tint to the background. We were given three different options, each showcasing different fonts and colors. At this stage, the covers were sent to me and I was able to weigh in on which I liked best.

What happened next just goes to show that there are a lot of hands involved in the creation of a book. The first design went on to the sales team who decided that it was good…but not quite special enough. So, Krista went back in to give WTS? a little more flair and drama. She pulled out on the image, took out the purple tint to the background and made it an opaque white that would fade into a silver foil so the cover will pop on the bookshelves. In the end, I think the cover we ended up with was absolutely perfect. (Let me know what you think in the comments below!)

So, the point is…if you insist on having total control over your product, probably best to stick with self-publishing. But if you’re willing to get a little help from the experts and trust that who you’re working with 1) knows what they’re doing and 2) wants your book to be just as successful as you do, traditional publishing can be a great collaborative experience.


Brittany Geragotelis is a former magazine editor and author of the upcoming series Life’s a Witch, being published by Simon & Schuster. Her first book, What the Spell? will be published in hardback on January, 29, 2013. To learn more about her and her writing, visit, follow her on Twitter  or Facebook. She also has videos on Youtube  and boards on Pinterest.


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