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.


5 replies
  1. avatar
    Seeley James says:

    This is fascinating post. I think what indie authors will be interested in is how you feel about the “a whole team of people who have been working in this industry much longer than I have” down the road. A friend of mine published with a Big 6, placed #3 in her category on the NYT list, and could not believe how outdated their marketing department was. She ended up spending a small fortune on her own marketing and blew through the first print run. She had to convince them to up the next print run ten-fold and even then they ran out. Now she’s torn: what do I need them for if they don’t believe in the book enough to fill existing orders?

    Keep us posted about S&S in February.

    Peace, Seeley

  2. avatar
    FMAnderson says:

    This was one of the best articles I’ve read on here since discovering it at the beginning of the summer!

    I chose to go to the school I’m going to because it’s very traditional and the staff skews older. That’s because I like being the young revolutionary teacher. I think I’d fit in traditional publishing well because I enjoy structure. That said, the indie space has my biggest interest right now.

    I think I’ll end up shopping it until next summer is over, then publish it on my own if I don’t get any hits. My novel is a bit time-sensetive since its YA that deals with the recent economic downturn. I’ve got a lot of ideas, though, and am working to see which will be best to focus on for an indie release.

    My biggest fear of going indie is not having the time to advertise for myself, since I’m a teacher that loves to teach and wants to continue doing so.

    I can’t wait for more of these!

  3. avatar
    Pamela Olson says:

    I’m in a similar position — I self-published a book last year, it sold well and got great reviews, and now I’m working with a traditional publisher to re-publish my book under their imprint in the spring. It’s hard giving up control (especially on pricing — I loved being able to sell my eBook for $2.99), but so far they’ve been terrific to work with, especially when it came to edits.

    They want to cut it down a bit (from 120,000 words to about 95,000), which is painful, but luckily I can take the excised parts and publish them elsewhere. And overall it does make the book stronger and tighter (even if some good stories and important info are left out). We’re working on the cover design now, and they’ve been very responsive to my suggestions.

    Bottom line: So far it’s been great, and I hope the trend continues!

  4. avatar
    J.L. Dobias says:

    Brittany I am so happy that you found a publishing arrangement that was suited to you and your writing. I think though, that you have been crossed over to the other side as to what indie publishing is really about. And I’m increasingly disappointed in the supposed websites devoted to indie publishing failing to also understand.

    Indie publishing is not about vanity publishing and its not about ego and control or any of all of that. At least not for me.

    If I felt that was what I did when I did indie publishing – well, I guess would think twice before doing it.

    Indie publishing is a way to publish something that did not make the grade one way or another in the big publishing industry. Not making the grade many times means that the traditional publishers have already filled their quota and even if your book is good they don’t have a place to wedge it in.Indie is a way to publish something without dealing with the submission process of the big publishers. This can be long and many times fruitless and sometimes lead to countless overdone rewrites. Indie publishing is a way to say I’m done with this- moving on the next and here it is if anyone else wants to enjoy it.

    Indie publishing is not about how I’m going to get 60% of the profit and not have to cut the literary fat or argue about what the cover should look like. If I was concerned about the above I’d have to take a lot of time out to market myself. Though, it might actually be a good way to do just that. In many cases a new author will have to do all that anyway when they finally go the traditional route. Unless I only want to take home the initial check offered for the book.

    Again I’m happy for you. But, did you really only do the Indie route to gain control? And does IndieReader really believe that also.


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