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What Being Traditionally Published Really Means

Updated: Oct 3, 2019

We started touching on the topic of publishing last week. But this week, we’re taking a deeper dive into one branch of it in particular…

(Drum roll, please.)

We're talking about traditional publishing, which puts you into the euphoric state of existence of being traditionally published.

Move over, [insert your favorite author here]. There’s a new major [insert your chosen genre here] writer in town!

Being traditionally published is how you make the real money. It’s how you become famous. Every aspiring writer knows that.

In which case, every aspiring writer hasn’t been entirely informed.

If that’s been your staunch belief up ‘til now, I’m not saying your’re completely wrong. Only that you’re not completely right. And, hate to break it to you, but if I had to choose a side to cast this perception on…

If I couldn’t straddle the line for some dire reason…

You probably wouldn’t like my answer. In which case, it’s a good thing there’s no dire reason out there to make me choose.

Clearly, this post about traditional publishing and being traditionally published isn’t meant to put it up on a pedestal. Nor is the larger series it’s a part of.

However, it’s not meant as a hit piece either. The information you’ll find here is simply intended to inform you as best as possible about your publishing options.

So grab a tissue or a tissue box, and let’s get to it.


Traditionally Published:

I know this is most authors’ dream in life, but here’s what being traditionally published really comes down to: an authorial existence initiated by signing a legal contract with a legitimate publishing company that involves them taking on certain expenses without upfront compensation to turn your manuscript into an actual book.

Exactly what those certain expenses are depends on the publisher in question. However, they will include such things as formatting and cover design, as well as some level of editing, marketing and printing.


More about those elements on Thursday. For now, we’ll focus on a different part of that writing Definition, and an extremely important one at that.

If the definition above sounds cryptic, it’s not meant to be. Only vague.

Which brings me to a very important caution concerning being traditionally published…

Since being traditionally published does involve signing a legally binding contract, you’ve got to know what you’re signing up for… and what you’re signing away.

Some publishers will try to take advantage of you. Some will try to get the best deal they can out of you. And some will be upfront and wonderful and honest about the whole entire process.

It’s ultimately your job to decide on which is which though. That’s why I’ll never forget how one of my writing friends was wooed by a major Christian publisher – only to be told to get a lawyer.

That was one of the upfront, wonderful and honest traditional publisher examples, for the record. The people there knew they were coming from a biased business perspective (as every business does), and an experienced one at that. So they wanted to make sure their to-be client got the best possible representation as well.

Their ultimate goal was for the best possible outcome all-around. And that should be yours too.

With that in mind, if a traditional publisher makes you a deal to become a traditionally published author… Never forget that institution isn’t a charity. It’s a company.

Sign accordingly.



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