ASK PZM – July 2014

Q. Do you have any new thoughts on traditional publishing vs. self-publishing?

I recently read on Wattpad an advice article for aspiring authors by Hugh Howey that I thought had a great deal of food for thought.

(Howey is the self-published author whose success with the dystopian WOOL via Amazon’s KDP led to a book deal with Simon & Schuster for the physical book rights while Howey kept the ebook rights.)

Howey said that you “are much better off with your 10th work exploding than your 1st work.”

I’ve provided the link below to Howey’s entire article so you can read this statement in context.  For me, this comment reminded me that success with self-published works can lead to other opportunities.
For example, the self-published novel of an author I know has won four different awards.  An agent is submitting this novel to traditional publishers even though before self-publication the novel had been passed over by publishers.  Now that there is social proof of how many readers love the book, publishers are more willing to consider the book.

As authors we need to be flexible: A publishing or marketing strategy that may be appropriate at one stage may not be the best strategy at another stage.

This is one reason for following the book publishing industry – keeping abreast of new trends and new opportunities for both traditional and self-published authors.

Whether we publish in different genres (Howey does this) or the same genre all the time, we need to keep an eye on the synergy of how one project could positively impact another project.

For example, I just completed a Cold War memoir – TALES OF AN AMERICAN OCCUPYING GERMANY – on Wattpad and I am now looking for an agent and publisher for this project.

Suddenly a project I unsuccessfully worked on in 2007 has resurfaced as a possible nonfiction book that could be a companion to TALES.   Thus I queried an agent for both projects together.

In conclusion, if we are committed to our book writing, we should periodically review our current strategy in light of industry trends and our own situations.  Then we should brainstorm whether a new direction might be appropriate.   

Q: What do you think of entering book and story contests?

Although I know authors who have had success with entering contests, I’m divided on the issue.
Actually, I’m all for free contests.  Why not submit if your already written content is appropriate for a contest? 

The contests requiring a submission fee are the ones that I question.

Your marketing budget (it is a marketing expenditure) and common sense are good measuring sticks for entering contests.

If your marketing budget is large, submitting to numerous contests may be worthwhile.  But if your marketing budget is not large, careful consideration of the perceived value of a particular contest is important.  After all, the prestige of each contest is not equal.

And what about time taken away from writing in order to enter a contest?

If it is simply a submission application, that is one thing.  But what if you have to write a new short story in order to submit?  Is it worth interrupting another writing project to do this?

The answer to these questions will be different for each of us, but these questions are important to consider.

P.S.  If you do write a short story specifically for a contest, check whether you can then publish the short story yourself.  You could sell this as a short story on Kindle, for example, or publish it for free on a site such as Wattpad.  In either case you can include information and links about your other written work.

Tweet #1. Traditional publishing vs. self-publishing?   (click to tweet)
Tweet #2. Should writers enter book and story contests? (click to tweet)

Phyllis Zimbler Miller on Twitter is at and she is the author of fiction and nonfiction books on Amazon. Her fiction books on Amazon can be found and her nonfiction books 
She is also a digital marketer who blogs on book topics and you can download a free copy of her YA short story PINKY SWEAR at

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