Self-publishing vs. traditional publishing.

There's always that debate about whether to self-publish or whether to publish traditionally. The choice depends on your goals! Are you looking to make the most money per sale? Get your book in to bookstores? Are you thinking of publishing ASAP? All of those factors will help you make the right decision!

pile of books of different colors

You’ve invested time, energy, and heart in your poetry manuscript, so when it’s time to publish, you want to do what’s best for your book and your goals. It can be hard to decide whether you want to self-publish or go the traditional route: both paths have their merits and drawbacks, so take a peek at our guide to self-publishing and traditional publishing, and you’ll be ready to make an informed decision.

What is self-publishing?

For writers who prefer to have complete artistic control over their work, self-publishing might be the right path. With this option, writers create, design, print, and sell their books independently and at their own expense through self-publishing platforms like KDP, IngramSpark, or Lulu. The resources below offer deep dives and detailed tips on how to go about self-publishing your book.

Publishing Considerations

This video gets into details about self-publishing and traditional publishing to help you decide which path might be right for you. Note that we jusssttt updated this in 2021 after KDP launched their new hardcover option.

How to Prep Your Poetry for Self-Publication

Nowadays, it’s fairly easy to come up with an idea for a book today and have it published tomorrow. But before you rush to press, check out these tips to help you to make sure your poems are in tip-top shop and to find the right format and platform for them.

How to Get Poetry Reviews for Your Self-Published Collection

This post walks you through how it’s done–from organic reviews to ARCs and everything in between.

How to Get Over the Fear of Publishing 

Publishing doesn’t have to be so dang scary. Hear tips on how to get over the fear of publishing your work.

Self-Publishing Checklist

This print-ready list of actionable steps to take toward publication will help you organize your work. Print it out, tape it up, and let it guide you.

The Legal Side of Self-Publishing

This interview with our favorite self-publishing guru and retired attorney will clue you in on the legal side of creation: copyright laws, fair use, contracts, etc.

How to Sell Your Poetry Collection Yourself

This video provides quick tips on how to sell your book on your own website, including how to accept payment, set the price, create a shipping slip, keep track of sales, and more.

Do I Even Need My Own ISBN?

Confused about what an ISBN even is? Get clued in on purchasing an ISBN, free ISBNs from publishing platforms, and whether having one will benefit you.

Everything You Need to Know About Registering for Copyright

Yes, the business of publishing your collection can be a bit baffling, but we chatted with the assistant section head at the copyright office to get all your copyright questions answered!

How to Protect Yourself from Plagiarism 

In this conversation with Caitlin Jans, creator of Authors Publish, we hear a first-hand account of what it’s like to deal with plagiarism and what you can do to protect your own and other authors’ work.

The Ultimate Marketing Guide for Authors Who Self-Published

We collected our top ideas on marketing your self-published collection, including how to craft a pitch, set up a newsletter, join readings, and more.

Ultimate Guide to Marketing Your Book

Whether you’re a first-time author or seasoned pro, we’ve got you covered: from cracking into social media, to cultivating an email list, to getting your book on the shelves of a real-life, brick and mortar bookstore. Keep reading for a rundown on Tell Tell’s top blog posts for marketing your book and let us help you get all eyes on your newest creation.

Hear First-Hand What Self-Publishing Is Like

Need a little encouragement along your self-publishing way? We interviewed poet Dijon Bowden about his self-publishing journey, and we’re sure you’ll be as inspired as we were!

How Print Distribution Works

This video explains how print distribution works and how self-published authors can distribute their work.

What is traditional publishing?

Some writers decide to send their manuscripts to traditional publishers, or established presses who evaluate the manuscripts they receive (either through agents or unsolicited submissions) and design, print, and distribute the books they choose. Unlike self-published authors, traditionally published authors do not generally exercise as much creative control over the design of their books, but on a positive note, the press pays to print and distribute the book, with the author receiving a royalty, or portion of the book’s sales. The resources below offer inspiration for those who want to pursue this path and lay out the steps one needs to take to get there.

How to be True to Your Voice

If you want to go with a traditional publisher, Raine Oet, author of Glorious Veils of Diane, has plenty of advice about being true to your voice and how to brave the path.

How to Market Your Book in a Pandemic

We chatted with the author of Took House about marketing her book during the pandemic, the relationship between visual and written art, and the rewarding road to publication with an independent press.

Publishing Previously Published Poems

This video gives you important info on how to publish or submit previously published poems.

Submission Series: Fast-response journals

It can take a long time to publish traditionally, and the process begins with submitting packets of poems to individual journals. They can take months to respond, though, so if you’re looking for a quick response, check out this list of journals.

Submission Series: Haiku

The key to publishing the individual poems that will eventually help you land your work with a traditional press is targeting your submissions. Do you write haiku? Check out this list of journals!

Submission Series: Feminist Poems

If your work has a feminist flair, check out our interview with Brenna Crotty, editor of CALYX journal, along with our list of our favorite feminist publications.

Submission Series: Prose Poems

This list of journals will help you place your prosiest poems and get one step closer to publishing with a traditional press.

Submission Series: Poems About Nature

With spring blooming and summer on its way, you might be inspired to send out your favorite nature poems. Our interview with Emily Cayer of Tiny Seed Literary Journal and our list of our favorite nature-themed journals will get you started.

Submission Series: Weird Work

This list will help you find homes for your weirdest poems!

Interview with Megan Alpert

Once you have a number of individual poems from your collection published, you can start submitting your manuscript to book contests and/or open reading periods. This process can also take . . . years. Megan Alpert, author of The Animal at Your Side, talked to us about her long (but ultimately rewarding!) path to publication.

Interview with Quail Bell Press and Productions

What are publishing houses even looking for? In this interview with Quail Bell Press and Productions, we talk about their aesthetic and how authors can work with them.

Interview with JD Scott

And what does traditional publishing look like from the writer’s vantage? This fun and fabulous interview with JD Scott explains what it takes.

How to Break in to the World of Publishing 

We’re not gonna lie; the traditional route can be rough, but Katie Condon gave us great advice on keeping the faith and breaking in.

How to Relax While Submitting Your Work 

This interview with poet Meg Day offers healthy strategies on getting published in the right places and maintaining a “loosey-goosey” attitude toward publishing.


How to Create a Table of Contents

In both paths, you’ll want to create a dynamic table of contents so you can update, adjust, and make any changes that you’ll need.

Whichever path you choose, we wish you the best of luck and hope you find the way that honors your work and your ideals.


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