How Do I Decide: A Book Review

Review: How Do I Decide: Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing; Rachelle Gardner, author, with Michelle DeRush.

Rachelle Gradner, How Do I Decide


I am a newbie writer and I happened on Rachelle Gardner’s blog about two years ago.  I enjoy her personable tone and the excellent information she provides to readers of all types.  This book is no exception.

This book is a must-read for anyone wishing to cut to the chase and grapple with the pros and cons of traditional and self-publishing.

How Do I Decide is an easy and fast read because the layout is spacious, the verbiage is not the stuff of textbooks, and the content is immediately accessible and valuable to aspiring and published writers.


Chapter 1 is worth the price of admission for the newbie.  Gardner carefully lays out all of the terms, facets and processes of current publishing and describes them in easy-to-read language.  I have only begun to peer into the world of publishing in the past several years and this chapter brought me up to speed on how the publishing world works.

In Chapter 2 Gardner helps the reader begin to decide between self- and traditional publishing by comparing the approaches of traditional and self-publishing in each of 12 categories.  At the end of the chapter she neatly sums up the choices on each of the issues in a table for easy comparison.

Chapters 3 and 4 discuss the advantages and disadvantages of self- and traditional publishing in more detail, one chapter for each style of publishing.  Here I found Rachelle’s language leaning towards traditional publishing in both chapters, rather than each chapter objectively supporting one route of publishing.  Of course, I suppose that this should not surprise me because Rachelle is a literary agent.  Nevertheless, I came away feeling like self-publishing came out a little on the short end of the stick.

Chapter 3 on the advantages of traditional publishing came across very positive and encouraging,  Rachelle provided many concrete examples of how much traditional publishing has to offer over the self-publishing route.

Of the three author perspectives included in Chapter 4 on the advantages of self-publishing, Addison Moore and Jennie Nash both provided what I felt were negative looks at self-publishing.  Each has had success as a self-publisher, and that is encouraging.  Each woman, however, gave me the impression they would rather go the traditional publishing route.  I did not come away encouraged to look into self-publishing.  The interview with James Scott Bell, on the other hand, was splendid.  His ending lines, “But the pears are ripe on the tree.  Pick some,” were priceless and encouraging, even poetic.

In Chapter 5’s excellent checklist for choosing which route Rachelle restates ideas several different ways to make certain the reader understands the choices correctly.  Chapter 6 provides an extremely valuable listing of resources, contacts, and how-to sources.


Gardner does a great job of clearly stating the challenges and benefits of both traditional and self-publishing, even if her tone leans toward the traditional route.  Because she has worked so long in the traditional publishing world and she is now self-publishing I appreciate her perspective on how the two approaches differ.

A lot of writers are trying to decide how to publish, and How Do I Decide is just the resource they need to make that critical decision.

Tomorrow’s Promise

When the pundits pause
and the polls close,
when the pens stop
and the ques stand empty,
when campaign placards
litter the ground
like obscene peonies,
and the sun rises on red eyes
and rumpled ties,
yesterday’s news
will be today’s refuse
and the new day’s blue sky
will be a president’s prophecy
of tomorrow’s promise.