Publishing. So Many Choices.
I am going to talk today about something I have been back and forth with for about 2 years: traditional publishing verses self-publishing. I think most of you who are reading these posts are self-published authors, with maybe a smattering of hybrid (traditional & self combined), and small or medium sized press traditionally published authors. This is my assumption of course, so I could be completely wrong.
During all my marketing research I couldn’t help but stumble upon opinions and examples of what people prefer and why they publish the way they do. I listened to some traditionally published authors, self-published authors, literary agents, and everyone in between.
There is a benefit to traditional publishing
I think everyone has their own opinion on the matter. But it's important to look at what each part of the publishing world is good at, or the pros and cons.
Traditional PRO: One of the great things about traditionally published books is it goes through a rigorous process to get accepted (by the literary agent and/or the publisher), multiple editors and edits, and a marketing team behind it. So, you most likely will never run across complete garbage when reading a traditionally publish book.
Traditional PRO: There is another benefit to traditional publishing. Getting on the NYT bestseller list. Now I hear you saying, “But I have seen some self-published authors on that list.” You have. I have too. But how many? I just hoped over to the NYT Bestseller website and looked up their Ebook fiction list. Of the fifteen on the list I found two, just two books that weren’t with a publisher. It was Vi Keeland’s book The Baller and Jamie McGuire's book Beautiful Burn. Go Vi & Jamie!
Traditional CON: The publisher has a lot of control over your book. Now, if you are a good negotiator or have a great literary agent or have already made it big as an self-published author, you might have more say when it comes to negotiating contracts. But, most of us haven't made it big and may not be great at negotiating. If you don't have those things under your belt you will most likely be with a publisher who may want to change some things about your book that you really don't want to change or set it at a price that you aren't comfortable with. This can happen (not for everyone, but for some).
Traditional CON: Prices, which I mentioned above in the other con. You might not have any say at what they price your books or ebooks. If you go with one of the Big 5 publishers, your ebook might cost more than the paperback, and sometimes even the hardback! As someone who worked in the printing industry for over 10 years, I can honestly tell you that there is no reason an ebook should cost that much. If you want to know more about why the Big 5 are pricing their ebooks so high click HERE (this is authorearnings.com and it has great data with how the ebook market is doing - really should check it out).
You have complete control over your book
So I talked about pros and cons of traditional publishing, but what about self-publishing? Don't worry, I will get there. Also, at the end of this post I will have some links that might be helpful to delve deeper into this matter.
Self PRO: You have complete control over your book. If you really wanted you could create the cover, write the book and edit it yourself, though I highly recommend you don't ever do this. It is always best to have a professional editor and cover artist (or someone who knows graphic design) help you with the book. What I mean by complete control is you can control the price, the look of the book and everything in between. You can even set the release date for whenever you want, have a special pre-order price to entice people, give out copies for free for a giveaway or just because you want to. You are in control so you can do what you want.
Self PRO: You are keeping the profits! You aren't just making 6%-25% per book sold (after your advance has been paid off) like you would be if your were traditionally published. No, you get 70% of every ebook sold for more than $2.99 or more and 35% for every ebook that is less than $2.99. If you don't use the usual retailers to sell your book you can keep 100% of the profit, but I can tell you that you won't sell as much that way especially if you aren't a well known author. This is why marketing yourself is so important. As a self-published author you don't have access to some avenues that publishing houses do, so you have to work harder to get noticed.
Self CON: You have complete control over your book. I know this is the exact same as the pro, but there is a reason it is also a con. The thing is we all have to learn somewhere. With a publishing house they have already learned and will correct any mistakes you make with tested answers (professional designers, marketing pros, highly skilled editors, etc.). We indies, have to make some mistakes before we start learning. I know I made a TON of mistakes at the beginning and am still making some, but I like having the control over my work so I keep at it. If you want to stick with being a self-published author, be okay with making some mistakes and hearing advice that may not be all sunshine and roses. It is one of the risks we take in a creative field.
Self CON: Having to learn that most of your time will be spent planning/learning/implementing your marketing plan. Seriously, this is the life of a self-published author. You will HAVE to learn how to market yourself because you can not afford the fancy PR people that work with traditional publishing houses. Maybe you can afford them, if so take advantage. But the majority of the other authors can't. Because you can't you are here reading my posts and probably many other posts on the subject of author marketing. Learn as much as you can about marketing yourself and work your butt off.
I can see the writing on the wall in bright neon lettering
You have learned the pros and cons. There are a lot more on the subject but I don't want this post to turn into a twenty page essay. I am still undecided myself, but I will say that I no longer want to pursue the Big 5 for publishing. I just view their ideas on overcharging for ebooks to be a terrible business move. As someone who worked in several shrinking (if not dying) industries, I can see the writing on the wall in bright neon lettering.
When companies (and yes, publishers are companies out to make a profit) are laying off staff, overworking the remaining workers by giving them the work of the people that they laid off and their normal work, and they start clinging to old ideas, that is a bad sign. All this happened to the industries I used to work for: Printing (a shell of what it was just 15 years ago - oh, and it works hand in hand with publishing. Not a good sign when the industry you work with is shrinking drastically), Photography (do you know of any 1 hour photo labs anymore? Do you know anyone, besides enthusiasts and professional photographers, who use film anymore? I didn't think so. All those jobs dried up and companies shrank or went out of business), and to an extent Retail - brick and mortar stores (I worked for big department stores and I worked for little mom and pop shops and a lot of ones in between. The only retail establishment I have been employed with in the 25 years of my working life that still exists is Macy's and that's because I worked there just a couple of years ago. A lot of these places were slow or refused to understand the power of internet retail and went the way of the dinosaur because of it. Retail is evolving from only brick and mortar to online or both which will be the future. The days are gone of only opening a brick and mortar store and not having a social media/presence on the internet.).
I say this to you not because I don't want you to go to the Big 5, that's not my place. I tell you all this because this is what I have learned. When I learn something and it relates to my own experience, I feel compelled to tell people. Of course I highly encourage you to research this information yourself. Below is a list of links that start to scrape the surface of publishing. Also, you can always search the hashtags #publishing or #indiepublishing or #indiepub or #selfpublishing or #selfpub on twitter for a variety of information.
- Over twenty years of experience in the publishing industry, Jane Friedman.
- Two authors, the Data Guy & Hugh Howey, came together to research the real data behind the sales of ebooks from the publishing industry. It's on their website Authors Earnings.
- No matter if you want to be traditionally or self-published, most likely you will want to know about how to work your way toward bestseller. HERE is a great article that breaks it all down and there are links in that article that can help you further.
- If you do want to go the traditional route, you might want to consider a literary agent. They can know which publishers would be very interested in your manuscript and can negotiate you a better deal then you could probably do by yourself. Research everything you need to know about literary agents HERE.
- The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) is a professional organization for independent authors. If you are serious about being an indie author, you might want to check it out. There is a yearly fee to be a member but many benefits to that membership.
There is so much more information out there, but I think everything I have here can easily get you started on your search to deciding what is best for you.
That is your cup of joe for today. Be sure to check out next weeks post about your fans and why they are the most important in this whole publishing venture.
Check out the next Book Barista post about Fans HERE
MISSED THE BOOK BARISTA POST ABOUT Originality? CHECK IT OUT HERE
As an indie-author I was wondering what I could do to help get my books out there. So, I looked into it and that's when I realized I had a lot to learn. These posts are to help my fellow authors learn how to market and publish their book. I pass on what I found out about making a book a success.