I’ve been getting a lot of requests to do some posts about publishing. I was a little reluctant to do this since I, myself, am kinda new to the world of publishing. So to compromise, I’m going to give you the pros and cons of something I know a lot about, self publishing and traditional publishing.
The first thing you need to decide when you are beginning to publish is whether you want to go with traditional publishing or self publishing. Here are some of the pros and cons that I’ve found during my time in the publishing world. Next week I’ll also have a post that relates to publishing, but it will probably be about something that you can do for your book now, before it’s published.
This is the direction you can take with publishing where you do it all yourself. You get to keep the rights to your book, too. Nobody has to approve your story’s content or cover design for you. You would use independent publishing platforms like Createspace (Amazon), Smashwords, or Lulu.
Control. You get to make all of the decisions, big and small, that relate you your book. You determine the price (within limitations of platform). You format your own book. You choose your own fonts. You can put anything you want in your story, and no publisher is going to ask you to change it. You even get to choose the release dates and where it will be available (within limitations of the platform).
Money. You will get more money from this route. With traditional publishing, everyone gets a cut of the cash before you do. Publishers, editors, agents, and everyone else you got to contribute to the publication to your book. With self publishing, only you, the platform, and the seller are getting cuts. You also get to determine the price of the book.
Faster. After you get all of the work done, you can publish it whenever you want. You don’t have to wait very long to get your book out on the market, whereas traditional publishing will make you wait.
Easier. Though you have to do a lot of the work yourself, nobody is going to say no to you. You won’t get rejected by a hundred publishers before one actually likes what they read.
Marketing. Nobody is marketing this book except you. This means that you are the one who is recruiting book reviewers, making YouTube videos, tweeting regularly, blogging about the book, hosting book signings, doing giveaways, and spreading the word. However, this is more of a con to publishing itself because any traditional publisher is going to ask you to do a lot of this anyway.
Print on demand. This means they don’t print a ton of your book at once, but print as people start ordering it. Your book is not on shelves in bookstores unless you are super rich and can pay for all of those books out of your own pocket (and don’t mind if they don’t get bought). Any kind of book seller will be able to order the book and have it sent to the store or the doorstep of the customer. It’s really easy to order, and it will be in eBook too, but when people go to bookstores, they browse the shelves, not the online options. Of course, if they browse the website, like Amazon or Barnes and Nobles, then they’ll see the book.
Money. Yes, you will get paid more than with traditional publishing. However, that only applies if your book is successful, and in order for that to happen, you have to spend some money. You might put some of that money into marketing, some into professional editing, and even buying the giveaway books and book-signing books and books for book reviewers. It’s a lot. You have to keep working at it to break even. Traditional publishing is so exclusive because they are having to put all of this money into the book, and they want it to work out.
Not as respected and less successful (in general). Since this form of publishing is easy, and almost anyone can do it, a lot of people use this route, even if their book isn’t publish-ready. In earlier years, self publishing got a bad reputation for only publishing bad books that couldn’t be traditional published. Today, it’s actually a valid and smart choice for authors and a lot more people are doing it with really good books.
Work load. With the control comes the responsibility. Looking for Lily was self published, and I did it completely wrong. I didn’t market the book at all, didn’t do much to bump up sales, or anything like that. But I’ve learned from it and am marketing my next book before it’s even done. Other than that, I actually had to make the book myself, which I did right. I had to make the cover myself. I took the picture and did photoshop and the measurements and chose the printing style. I had to determine the font styles and copyright and format the inside of the book into the right size. I had to do all of the financial decisions and way, way more. I started out not knowing anything about any of that, so there is a lot of work going into self publishing, even if you do it wrong.
This is where you would go through all of the steps of publishing. You would make query letters to agents and publishers and be published by a publishing house, like Penguin or Little Brown.
Respected. Most of the books you can name by title and author are traditionally published. You know them because traditional publishing houses only like to take the best of the best. They want books that are going to make them money, not make them lose their money. They also usually don’t use print on demand, which means that they are on the shelves in bookstores. Plus, sometimes just being published by a big publishing house, one that is recognizable to readers, is enough to get people to want to read your book.
Some Marketing. You don’t have to do all of the marketing for the book if you are traditionally publishing it. Traditional publishing is going to do some of the marketing for you, like getting it into stores and a little bit here or there, like sending copies to book reviewers.
Less Work. If a traditional publisher chooses to publish your book, they’re going to hiring people to make the book cover and format it and choose the fonts. You don’t have to do as much, even if that means you don’t have as much control. And even if you don’t have to do as much as self publishing, it’s still a ton of work. You still are having to actually get your book a publishing house and everything that leads up to it, plus whatever they want you to do to help promote the book. In some ways, it could be more work. It depends on how good your book is.
Advances. Authors who publish their books traditional are paid differently. They get an advance from the book, and the size of that advance depends on how well they think the book will sell. This is guaranteed money, which is good. Then you have to earn back the amount of your advance before you can start making more money than that. Say your advance is the equivalent of what your cut would be if you sold a thousand copies. Before you can get more money from the book, you have to sell at least a thousand copies.
Sequels. If your book does well, you might get a contract with a traditional publisher for the rest of the series or your next book. The more you please your publishers with the books you give them to publish, the better they are going to treat your book in terms of marketing and advances. And if you are traditionally published, and your book does well, it makes it easier to get published next time, even from a different house.
Takes longer. After your book is accepted by a traditional publisher, it could take more than a year before it is up on the shelves. That kind of sucks, to be honest.
Marketing. I’m planning to have Holding My Breath traditionally published, which is why I’m polishing it up excessively and started marketing it as soon as I started writing it. And even though the publishers will do some of the marketing, it pretty much rests on the author. The day I started writing HMB, I picked this blog back up again. I redesigned the website. I’ve gotten a good following on twitter and wordpress. I’ve spread the word about my upcoming beta reading. I’ve done interviews and guest posts. I’ve actually written and edited the book, of course. But all of this is what I’m doing to get the book to actually look like a good risk for a publisher, so imagine what I’m still going to have to do to get it to sell.
Harder. Since they want the best of the best, the agents want the best of the best. If, by some streak of luck, you sign with an agent, you still have to get accepted by a publishing house. This process could take a long time, and then even more time for it to be published by the publisher.
Less pay. As I said before, with traditional publishing, you don’t make millions even though that is what many think. Everyone gets their cut before you. You might get a penny for every book you sell, for all you know.
Control. You have influence in the creation of the book and things that go along with it, but you don’t have full control of the book. This can be a good thing if you don’t know what you are doing, but it also means that you might not like certain things about the final copy.
I’ll be doing some more posts about publishing for all of those out there just dipping their toes in the water. If I missed something in this post, comment below!
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Thank you for reading, and don’t stop writing!