Friday, July 8, 2011

Got Publication On Your Mind?

How odd it is to post on a Friday! I’m used to posting on Mondays for all my blogs, not just Wicked Writers. But while barbequing with my family last Sunday, a mysterious insect decided my earlobe might make a tasty treat. I ended up having an allergic reaction. Oh yeah, fun 4th of July. :) But I’m better now.

Greg kindly filled in and the team allowed me to post on Friday this week. However, my post has changed considerably since then. As a Monday blogger, I like to think it’s my job to set the theme for the rest of the week. I say my piece and leave the topic open for discussion. But after reading everyone’s awesome posts, I now feel like it’s my job to give some closure.

What I take away from the discussion, and what I think all aspiring writers should get, is that there is no such thing as “One-Size-Fits-All” in the writing industry. It’s a rapidly growing, changing market and one of many trying to survive in the digital age and during a recession/depression nonetheless!

Every form of publication has its pros and cons. Do some serious thinking about yourself, your life, and your writing. Where is your life now and where do you want it to be in next ten years? In the next twenty years? Do you know how you’ll get from here to there? Take some time mapping out your career goals. Then, do your homework and choose the road that is right for you, that will take you where you want to go.

The truth is most traditionally published authors will swear that traditional publication is the best method. And many self-published authors will tell you that traditional publishing is the devil and will try to bring you over to their side. So be alert in your quest for knowledge and keep your career goals in mind.

Here are some common pros and cons to get started:

Traditional publishing:

Pro:  Quality – The select few manuscripts that manage to pass the query process are picked by literary agents or editors who’ve worked in the field for quite some time and know a good book when they see one. From there, author and manuscript go through the vigorous process of contract negotiations, content edits, line edits, production, and marketing to make sure the manuscript emerges as a worthwhile, readable book.

Con:  Long Lead Time – The query process alone can take years before you get accepted. The average query response time is three months and most authors accrue many rejections before they see an acceptance. The editing, production, and marketing process can take another 1-2 years as well.

Pro:  Advances – In most cases, trade publishers will pay their authors an advance that is theirs to keep even if their book does not sell well. This advance can be used to take some time off from your day-job to spend on writing.

Con:  Lack of support for new authors  - Traditional publishers expect the manuscript to be as perfect as possible before they get their hands on it. They won’t help you hone your craft or build your career. They’ll only market what’s in your book. They will also pool their money and resources into the “front-list” books that have already proven themselves in number of copies sold. Debut novels that haven’t proven themselves yet often get left behind and are seen as “risks”.

Pro:  Mainstream Exposure – Copies of your book will be widely distributed not just in book stores, but also in Walmart, Target, airports, novelty shops, grocery stores, online, etc.

Small publishers, Print-on-demand, and E-publishers:

Though smaller, these guys are considered traditional publishing but they have a few extra pros and cons, like they DO NOT have a very wide distribution. They focus more on online marketing and often are not able to sell to Walmart, Target, grocery stores, etc. (though usually they will sell to all major book chains like Barns&Nobel, Amazon, and Borders). Most of them DO NOT pay advances so the author must continue to work part-time at least to pay the bills until their books sell. However, these guys tend to be much nicer to their authors, including the newbies. They take un-represented authors as well as new authors and usually treat all books equally. They often DO NOT have a large budget for marketing, but they are usually willing to assist with marketing, give advice, and answer any questions about marketing.  


Pro:  Control – The author makes every single decision through-out the publishing and marketing process. They keep all rights to their work, they decided how to divide their time and their budget, and they keep all the profit.

Con:  You’re completely alone – Unless you have some cool author friends to help you out, you’re totally on your own. Every risk, every mistake, every loss comes out of your pocket. Some self-published authors spend years “experimenting” with different marketing techniques before they find any that work.

Pro:  Focus – Self-publishing is a wonderful alternative for books meant for a specific market, such as diabetic cookbooks.  Authors are free to focus on their niche, write, and market exclusively for that area.

Con:  Time and Funding – Again, you are on your own here. You’ll have to cover all cost for cover art, editing, ISBN registration, distribution, etc.

Pro:  Less Production Time – You can self-publish your book in a few weeks (versus a year or two with traditional publishing).

Con:  Prejudice – There is still some prejudice against self-published authors/books. Some people tend to think there must something wrong with a book if it is not backed by a traditional publisher. It was produced by an amateur so it must be terrible and not worth the money. Agents and Traditional publishers tend to hold the most prejudice against self-published authors, so if you were planning to self-publish to test the waters or to build up credence before taking on the professionals – stop! I’ve read an interview with an agent who shall remain names who said self-published authors are viewed the same as authors who have never been published before and that authors with even a single short story published by a small publishing house had more credence than an author with several self-published books. This agent did go on to explain her logic behind this statement, but I think I’ll refrain from repeating it as I predict it will only make some of you more angry.

These are the basics. Every publishing company has its differences, so again, do your homework! Investigate the specific publishing house you might be interested in and read the fine print. And while you’re at it, read up on marketing books. Because no matter which method you choose, you WILL be expected to self-promote on some level. It’s embarrassing when they tell you to join their Yahoo group to keep up with the news and you don’t know how a Yahoo group works (true story *ahem* luckily I’m not completely computer illiterate and learned fast). 

P.S.  I'm under contract with Muse It Up Publishing Inc. and yes, I would recommend them for anyone looking for a large e-publisher or small print-on-demand publisher. I'm willing to answer questions about my experiences with them if you are curious just ask.


  1. Excellent and informative post.

    And that was nice to mention your current publisher, what better recommendation for someone searching for one!

    I can see the different pros and cons as well. It's best to be informed and to weigh up everything.

    As for myself, I have a funny attitude about publishing. For novel-length work I much prefer my publisher (Vamplt) as opposed to going it alone.

    I rely on professional editing and boy do I have it with Vamplit.

    Having said that in my humble, short stories are okay to be self-published, they help authors get known.

    Naturally what's right for one person may not be right for another, however!

    Thanks, J. D. this was so well-done.

  2. Very informative, J.D. I can only imagine what this would have looked like on Monday, but I digress.

    As for the bias against self-publishing, I can understand it because I've seen it in my own profession. I've been a journalist for 30 years. I started off with the school newspaper and with journalism classes that I continued through college and into a magazine company. Eventually, I made it to a major newspaper.

    Thus, I feel have "paid my dues" so to speak. Then along comes the Internet and suddenly tens of thousands of bloggers start putting their thoughts and views and outright biases online together with horrible grammar and poor spelling. They called themselves journalists and believed they were on the same level as myself. Clearly (and with more than a bit of arrogance), I didn't believe they were.

    My articles had to go through a filter of editors before making it to print. These new "journalists" had no controls.

    A better example might be that scene in "Glory" where Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman go on patrol with the Massachusetts 54th Regiment during the Civil War. They get paired with a "contraband" regiment made up of freed slaves who have none of the 54th's training but do have colorful uniforms. The contrabands believe that they are soldiers as good as the 54th because they have the uniforms.

    It's no wonder that traditional publishers view self-publishers in a similar fashion. On the other hand, in this field, it is unfair because self-publishers have gone through a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get their product out to the masses.

  3. I should add, too, that the self-publishers often get lumped in with the online publishers, such as Smashwords and Tradtional publishers see how easy it is for the average joe to take their work (unready as it might be) and just upload it for sale online.

  4. Carol - thank you :) I know several authors who are both traditionally published and self-published. Many agree that self-publishing does help get your name out and while that's great for marketing, it usually doesn't fly with the agents.

    Greg - I feel you. Nothing pisses me off more than reading the "news" on Google, AOL, Yahoo, etc. I miss the days when journalism was unbiased, professionally presented facts. News online is gossip written by amateurs.

    With self-published fiction, I have seen the good, the successful, and the guy-who-printed-at-Office-Max. Those like C.J. who are independent leaders who put in the work and time and know the importance of hiring an editor will eventually reap the rewords they deserve and should not have to deal with the prejudiced. But the sad truth is, amateurs who publish online will continue to give self-publishing a bad name.