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:
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.