Traditional vs. Self-Publishing? Ah, Decisions, Decisions
This week’s topic deals with a topic running its course through the publishing world like a tortilla from a street vendor in Matamoros.
The answer simply is that there is no real answer, in my opinion.
Traditional publishing still has its place in the publishing world. Traditional publishing houses like DAW and other New York houses employ top-notch editors and have great marketing departments. They’ll also shred anyone who dares to submit less than their absolute best.
Therein lies the rub. Most of the aspiring writers really aren’t going to meet the standards of the big boys. Getting to New York will remain the penultimate dream.
So, what’s a writer to do?
Another option is self-publishing. That’s where you publish your work yourself. You incur all the costs from editing to marketing, but reap all the benefits. Let’s face it, if you can’t pass your own muster, you’ve got no business writing a book.
My good friend Starlene Stringer went the self-publishing route. The well-known actress/writer/TV reporter/radio host penned a book of poems called Diary of a Military Brat. It was so successful that she published a second book. However, because of the intense work involved, she opted not to go for a third book.
Another option is small market. The vast majority of publishers are small market publishers. They include university publishers, genre-specific companies, art house publishers and general publishers, to name but a few.
The upside is that these small-market printers will accept new writers and can take on more projects than the big boys. The downside is that too many of them disappear almost as fast as they appear. More than a few are just outright scams, such as the defunct Mystic Moon Press.
If you go with a small-market publisher, check them out. Make sure they have a good track record, such as Red Hot Publishing. Also, check Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America which publishes lists of scam publishers.
By far, the easiest method but the one with the least chance of success is online publishing, namely with eBooks. The Internet offers a vast array of chances for the novice writer to see their work in print. And, for most writers, that may just be enough. Since only a small percentage of writers get to make a living at their hobby, it appears that most writers go for the personal satisfaction of being published, perhaps to impress family or to show off something at the next high school reunion.
I have published online with such sites as Smashwords, Lulu and SFH Dominion (a British outfit). Crawl is now out with Spectacular Speculations. Through the online site Writing.com, I was able to get physically published with Writer’s Bump Vol. I and Farspace 2, both anthologies.
Of course, one must not forget the opportunity to hit more than one printing avenue. A small market publisher will often release a work in eBook format, as well as bound version.
Right now, of course, you are wondering why I haven’t talked about the 400-pound gorilla in the room. Okay. I will.
Vanity publishers. I haven’t attempted any of these. Unlike regular publishers, who incur all the costs of publishing the book, vanity printers charge fees to have a writer’s work published. Examples include Xlibris and iuniverse. Each will have different packages for different costs. The fees cover printing costs and garner physically versions of the final product. Too often, though, vanity publishers require high costs and, even worse, a lot of book dealers will refuse to sell vanity published books.
Probably the biggest vanity publisher right now is PublishAmerica, C.J. Ellisson's favorite. The less said about them, the better.
What about the original question?
Okay, in the interest of reality, I recommend online publishing. Realistically, the odds are against the tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of aspiring authors. Considering what I'm seeing in the plethora of blogs, most writers would have a better chance being drafted by the Boston Celtics than they would getting a contract with a New York publishing house. Better to go online and hone one's skills before trying one of the bigger publishers.
Enjoy the rest of your July 4th and I’ll see you next week in my regular slot.