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  • Sherry Ickes

Self-Publishing or Traditional Publishing?

a person writing

While there is no way to fully cover the vast world of publishing, the differences, and their terms in a singular blog post, the following information can help a budding author determine which path might be the better fit for themselves. Just like in every aspect of life, this industry is constantly changing, especially over the last few years.


Before we proceed any farther, I would like to debunk a falsehood that some people may have about authors. Most likely, you will not have a best-seller in the beginning and will still have to work your day job. Many authors are not rolling in the dough, and it is not easy work being a writer.


 

A short disclaimer before we begin: I am not affiliated with any of the companies/businesses mentioned in this blog post, nor do I claim any form of ownership to any of them. Each company/business has their own respective owners and any opinions expressed in this post are solely mine. I cannot be held liable for any accidents, and or injuries, that may occur if one would happen to try any of the following tidbits in this post.

 

Traditional Publishing:


Some of the publishing houses are changing the way they operate, by offering hybrid publishing options, which is a topic for another post, but mainly, it operates by getting an agent, who reaches out to editors and publishing companies to see if they would like to draw up a contract for their author. There is a platform dedicated for this, called Publisher's Marketplace, where information regarding the behind-the-scenes practices are reported and brokered deals are released. You may see various authors posting screenshots of their newly announced deals on their social media accounts from this website periodically. I should note, however, that it is not free to join as there is a membership fee you have to pay.


a pile of books

Pros:

  • Publishers can get your book into magazines, award competitions, and NetGalley, a lot easier due to some requirements and connections. For those of you who do not know about NetGalley, it is a place where advanced copies are given out in exchange for reviews by readers.

  • They handle the editing, formatting, and the cover of the book. That allows the author to focus more on the writing portion.

  • The publishing house can have your manuscript translated into other languages and help with the worldwide distribution.

  • Depending on the contract with a publisher, an advancement of money could come your way before the book is even sent to the printer.

Cons:

  • Editors have been known to water down author's ideas, or push them in a direction the author does not wish their characters to go. For instance, an editor might push your novel into having more romance then you want, or they may tell you to cut out two thirds of your concept in order for them to accept your work.

  • When an editor leaves their job, you are at a big risk of getting cut. Countless authors have been let go from publishing houses because their editors went somewhere else or retired.

  • The publishers decide when the series ends, not the author. It used be a rule of thumb that a series was given three books to see how well it was being received by the public. Now, some authors only get two books, or one in other cases. That gives your novels barely enough transaction to get off the ground as it takes time to build up a following and to get the word out about your works.

  • Publishers have control over the front cover design of the books. That being said, I have heard from a few authors who do have a say in the design, but that is not often the case. Covers can help or slow down sales, and this format can result in misleading information if the cover designer does not know what is taking place within the story. The cover may have cherry trees on the front even though the farm grows apples, or there may be a cat on the front and no cat in the story line. Misrepresented books is not favored upon by readers.

  • Do not expect a lot of advertisement help, or being paid to go on book tours. Unless you are a household name like Louise Penny, publishers do very little in advertising for your book or reimbursing you for expenses while going to conferences and book signings. Authors have to pay for those things out of pocket. They may send the author some promotional bookmarks, or I have even seen luggage tags and bags of flower seeds, but the rest is up to you.

  • Depending on your contract, publishers can have control over your rights to the series. This means that if a film company is interested in producing your story into a movie, then the publisher would get the money. And if you would like to continue with a series, despite the publisher saying no, they have the final say.

  • An author does not have any control over the size of the book and the price. Publishers are pushing for more of their books to come out in hardcover first nowadays, around the prices of $28 to $32 per book. From that, an author collects less than $5 out of each copy and people are more likely to purchase more books at a cheaper amount than at the higher cost. The author can hear their readers complain about it, but they can't do much in the way of changing it because it is not their decision.

  • Once a publisher decides to stop printing a novel, the book becomes out-of-print. That might be a big problem for an author, since it is common for the first book in a continuing series to reach this status when new readers are still finding out about the author. People like to read a series in order. It is just a simple fact. So that will automatically lose the author sales when the first book is not available to read anymore. And sometimes it happens to books four and five in the middle of a nine book series.

  • Some publishers have been known to give out loads of free books in order to generate interest in an author's works. While this is a good marketing strategy to give out free samples in order to increase the interest level, the authors don't get paid for any of the books given out for free. And they don't have a say on how many are handed out.

 

Self-Publishing:


Compared to traditional publishing, being self-published doesn't sound all that bad, right? There are certain advantages to taking on this route, however, there is still a lot of work involved in getting your books out to the public. It is not as simple as flipping a switch and takes a chunk of time, dedication, and a little sweat and tears, to embark on this journey seriously. Some people are satisfied in saying, "yay, I'm an author and I have published a book." But for the authors who want to make this their profession, let me say that pushing through all of the turmoils is not without its rewards.


man holding open a book

Pros:

  • You have the power (Sorry, couldn't resist a little He-Man humor). Though as corny as it sounds, this statement is true. The author has complete decision making control over the cover, manuscript, format, everything.

  • The rights to the novels, series, and characters belongs solely to the author. If a film company asks about transforming the books into movie adaptations, then the ball is in the author's court.

  • This path leads to more money in the author's pocket. It is up to the author as to what price he or she wants to list their books at. And, with the publisher's portion taken out of the equation, that means that the author can have a slightly higher earning margin. Don't use this as a way of making "bundles of money" off of a single book purchase though. Still be aware of the prices others have their books listed in matching size and genre. Stay competitive and spread some of the savings onto your readers, who will love you for it, making them more likely to come back to you again for your next release.

  • Your books do not go "out-of-print" because they are considered print on demand, which means that they are printed whenever an order comes in.

Cons:

  • Everything falls on your shoulders. Paying for an editor, if you choose to, formatting, cover, and copyright protection. Remember that there are laws that protect images, prior texts and current companies that an author may want to reference in their books. Without a publishing house, all of these requirements are up to the author to handle.

  • Uploading your manuscript to a printing company can be rather complex in its software. Ingram is one of the main supply warehouses that retailers use to order in their stock. IngramSpark is their self-publishing division that allows authors to directly upload, sell, and distribute their books to multiple stores and online outlets. Amazon and Barnes and Nobles have also added these features as well, not to mention independent publishers like Maple Press. With so many different companies to go with, it is up to the author's preferences, and their technological skills. There will be a lot of learning curves when it comes to each company's computer system.

  • Because your books are printed on demand, there is no real stock kept in the warehouses, so it may take longer to be shipped out. However, some of the publishers have been moving a number of their titles to being printed on demand, so it might not be that much of a difference.

 

Whichever path you decide to go with, just keep in mind that it takes time to craft your manuscript for starters, and then it will take time to navigate the field in either the world of Traditional Publishing or going Self-Published. That was a lot of information to go through, I know, so feel free to read this post over and over again for reference. If you have an questions in regards to my books, or about the publishing world, you can message me through the "Contact Me" form on this website. Thanks for dropping by and see ya later! #writing #authorlife #publishing #books #mysterybooks

 

All of the images provided in this blog post are from Wix and not of my own.

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