I hope you’re doing well and that your works-in-progress are, well, progressing!
In the last few posts in this series, I’ve talked about my experiences working with co-publishers (a.k.a. “vanity” publishers), small presses, and publishing all by my lonesome.
I’ve learned a lot in the last five years, not least of all that pursuing a writing career is not for the faint of heart, or the thin of skin.
Hours of querying, stacks of rejection letters, con artists disguised as publishers, agents who love you one minute and shoo you away the next… I don’t know if there’s anyone with a skin thick enough to experience such discouragement without flinching. The human heart, no matter how stoic and strong, can only take so much “No” and disappointment.
Moonbow came quite close to being traditionally published, but after nearly a year spent on submission, I decided to self-publish it.
When I began the query process for Age of the Ashers, I gave myself a deadline; if I didn’t have an agent by May of this year, then I would go the indie route. After numerous rejections, a few promising manuscript requests that didn’t pan out, and some decent traction with a Kindle Scout campaign, I’ve chosen to self-publish it and its forthcoming sequels rather than toil any longer in the query trenches.
Would I have gotten an agent with a little more time? Would Moonbow have been bought by a publisher with a few more months on submission? Who knows? Maybe. But waiting for replies was growing more exhausting by the day. I was ready to share my work with readers and move on to other projects brewing in my brain. I’ve never been pregnant before, but I compare the restless feeling to being in your ninth month and you’d give anything for that baby to hurry it up. It’s been taking up space in your body too long and needs to meet the world now!
I mentioned in a previous post that I still want to be traditionally published, and here are a few reasons why:
I wish I was one of those rock star indie authors who loves and excels at the technical bits of writing: formatting, cover design, marketing, etc., but I simply don’t.
As I mentioned here, I pay for not only my books’ editing, but their formatting and cover designs too, which costs some serious moolah if you want it done well! Authors don’t have to pay a dime when working with traditional publishers.
And while many indie authors are figuring out the best marketing practices, I think they’d all appreciate the help of a professional marketing team.
Here’s an abbreviated list of how many traditional publishers market (to see the full list, click here).
- Create a press kit for soliciting reviews and author interviews
- Provide printed material to assist author’s own promotion: postcards, bookmarks, flyers, etc.
- Book signings/event support (posters, press releases, bag stuffers)
- Placement in publisher’s print catalog
- Product placement in retailers’ catalogs and fliers
- Print advertising in trade magazines
- In-store product placement (special tables or endcaps)
- Working with Amazon and other online booksellers for placement
- Email blasts to publisher’s lists which can include hundreds of thousands of names, including consumers, librarians, and retailers
- Advertise in online magazines and newsletters appropriate to the book
- Promotion to book clubs and reading groups
- Submit books to contests
- Organize book tours and signings
- And they have a sales team/rep group who sells to retailers
For all the reasons listed above, traditional publishing helps non-marketing-savvy authors like me grow their careers faster and reach more readers.
More Writing Time
This is the most important one for me personally. Being a self-published author means you are basically running your own publishing house, which is a dream-come-true for some, but a nightmare for others. Being traditionally published means you don’t have to worry about your books’ blurb, copy-edits, formatting, etc. because the experts have it covered!
Unfortunately, there is still a negative stigma surrounding self-published books. Admittedly, even I am often hesitant to read a self-published novel because they have a reputation for being poorly written and terribly edited. The thinking goes, “If the writer was really good, then their book would be traditionally published.” (I plan on doing a blog post on why that isn’t always the case!)
Even if readers have nothing against self-published books, they often don’t seek them out and instead go for what’s hot on Amazon or what magazines/Facebook/newspapers/newsletters and friends are urging them to buy.
No Upfront Costs
Nuff said, really!
As you can see, the rough road to a traditional publishing deal can definitely be worth it (nothing good ever comes easy, right?). However, the traditional model does have its fair share of downsides, such as:
It can take anywhere from six months to a year and a half for a book to go from acquisition to publication. Learn all about the reasons why here.
Ebooks are Priced Super High
I have no idea why, but traditional publishers still price their ebooks nearly the same as their paperbacks. I just looked up one of James Patterson’s latest, and the Kindle price is $14.99! Compare that to a $3.99 100,000-word fantasy novel by bestselling indie author Lindsay Buroker.
One of the things that attracts people to ebooks is their affordability and people’s ability to take the money they have for reading and stretch it further. Then again, this gives indie authors a competitive edge, and many indies make most of their money from ebook sales.
They Make the Final Call on Title and Cover
This is only a con if you like being in control. At the end of the day, though, I think writers would be wise to trust the publisher with these two variables. Selling books is their job, after all, so generally it’s best to let them have the reins. However, if you absolutely can’t stand the idea of your book having a cover different from the one you’ve envisioned, or a title that you didn’t give it, then it’s probably best to take the indie route where you are king or queen of your publishing kingdom.
Pay Royalties Twice a Year
Publishing houses typically only pay out royalties twice a year, regardless of how well a writer’s book sells. This is why many traditionally published authors still have day jobs!
It’s Hard to Run Promos
One of the things I love about being an indie author is that I have control over the price of my books, meaning I can host giveaways and run promotions at my leisure. When you’re traditionally published (or published by a small press as I talked about recently), they decide if and when the price will change for special events, holidays, etc.
Crappy Royalty Rates
Here’s a great (and lengthy) article that goes in depth on this topic, but long story short, royalty rates typically fall somewhere between 6 and 25%, with the latter on the generous end.
Royalty reports may come every six months or so for a specific period of sales, and many authors find them hard to decipher. They may also not equal the amount of money that you get in your bank account, so authors who are traditionally published can’t really do a cash flow forecast for future income.
Conversely, if you price your book between $2.99 and $9.99 on Amazon, you’ll receive 70% royalties. Smashwords pays authors 85%!
Tough to Break into
This one is sort of a no-brainer, as any writer who has queried agents knows how difficult it is to get representation, which is key to being traditionally published by one of the Big 5. And, as I found out, having an agent doesn’t necessarily guarantee a publishing contract.
Additionally, there’s a tremendous amount of pressure for traditionally published authors’ debut novels to perform well in the marketplace. If they don’t, it can be next to impossible to land subsequent book deals.
I hope you found today’s post helpful and informative! Which publishing model appeals to you the most? Let me know by tweeting me @dandersontyler or emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you!