Self vs. Traditional Publishing Part 2: What Do I Choose?

Self vs. Traditional Publishing Part 2: What Do I Choose?
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In my previous post, I detailed out my writers saga. This comes from years of spinning my wheels and waffling as to what is the best plan for my novels. I, like every writer, want to give my novels the best chance at life possible. They are my like my children. Hell…since I don’t plan to have offspring, these and my cats are as close to children as I will get.

And the cats, well, for some high quality cat food and dozen of napping spots and they’re pretty much set.

For my novels, it’s a different story. I could invest several thousand dollars into their creation, release them into the world via self-publishing and they could flop. Conversely, I could submit them to agent after agent for YEARS hoping for a Steven King or a J.K. Rowling (without the anti-trans sentiment) miracle and never get picked up. Either way….no one will read them.

Thus enters: THE OBSESSION.

I have dumped years into my Anamnesis series at this point. I have put revision after revision into my book #1. I’ve read books to improve my writing. Blogs on marketing. Author’s opinions on the industry. Writer’s Digest. I’ve gone to cons and meetings and workshops with other authors.

And…I continue to sit on the sidelines.

Don’t get me wrong. I love cheering on other author’s successes. I love supporting them and buying their books. But what many of those authors are doing that I haven’t been doing is something. So, this is the blog-version of my “first step to something”.

DISCLAIMER: I’ve done years of research on self- vs. trad-publishing. However, my info could be out of date, incomplete or just plain wrong. If you find any discrepancies in my post, please let me know.

Here are some of the pros and cons that I’ve discovered during my research in this topic.

Traditional Publishing

Pros

  • (perceived as) More respectable
  • Less work in promotion/marketing for the author (but not always!)
  • (generally) Provides cover art, editing, typsetting etc. (though some degree of copy editing is expected just to submit…go figure!)
  • Access to a wider network of sellers and book reviewers/publications
  • Advances and contracts for more consistant(ish) income

Cons

  • Take a larger % of your earnings
  • Shady contracts/contracts that can affect you long term
  • Less control over cover art and edits (depends o the contract)
  • Some of the pros above are inconsistent between publishers (like some require the author to do a lot more marketing etc).
  • Slower to publication/printing
  • Competing against many other books (both during submission and marketing)

Self Publishing

Pros

  • Keep more of your earnings
  • More control over story, art, and distribution area
  • Keep your own schedule
  • More overall Freedom
  • Faster to publication/printing/distribution
  • Good for niche-y stories, erotica, or other non-standard stuff.

Cons

  • More investment financially from author (they pay for everything from edits > cover > marketing)
  • More time required to “get big”
  • Marketing falls on the author (or they have to pay more $ to hire one)
  • Quality may be perceived lower/less respectable (b/c they’re seen with less accountability)
  • Competing with a lot more authors (both self- and trad- pub)
  • Overall more work
  • Returns may be much less due to lack of marketing or quality control

A Note on Indie-Publishing

Indie Pub may very well be the future. This is traditional publishing in style, but done with a small publishing house. They usually do a hybrid attempt at publishing where they’ll make you a physical product and distribute it a bit, but the author has to do most of the PR/Marketing.

As such, authors will get higher royalties than with large-press traditional publishing but less than self-pub. I favor the idea of this style because to the average reader, you can put the credibility of a publishing company toward your work but also have more freedom than mass market paperback or other large press.

Sometimes, it also seems that indie-presses are more niche-y and thus if you have something in their niche, you are more likely to get picked up. This means they also have a very targeted audience set which can be good or bad. Good: because you have an automatic reader base. Bad: because it would be hard to branch out.

A Note on Pay-to-Publish Companies

Don’t.

In all seriousness, these companies are where the author pays $x,000 to get a book published. I haven’t researched first hand how they do a cover or if they do any editing, but I’m guessing it’s minimal. They do no marketing.

Theoretically a good publishing company will make money when you make money so it is in their best interest to at least get the return on what they’ve invested in your book. This means they will (should) work at least a little hard for you in the beginning.

Since pay-to-pub companies get all your cash-monies upfront, they don’t have to do anything more for you. And usually for the amount of money some of them ask for, you can probably get a decent cover, ISBN registration and basic editing. So unless you have money to burn and just want to get a fun, physical copy of your memoirs to your family, steer clear. Even the shittiest, half-assed attempt at self-publishing would be better than this route.

Now a Little More About Me

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our economic downturn, and our wonderful, illustrious, and brilliant Grand Cheeto (this is my sarcasm mark…are you ready?) –> (!). I lost my job in March of 2020. Exactly one month before the lockdown and one hour after having dental work. Talk about luck (!). <– (there it is again…that’s sarcasm)

While this was not the opportunity I would have made for myself. It’s the opportunity I got. So what did I do?

I suppose being stuck at home with government money rolling (!) in was as good a time as any, right?

As some famous rock artist once said:

You can’t always get what you want,

but if you try sometimes,

YOU GET WHAT YOU NEED!

The Rolling Stones – You Get What You Need

What I needed was a reason to focus on my series. (Dear Higher Power, please just let these go out into the world….). Which is why I am up at 3AM writing this blog post.

I just want my story to be read.

Soon Anamnesis will be on its way to the editor for my first physical and monetary step of someting. So which publishing route am I going to choose? Keep reading below.

Which publishing route do I choose?

I have no idea…

I would consider the route that would be ultimately more successful, but that would first require me to develop my idea of what successful means. If “successful” means that I have cover art and a listing on Amazon, then the self-publishing route would be sufficient.

But if “successful” means that I get other writing gigs, publish more books, and turn this into a career, then I may need help. Navigating through the world of literature and publishing/marketing your work can be done by a self-published author. However, it is oft made easier with an agent or coach or publisher.

So, at this point, it’s worth it for me to at least try to toss my novel out to the world of agents and small-press publishers and see. Since I now have 5 books in the pipeline (4 from the main series and 1 prequel), the future of my entire series hangs on what I decide to do with this first book. If I get one picked up, that may make it easier to get the others too…or not. Who knows? But I do know if I self-pub one, unless it BLOWS UP, I will likely not get offers for the sequels.

Also, internally, it would be kind of nice to get the validation from a “professional” words-person who says I’m good to make an investment in. Do I need this to get my stuff to readers? No. But I am not going to sugar coat it or lie by saying I don’t want it.

If I don’t get any offers within 9 months or so…well I’ll cry a lot. Then I’ll go back to the drawing board and think of a new plan. Probably self-pub. Who wants to back my Kickstarter campaign? 😉

Well…No one said being a writer was easy. It’s even harder to be an author (IMO “author” means “published”). And to be published, you are relying on a lot of people besides yourself. Whether it is an agent, publisher, book reviewer, or your hordes of adoring fans…someone along that chain can let you down at any moment and screw up your career.

And if that doesn’t help you sleep at night…I don’t know what will. Stay up and talk to me!

My Two Seeds of Wisdom

I am going to try to end every article with a “Call to Action” or some seeds of wisdom to help you, a budding author, keep your feet under you and continue on. Maybe occasionally, I will even take my own advice. So, for this first installment, my wisdom is:

  • Finish your damn novel AND self edit (you can’t do step 2 with a half-finished manuscript that’s rife with typos).
  • Give traditional publishing the best chance you can before going the self-pub route (at the very least you’ll learn a lot to help you in your self-pub journey!).

Best of luck writer-person. I believe in you! You can write the thing!

<3

Lyndsie

Writing, Message, I Love You

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