You may have noticed that I’ve not been as present online as I usually am – unfortunately (as you probably know only too well) life gets in the way. Alongside work and my freelancing projects, I’m afraid my blog has been somewhat neglected and although I may not have the time at the moment to put together some amazing, helpful and inspirational articles to encourage your writing journey, I’m relying on some of my very good writing friends to help keep this blog alive – only temporarily of course – before I will be back and entertaining you on a weekly basis. Until then, here is Icy Sedgwick talking about the publishing options for writers:
If you’ve been writing for a while, you’ve no doubt thought about publishing options. Once upon a time, it was easy. Send your manuscript to an agent and hope for the best!
But with new options like independent presses and self-publishing, how do you decide which the best route is for you?
Here are the pros and cons for self-publishing, using independent presses, and traditional publishing!
Traditional Publishing – is it even still viable?
What traditional publishing offers a new author has changed in recent years, but the core principle remains the same. Authors submit their manuscripts to agents, who in turn try to sell them to publishers.
If you can get it to work, the advantages are obvious. Someone else handles editing, the book is formatted for you, the publisher handles the back-end issues around uploading your titles to online vendors, and they’ll source cover art. You don’t need to organise anything, or pay for it out of your own pocket.
If your book ends up selling well, or gets a lot of good PR, your publisher might spend money on those fancy front tables in book stores, or get your book into airports and train stations.
However, the disadvantages are also numerous. You have to actually land an agent in the first place, and there’s no guarantee they can land you a deal with a publisher. Even if they do, the timescales make it less attractive. It can take months to get a request for your manuscript from an agent, and even longer before a publisher takes it.
You also don’t get any say on the cover, and you’ll need to sell a lot of copies before you start seeing any royalties come in. On top of that, you’ll be expected to do most, if not all, of the marketing yourself.
In days gone by, authors might be offer 2 or 3 book contracts, along with advances so they had something to live on while they produce the books. Now, you probably won’t see any money until everyone else in the production chain has been paid.
If you’d like the validation of a third party taking your book on, and you really don’t want to deal with covers and so on yourself, then perhaps consider submitting to an agent.
Independent presses – are they safe?
Independent presses provide another option, which cuts out the agent. You get to deal directly with someone at the press, so you have a more obvious relationship. You can feel like you’re part of a stable, or family, of authors. That’s important in a solitary career like writing, and it’s the thing I appreciate about working with a company like Beat to a PULP!
The main advantage is that, as with a traditional publisher, someone else handles editing, formatting, covers, and management. It frees you up to write more books, and it lets the people who know what they’re doing get on with their job.
The royalties are often better – I’ve had contracts with independent presses that saw me earn 50%, or even 70%, of the royalties. You don’t need to sell as many copies before you start seeing money coming in as you do with traditional publishers.
Some indie presses will do some marketing for you, and you at least have access to any mailing list or fan base they may have built up around their genre.
On the downside, your book still isn’t immediately in your control, and indie presses don’t enjoy the same stability as their traditional cousins. I’ve been with two independent presses that have had to close their doors, leaving me to place my titles elsewhere.
I’m one of the lucky ones – I know other authors who’ve been left in a sticky spot where they’re still awaiting payment after a press has closed.
Also, don’t pin your hopes on a paperback release, and you’re not likely to see your books in stores. There’s no guarantee they’ll do any marketing at all, and you might still be expected to market it yourself. You also have to trust that they know what they’re doing when navigating the back-end of the online retailers. Will they use the best categories and tags for your books?
If you’re considering the independent route, really do your research first. Speak to some of their authors. Do they have a good reputation? Do they pay on time? How flexible are their contracts? If they don’t do a lot of marketing, what exactly are you getting out of it?
Self-publishing – isn’t it for people who can’t succeed traditionally?
The reputation of self-publishing was dented by authors who rushed to throw badly formatted, and often badly written, books up on KDP, complete with shockingly bad cover art.
But for those of us who have researched it, we know better. In some cases, it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between books that are self-published, and those that are traditionally published.
The advantages are obvious. You get to choose the cover (please hire a designer though), you can market it in any way that you want, and all of the royalties are yours. No sharing them with anyone!
It also gives you a certain degree of flexibility. If you’ve gotten a few good reviews but the book still isn’t selling, you can change the cover, or even the title, and see if it makes a difference.
You also get access to the back-end of the online retailers, so if you pay for a promotion or ad, you can see instantly if it had any impact on your sales.
The whole process is a lot quicker, depending on the workload of your editors and beta readers. You’re looking at months instead of years.
Naturally, all of the things I’ve listed as advantages are also self-publishing’s disadvantages. You have to find, hire and manage an editor and a cover designer, as well as possibly outsourcing the formatting of the book – and you have to pay for these yourself.
Doing all of the marketing can be tiring, but you’ve probably figured out by now that you’ll need to market no matter which option you choose. Paying for ads can be pricey, and you need to make sure you don’t spend more than you’ll ever earn back.
Finally, it can be a lonely journey. You’ll need to find a team of fellow indies, beta readers, or supportive friends to help you follow a tough, but very rewarding path.
If you want more control over the process, then self-publishing could be the route for you!
Ultimately, whichever path you choose, you’ll need to do your research first. Be sure your chosen path is right for you!
Which publishing route are you most drawn to? Let me know!
Icy writes dark fantasy and Gothic horror, as well as the odd pulp Western! She has been published by independent presses since 2011. You can find her posts about the craft of writing and her explorations of folklore on her blog at http://www.icysedgwick.com/. You can also pick up a free copy of Harbingers, her collection of speculative fiction stories, here! Follow her on Twitter @IcySedgwick.