Thursday, March 10, 2011

More on Self-Publishing Versus Traditional Publishing

The past few days have been dedicated to the growing conflict between my spouse and me regarding the differences of opinion relating to self-publishing.

Here is the basic argument: My husband believes that self-publishing is the route I should take.

His primary reason for this is the delay between a publisher accepting a piece of writing versus the time it actually makes it into print. He views the delay as a loss of money, as self-publishing would allow for a longer print run.

Now, I cannot disagree with this. The harsh reality is a 14+ month wait from acquisition to print. It is a difficult pill to swallow. Now, granted, I can be working on my next novel in that period of time, but with ever shrinking advances, 5k (and that is being too charitable!!) isn't a whole lot to live on for 14 months. I can make more than 5k in 14 months on cheap contract work. (Which my husband enjoys pointing out.)

I do not want to delude myself into thinking I could get a big advance. I'm somewhat realistic.

However, my argument comes up in I would have to foot the bill on the things the publisher would typically pick up. These include:

- Cover Art
- Formatting for print
- Formatting for ebooks
- Editing
- Basic Marketing
- Distribution

Now, there are a few perks to going this route. These include:

- Picking my own cover art, hiring the artist of choice, etc
- Picking my editor.
- Handling my marketing or picking someone I trust to do my marketing for me.
- Fast publication time.
- Selecting my own pricing.

There are disadvantages. These include:

- A lot more edit work I have to do on my own.
- Investment for all of the above things a publisher would normally handle.
- No brand backing my work.
- No agent for advice. Some self-pubbers have agents, but I strongly doubt I would get approached by an agent, and I expect I would be busy enough where I would not have time to go shopping for one.
- The negative impact of having gone the self-publishing route.

There are shared advantages and disadvantages of each, of course. The most notable point being::

- There is NO guarantee that I would succeed either by traditional OR self-publishing methods.

There are a lot of things missing from this list. I realize this. This is a uncomplicated form for those who are just dipping their feet into the process of determining which route is best.

On a personal front, I want to support the traditional publishing venue. However, I have to be realistic as well. I can afford to invest ~$1,500 to get my cover art, start marketing, and pay an editor to pick over my book.

I do not think I can afford to wait 14+ months with no chance of income at all. It is all-or-nothing in my personal situation. I have the choice of contract work -- which is paying less and less with each passing day as individuals seek volume and sacrifice quality. Or, I can buckle down and start producing books and selling them for the kindle or print.

At least this way, the stories I love to write might make it out to the populations that like to read. It is unlikely I will land in the coveted top 100. But, if I do not take life by the horns and ride the bull, I will never have a chance at all to shine.


  1. I am also contemplating taking the plunge into indie publishing--at least for the Kindle (I am not interested at this point in POD or other types of print pubbing). But I really think Kindle ebooks are a whole different animal than the usual self-pubbing. Distribution, for instance, is less of an issue than with print self-publishing, since the Kindle store will carry your work, and if you price it low there are plenty of people willing to give your book a try even if they haven't heard of you before.

    As far as things like cover art--I think I'd want to do my own (I have a bit of an artistic side to me, and for Kindle all you need is a 72 dpi jpeg) but I've seen people saying they got cover art for as low as $35-$50. It doesn't have to be loads of $$$ ... I'm actually even contemplating offering services to do cover art at some point. Formatting ... well, my husband could help me with that (he's a programmer), and I hear Calibre is free and it does conversion to epub and .mobi. I MIGHT have to hire someone to do it if I decide to go this route and I can't make sense of the formatting. We'll see.

    I'm still learning about everything, but there's a wealth of info out there on the internet ...

  2. This may sound facetious, but why not do both? As you said, with the 14 month turnaround you have time within that to write and self-publish. In addition, you can have multiple identities, one for your self-published work and one for traditional. The only drawback with that is that any audience you build with one identity wouldn't transfer over to the other unless it's revealed.

    Kindle self-pub would probably work well for any book that doesn't find an outlet through a traditional publisher. If it's priced low enough then just about anyone would give it a try. You could make a lot of money that way, or you could completely strike out.

    Your husband is pushing self-pub, so what help is he offering? As you stated, self-publishing is a huge undertaking, even if you're only doing it electronically, never mind actually printing physical books.

    For me personally, I intend to pursue traditional publishing. I'm in a good position though. I have a day job that pays all my bills and live alone, so I have time to pursue my writing each night and no one to answer to. I can afford to wait and keep plugging away.

    Whatever route you take, I wish you the best of luck. :)

  3. Hi, Rebecca,
    Whatever you decide will be the right choice -- you can rely on that. Meanwhile, love your craft and put your best effort into it. Writing is an art, and the only wrong decision is to disrespect it.

    I don't try to sway anyone on this particular decision. As you may know, my hubby Alex and I decided to take the self-publishing route and we have had no regrets. There has been no negative impact. I do think it's important, though, to be realistic in the expectations, whether one lands a traditional publisher or "takes it to the street". Selling books is hard work. Only the few top level writers turn a large profit at it.

    The rest of us do it for love, and the occasional positive review is a boost. The best part is connecting with readers. I'll never regret reaching out to those wonderful people who have enjoyed my books.