S1, E15: Traditional vs Self-Publishing


In this week’s episode, I discuss traditional publishing versus self/indie publishing, including how the two processes differ and the pros/cons of each. I also discuss which I’ve chosen for myself and why, and issue a reminder to be safe regardless of which method you choose by avoiding scammers!

The Publishing Debate

  • Topic has 7+ million hits on Google
  • “Traditional” Publishing
    • How it generally works:
      • You write and polish your novel
      • You write and polish a query letter
      • You send that out with the first few pages to agents, trying to hook one
      • Once you have an agent, they may make suggestions/edit requests to your book
      • Once they feel it’s ready, they craft a new query and begin following the same process with publishing houses
      • If the receiving editor likes it and the purchasing folks agree, they make an offer
      • Contract is negotiated (though there is often little room to negotiate for first-time writers) and once everyone is satisfied, signed
      • Publisher most likely will request more changes
      • Once they are happy with it, it goes off to book design, may be renamed, and is printed
      • Writer will likely be expected to do own marketing as well as any the publisher might do
      • Writer receives an advance and, once they have earned that out, future royalties
    • Big Six now Big Five Publishers: Simon and Schuster,HarperCollins, Macmillan, Random House/The Penguin Group (merged 2013),andHachette; (Harper & Simon also considering)
      • Many imprints under these that you may not realize are imprints, such as St Martin’s Press, New American, Grosset & Dunlap, Del Rey, Delacort, etc
      • These companies control roughly two-thirds of the U.S. consumer book publishing market
    • Middle Publishers include Scholastic Corporation, O’Reilly Media, W. W. Norton & Company, Harlequin Enterprises,
    • Small Press – usually publishes 10-30 titles a year versus hundreds, and can give you a more personal experience that feels lost in the bigger publishers and better chance of acceptance with more “niche” stuff
    • Agents
      • the big publishers require you to have them, many middle publishers do as well, while many smaller houses accept submissions directly from writers
    • Pros
      • Advances – and generally the bigger the publisher, the more you get
      • Distribution – they have the reach and marketing team to get books in many places that self/indie’s have a harder time getting in, like physical bookstores and libraries
      • “Respectability” – there are those who consider traditional publishing to be the only “real” publishing and some of the big reviewers don’t review indie works without ridiculously excessive payments
    • Cons
      • Loss of control – the publisher will ultimate decide the title, edits that will be made, the cover, etc
      • No control over the price of your work
      • Low royalties – as little as 10%, rarely above 20-25%
      • Process takes years and has a lot of “gatekeepers”
      • Slow slow process – can take years to get that first book from polished and in submission to a shelf
      • Mistakes seem almost permanent unless there is a reprinting for print works
  • Self-Publishing AKA Going Indie
    • How it generally works
      • You writes and polishes novel until they are fully satisfied with it
      • Most will hire a professional editor to give the book a final going over so they can be sure that what they release isn’t some typo ridden mess
      • Either design cover or pay for a cover designer
      • Write and polish the blurb
      • Write and polish press releases
      • Decide on platforms and convert work to appropriate formats
      • Find reviewers and send out review copies
      • Collect royalties, keep writing
    • Platforms –
      • Hard copy
        • CreateSpace (can direct tie to Kindle for Kindle Match)
        • Lulu (Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble)
        • Lightening Source (distributes to major book stores and libraries)
      • EBook
        • Kindle Direct Publishing
        • Smashwords (distributes to Apple, B&N, Kobo)
        • Lulu (Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble)
      • Pros
        • You retain 100% control of your novel from start to finish – you decide the title, you decide which suggested changes you like or don’t, you decide on the cover for better or worse, you set the prices, etc
        • Higher percentage of royalties – generally around 60-80% of the sales prices, though can go as low as 35% or as high as 100% depending on your pricing and distributer
        • Significantly faster time line – book from polished to published in just a few months, or even weeks
        • Ability to do corrections and quickly!
      • Cons
        • It’s all on you – marketing, production, etc – you essentially become your own business
        • Like any self-made business, it requires more time and more investment
        • Costs – you have to pay for all that stuff a publisher usually does: editing, cover design, marketing & promotions, review copies, website, etc
      • Personal choice
      • Avoiding the scams and thieves
        • Resources like Preditors and Editors & Writer Beware
        • Common Sense

Progress Report: Finished NaNo with 118,000+ words and just over 34% project completion

Goal: 30 chapters of my NaNo project by the end of December; get back to Aisuru by rereading what I have so far and seeing if it still draws me – if not, try to figure out what I changed that caused this

Random Recommendation: I issued a challenge to those listeners who are also writers to look into writing conferences in their area and see if one will be a good fit for them. I also mention two in Texas that are good to look at, DFW Writers’ Conference held in Dallas each May (http://dfwcon.org/) and the Writer’s League of Texas Agents and Editors Conference held in Austin each June (http://www.writersleague.org/)