Shall I be a Drone Bee or the Queen? Hmmm…

M’kay, so I’ve been going back and forth in this whole self-publishing (or indie publishing – whatever the heck you want to call it) versus traditional publishing debate. So I thought I stick my nose into it. Don’t chop it off – these are just my opinions.

Had you asked me last year my own personal goal I would have said traditional publishing all the way, baby – seeing my glossy paperbacks on bookstore shelves, being able to tell people I’m an author with so and so big name publisher and etc. Then sometime in the beginning of this year I began wavering on that stance. Now, I am SERIOUSLY considering going the indie route. As I was walking my dog this morning, watching her NOT do her business like she’s supposed to, I began thinking about this debate again. At the same time the beginning of A Tale of Two Cities popped into my head:

“IT WAS the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”

Does this not sum up the world of publishing as it stands right now?

As readers we have our pick of reading material – the good, the bad, and the atrocious. And also the amazing, life-changing, breath-taking. It’s anyone’s guess if the next ebook you purchase will be of the “age of wisdom” or the “age of foolishness.”

As writers, our potential for exposure has never been so unlimited. Tools for getting your writing into the hands of readers abound. Yet, with that abundance comes the paralyzing dilemma of CHOICE. Unless you educate yourself on both indie publishing and traditional publishing, then FURTHER educate yourself on the different companies and platforms, you are just begging to

a). get taken advantage of

b). have your book sit in the dark and murky depths of a digital marketplace graveyard

c.) become so overwhelmed that you give up.

My own personal strategy (and advice) is to read just about everything you can about publishing. Learn the ways of the beast and you can successfully trap it.

So, I put together a list of pros and cons in the self-pub and trad-pub debate. These points are garnered from miss-mashed from several lists I found online.

Self-Publishing

Pros

  1. Almost instant distribution with digital publishing. Self-publishing print process is still WAY faster than traditional publishing, though.
  2. Author retains total control of the content.
  3. Authors get the majority of, if not all, profit from their sales. Remember, though, depending on what company you go with, you might have to pay them a certain percentage of the proceeds. And you still gotta pay them taxes. Bleh.
  4. No chance of rejection. This is a pro because I think many agents and publishers accept or reject things on a whim. Don’t get me wrong, there are LOTS of top-quality professionals out there who have great taste. But… come on, I mean look at the huge bestsellers in the past few years and then tell me that ALL agents and publishers have perfect taste ALL the time. And don’t even ask me why these particular titles became bestsellers… I don’t want to offend anyone 🙂
  5. Lots of options for digital/print combos
  6. Royalties paid more frequently.
  7. No agent necessary. Again, you get to keep that money in your pocket. Ka-ching!

Cons

  1. Depending on the company/media you use, the publishing process can cost the author(s) thousands of dollars.
  2. You basically are in business for yourself. You have to handle just about every aspect of the process in addition to trying to write.
  3. No chance of rejection (notice this was a pro too). “Anyone can self-publish, which means that self-publication gets clogged with vanity projects and books so poorly written they drag the reputation of everyone else down with them.”** We are in dirty water, my friends.
  4. You have to pay for editing services or try to do them all yourself (not a good idea). Hint: there are online writers/critique groups that can help with this for just the cost of your time (Critters.org, for example).
  5. Much harder to get print books into bookstores and libraries.
  6. Potential for big or even steady income is MUCH less. “50% of self-published authors make less than $500 on their book. 10% of self-published authors earn 75% of the money in that field, which means while the average for a self-published author is $10,000 a year, that statistic is hugely skewed by the top earners.”** And 10K a year ain’t gonna pay the mortgage in any case.

Traditional Publishing

Pros

  1. No cost to the author. You are an employee for the publisher (when you get right down to it, you know it’s true).
  2. Most of the “business” aspect is handled by others. That way you can have more time to concentrate on writing that next hot hit.
  3. Certain amount of prestige being selected by a print publisher, especially one of the big names. Raise your hand if you have at LEAST one person in your life who won’t take your writing seriously until a.) You’ve been snapped up by a big name publisher or b.) You make a million dollars with indie publishing. (Raises hand timidly)
  4. Get to work with seasoned/knowledgeable editors (great learning experience). Always an amazing draw towards Trad-pub.
  5. Easier to sell international and subsidiary rights.
  6. More likely to get film options. Who doesn’t want to be the next Suzanne Collins or J.K. Rowling?
  7. Potential for wider distribution and greater exposure. Getting in those bookstores and libraries.
  8. Larger advances. Can you even imagine holding a check for $5,000? Made out to you? That you got for doing something you love to do? I sure can’t.
  9. Many trade publications and blogs will only review books published traditionally. Goes along with exposure.

Cons

  1. A manuscript can take years to become a book. Years people.
  2. Authors make very little off their books compared to what the publishing company takes. And royalty rates are pitifully low. All that blood and sweat you put in just writing your book, well others are getting rich off that.
  3. Your book has a much smaller window of success. After a few weeks, most books stores will pull non-selling books from the shelves.
  4. Very hard to break into. Though it seems if you are a mediocre writer and put lots of sex in a book you can make it. Can you tell I’m bitter about this?
  5. Only pay royalties twice a year on average. I guess that’s so the publisher can make it look like you are getting more than you really are.
  6. Agent is pretty much a requirement (and they take a chunk of your profits, pitiful as they are).
  7. Despite the vast resources at their fingertips, publishers are not the best at promoting the books of new or midrange authors. They are focused on the big names who have proven sales records. You still have to do all that work yourself (and the publishing company is the one who gets the most financial benefit, again).

And then of course there are the “hybrid authors.” Mysterious, mystical creatures who have made the publishing industry their bitch. These writing hydras take the best of both publishing strategies and make a kick-ass life from it. Hugh Howey, Chuck Wendig, David Mamet, Laraine Herring are just a few names you can research to see how they did it. Don’t get me wrong being a hybrid author still entails a TON of work. But it is YOU, the author, who gets the most financial benefit from all that work – as it should be. And hey, if you want a kick-ass life, you better be willing to kick some ass. Dig it?

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