I wrote a Facebook post not too long ago about the different kinds of publishing authors can rely on nowadays. You can go with the traditional publishers (the big 5 or mid-tier) or self-publishing. Now there are a lot of ups and downs to going traditional, which is why some authors (yours truly included) like going with a smaller publisher. It gives more freedom and is a nice step up from self-publishing that provides editors, book cover designers, and a little marketing support. No, I won’t get the billboards that someone like a James Patterson would get with his publisher, but only the biggest publishers can afford that kind of thing and really, they only doll out cash to their biggest authors anyway.
But the publishers will take their cut for providing all that. A portion of your sales will go to pay them and whatever expenses they accrue on your behalf, which is reasonable but means that you won’t get a 100% of your book sales. You get even less back if you have a literary agent working on your behalf to shop your book to publishers. But literary agents are necessary for most traditional publishers. Since most don’t take unsolicited manuscripts, you need to “apply” to different agencies and hope your book is something they like enough to pitch to the publishing houses.
This has its own set of problems for debut authors. How to write an inquiry letter, loglines, a catchy synopsis… It can be overwhelming. And, because these publishers and agents get so many inquiries daily, more often than not you will never hear back from them. You are just left to assume that after four months of silence, they gave your work a pass for some unknown reason.
I’ve been through that and it sucks. You find yourself getting excited just to get a rejection. Sure they said no but at least they said something! And a person can usually only take so much rejection before giving up, or hitting rock bottom like J.K. Rowling did before Harry Potter got picked up. So I totally get why people would get frustrated with the system and turn to self-publishing especially if they really believe in the story they have to tell. And sometimes, people don’t even want to bother with that and want to keep 100% of their sales and 100% of their creative control over their story and characters, which is completely understandable as well.
And there are so many services out there now that make the self-publishing process so easy! But just because it’s easy, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t research the right way to do it first. Different self-publishing platforms offer different tools and services, some free, some for a premium cost. Only you can decide what works best, but you have to do the research first.
I myself am pretty new to traditional publishing and my only experience is with a more indie publishing house. And at the end of the day, every writers experience is different and can vary based on their agent or even the genre that they write for. If you are curious about self-publishing, I recommend this article because it’s great and extremely helpful.
Now, I just finished reading a self-published book (you can read the review “Keeper of the Eye” on my other blog as well) and that’s honestly what inspired this entry. I have learned a lot with my brief time with my publisher and editor. I’ve learned things I wish I knew when I first started writing “The Monster of Selkirk” series. And one of the biggest things I have learned is the importance of show, don’t tell, and a good editor.
The above article mentions it too, all those self-published authors spent the most amount of money on an editor and it helps elevate their work to a level that is equal to the traditional publishing houses. When you don’t have that, it can perpetuate the stereotype that self-published books are all bad when they aren’t! And if you can’t afford an editor but want to publish your book anyway, you should! But find beta readers, even if they are just friends and family, though Goodreads does have a whole group for just such a thing.
I have considered self-publishing and didn’t for different reasons but may still go that route for new stories. If I do, you can bet that I’ll be hiring an editor and a beta reader. Because nothing kills a book like a negative review due to plot holes and typos regardless of how it is published. Such silly mistakes just show a type of laziness that isn’t necessary anymore. Because trust me, your favorite book had a whole slew of revisions done to it by a collection of professionals and non-professionals alike before you ever got to read it. Just because you self-publish doesn’t mean you can’t have your story looked at with the same lens.
So if you are shopping your book around to agents and publishers, do not give up heart so quickly. But if you are tired of the rejections and want to self-publish, or just go straight to self-publishing, do your research first. And really, think about getting professional editing services. It’ll make a world of difference in the end and avoid unnecessary negative reviews from people like me.