Wednesday, November 5, 2014

On Writing: Traditional Publishing or Self-Publish?

"Self publishing? I thought that was the kiss of death for writers?"

When I originally drafted this blog series, it was. I never would have recommended that a writer self-publish their work, for it entailed going to a vanity press to print and distribute their novel, which screamed of desperation. Rightly or wrongly, readers and industry professionals looked down on those writers who went solo, either wondering how bad the book must be if no one wanted to publish it, or assuming the writer to be an amateur who just wanted to see their name in print. Back then, self publishing carried a stigma for writers, and those who went that route felt as though they wore a scarlet SP on their chest.

Then a revolutionary new technology was introduced that changed the publishing industry much the same way that the invention of moveable type did back in the 15th Century. Although this new technology has fundamentally altered the way writers and publishers conduct business, its potential has not yet been fully explored, nor the repercussions it will ultimately have on the industry.

Of course, I'm talking about the introduction of electronic publishing.

Electronic publishing made possible the expansion of independent publishing houses which, in turn, provided thousands of aspiring writers opportunities closed off to them when the mainstream publishers dominated the industry.

Ironically, the technology that generated the expansion of independent publishing now threatens the very industry itself. As the technology becomes increasingly user friendly, and as writers become more proficient in its use, both parties will be able to publish a product of equal quality. Among the services provided by an independent publisher are the editing and proof reading of a manuscript, arranging the cover art, and formatting both the print and e-book versions prior to release. Writers can obtain these same services from freelancers, many of whom perform these functions for the publishers. With regards to getting your books into brick and mortar stores, unless an independent publisher has an arrangement with one of the major distributors, then your books will be published as print on demand (POD) from the company's website or from Amazon. The same holds true for marketing. With the exception of a few independent publishers whose names are synonymous with their respective genre, and thus the brand name brings potential readers to the website, your marketing efforts will be little different from theirs. [NOTE: I'll be covering marketing efforts in future blog posts.]

So what can an independent publisher provide that a writer can't do for themselves?

The answer is nothing.

So why contract with an independent publisher rather than release the book yourself? The main reason is convenience. For the publisher, providing the above services is part of the routine of doing business, and they either have the in-house expertise or a cache of experts on retention. The publisher agrees to undertake all this in return for keeping most of the profit, providing the writer with royalties (on average, 10% for print books and 30% for e-books). For most writers, it's a convenient arrangement.

However, an increasing number of writers are turning to self publishing. While this requires a considerable expenditure of financial resources and time, there are distinct advantages. First and foremost, the writer keeps most of the profit. For example, if a writer publishes an e-book on Amazon's Kindle Select program and prices it between $2.99 and $9.99, they earns a royalty of 75%. This is double what the average contract will offer. The second biggest advantage is that the writer has full creative control over their work, especially the cover art, which is a major issue for many of us.

So the decision is up to each individual writer as to which method they feel most comfortable with. I've already tried it with one of my novellas and maintained my sanity through the process, so I'm going to attempt to self publish my next novel.

"That sounds like an awful lot of work. I don't think I'm ready to try self publishing yet."

Not a problem. It's not for everyone. Although I do think self publishing will become the next trend in the industry.

So let's work on finding someone to publish your manuscript.

NEXT BLOG: Finding a Publisher or Literary Agent, Part I

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