As I’ve stated before, I have looked at both traditional and self publishing. I have been actively researching both approaches to publishing and what they deliver. I wanted to put together a kind of advantages/disadvantages list because so many blogs, sites, articles, professionals, deities, beings, etc. in this industry were covering this and like so many other things, they seem to be really polarized on the topic.
Some good links to articles or blogs that have great information about this:
- I thought this was a well done article as well: http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidvinjamuri/2012/08/15/publishing-is-broken-were-drowning-in-indie-books-and-thats-a-good-thing/
Dean Wesley Smith is the extreme side of self publishing and he will tell you thinks most other wouldn’t dare. He has some great advice on writing and business and should be a part of anyone’s blogroll who is looking at self-publishing, even if you don’t agree with everything he says.
Kristine Katherine Rusch holds pretty much the same slant as Mr. Smith, which makes sense since they’re married. I actually prefer her stuff to his. She does a post on writing as a business every Thursday that is probably the best thing I read from my blogs each week.
Chuck Wendig is a hybrid author, and a pretty damn good one at that. His slant, to me anyway as an outside observer, is traditional. But he is a massive advocate for looking at all options and has some great posts on writing and publishing.
If there was any one blog to rely on solely, I would say it was the Passive Voice. Passive Guy posts stuff from around the web, usually twenty or thirty post a day. He’s actually how I found a good bit of the blogs I’m listing. His slant is definitely self-publishing, but he always has a valid reason for that perspective and posts stuff from other sources that are more traditional.
The grand puba of self-publishing, he started doing it himself when it was shunned and has built a very successful career that way. Go through his backlist, I’m serious.
David Gaughran has several books on how to be more successful with self-publishing and his blog is a great source for that as well.
Kristin Lamb is still a bit new to me, but she gives great advice on both writing and publishing.
Lindsay Buroker is a fantasy author with a great series. She started in the beginning and has great advice.
Joel Friedlander is a self-published author but he also sells several services. He has been working with both traditional and indie authors for years helping to design and market books.
Mike Shatzkin…honestly, I don’t really know what he does. He’s an analyst of sorts whose family has been in the publishing industry for near a century (if not more). He has a traditional slant and its more of a macro look at the industry as a whole (and really, really dry), but essential data.
Writer’s Beware is the resource for looking out for scams. If you have to pay money to do anything, visit them first. Also, on a side not, Ann Crispin was one of their founding members and a prominent science fiction author. She passed away last week after a long battle of cancer. I’ve never met or contacted her, but through her work we have all been protected. May she rest in peace.
- They got you covered. As in they cover the legal side, editing, cover design, marketing (more on that later), distribution, all that jazz. The estimates I have seen for a self published author to get a good editor and a nice cover are $500-$6000. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that.
- Advances. They offer them. Based on a lot of what I saw, they can vary from just a few hundred dollars (maybe a few thousand) to a seven figure deal like the one Ms. Fifty Shades of Grey got. It’s all based on your clout, what you bring to the table. If you are an expert in your field with a masive platform, you may be able to command a healtheir advance. If you are a genre fiction writer, you are one among many and you will get what they offer.
- Overall, it’s a relationship. I have seen several authors, agents, and editors discuss this as a business relationship where the author and publisher work together to make a superb product, that is commercially viable, and will earn revenue. You will have the expertise of a billion dollar enterprise.
- Also, you get the prestige of being selected by a gatekeeper.
- Low royalties; 5%-20% for print, about 25% for ebooks. Take that with a grain of salt, it was very hard to find any solid information on that. The bottom end of that number is going to be more typical for a new author.
- Marketing. Supposedly they do this for you, but consistently, from advocates of both types of publishing to editors and agents, I have heard that this is becoming less and less a thing they do unless you already have a big name. They are expecting the author to stay in the public and create his own fan base, but that’s pretty much what you’re going to have to do no matter what, it’s the world we live in.
- Control, they have it, you don’t. They decide your layout, cover, etc. More and more often, they are demanding rights to everything, including things they won’t exploit. Movie right, international rights, language rights, exclusivity requirements, etc.
- That whole gatekeeper prestige thing, well that’s working against you. They have the power, they get to be choosy. Your book will be subject to the whim of the market, the eye of the beholder, the marketing department, the sales department, the editor’s tastes, etc.
- Control, you retain it. This is your business and you are the CEO, for all intensive purposes you control it all because you are financing it all. The rights are yours, the decisions are yours, you choose the layout, the cover, story direction, all that.
- High royalty rates. On Amazon it’s either 35% or 70%. It looks like you get the higher one if you sell to more countries. If I’m wrong about that please correct me.
- You get to vet your work against the market directly. You don’t get the prestige of a gatekeeper, instead you get the fulfillment of going directly to people and having them buy and even critique your work.
- No one knows who the hell you are. This is true even if you are a traditinal author, but even more so for an indie.
- That control thing, well, the reason you get to call the shots is because you have to. No one else is going to do it for you. I have seen an 80/20 rule applied to this by several sources, meaning that you will spend twenty percent of your time writing and eighty percent marketing your book.
- Remember the quote above, the $500-$6000 for an editor and a book design? Everyone I have read, EVERYONE, has said this is essential. It is not optional. A lot of people are talking about the market being flooded by bad books because anyone can post an unedited book for free.
- You are also losing out on all the business people involved with this. Agents and editors know the market, they know what sells and how to sell it and striking out on your own loses you that advantage.
Another key point I have heard is that self published authors either already had a name out there, or as soon as they became big moved to traditional publishing.
One of the most positive, and to me hopeful, things I have seen is the idea that self publishing could move to being a sort of minor leagues for publishing houses, an area where they could scout for talent. That seemed to be a minority opinion and it certainly hasn’t made that shift yet. Every single agent I read about was very emphatic that when they say “already published” they are not referring to self published works.
I really hopes this helps people who are looking into this. If you have already taken either path or have an input (to prove or dissprove) on anything above, feel free to share.
Addendum: Vanity publishing is not self or indie publishing. If you see any connection whatssoever to Author Solutions, take a step back. Actually, I would say run the other way, but I like to encourage objectivity. Don’t pay someone hundreds or thousands of dollars for what you can learn to do on YouTube for free in a few hours. Also be aware, major publishing houses are partnering with these predatory businesses. Just because it says Penguin or Simon & Schuster on their website, don’t pay them anything to do what Amazon or Smashwords will do for free.
I said this twice up there, but I’m gonna say it again. DO NOT GIVE ANYONE YOUR LIFE SAVINGS, TAKE OUT A LOAN, MORTGAGE ANYTHING, SELL YOUR TITLE, OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT TO A COMPANY WHO WANTS TO CHARGE YOU TO DO SOMETHING THAT IS RIDICULOUSLY EASY TO DO, WILL TAKE A FEW HOURS, AND IS OFFERED FOR FREE BY MAJOR COMPANIES!!!! If you are going to take a risk, take the one that won’t bankrupt you, that won’t take the food from your mouth, or eat away your kid’s college fund.
This is pretty much traditional publishing, but a lot of them are doing business in a different manor than the major publishing houses. Some offer advances, some don’t. A lot pay for the cost of production, get you a cover, do some marketing, stuff like that.