In the midst of all your book preparations, there’s a very important decision you have to make: how to publish. Now, in the midst of all your revising and editing, is the time to decide and start. You don’t need to wait! Although if you’re anything like me, you’ll be somewhat inclined to put off the decision given it’s a pretty big one.
I won't lie to you, it can be incredibly daunting to dive into the publishing process. As daunting as it is though, it's that much more rewarding. There are essentially two camps for the publishing process these days: traditional and independent. There are pros and cons to both approaches that you need to consider fully when making a decision on what to pursue. This week, we’ll be going over a side-by-side comparison of the two and later we’ll dive more in-depth.
To go with traditional publishing, you would essentially start writing query letters to literary agents and publishing houses pitching your book and it's details. You can find a lot of articles and blogs that cover writing query letters that are very helpful. With a lot of effort, time, and no small amount of luck, an agent will agree to work with you and submit your work to publishers. From there it's a matter of your agent finding a publisher that will accept your manuscript. This is where all the rejection letters come in. There are all sorts of stories out there of wildly successful authors who were rejected dozens of times before their work was accepted. It takes a lot of gumption.
The pro of traditional publishing is that the publisher takes care of production and distribution of your work. You have their contacts to rely on for a certain amount of book sales and there's a certain amount of trust people have in a book that's traditionally published. Traditional publishing is also the way to go if you have your heart set on seeing your book on the shelves of a brick and mortar bookstore.
The cons of traditional publishing are that the level of distribution is not what it once was, especially in regards to marketing. The impetus is very much on the author to market their own book. There's also something to be said for creative control. Going through traditional publishers means your work will be scrutinized from a lot of different angles and changes will be made. Some publishers will push an author into contracts that can really restrict their creative control.
The other option is independent publishing. I'm not referring to just self publishing on Amazon and calling it done (though Amazon may well be the agency you could choose to go through). In independent publishing, you self publish through places like Amazon or IngramSpark (all of which have a lot of literature on how to use their services), but you have a full bore marketing and distribution plan in place. I'm talking ad space, speaking events, promotional items, social media platforms, the works. Essentially you are taking on all the distribution and promotion work that a traditional publisher might have done.
The pro of independent publishing is that you have complete creative control. No one is going to tell you they won't publish your book unless you change XYZ. (That's not to say don't listen to your editor friends and beta readers). It's more that you know the book you're putting out there is a book you can stand behind fully and you aren't being restricted creatively. You also can make more money directly from independent publishing as an agent or publisher won't be taking that cut. Be aware though of what you would need to be spending in your marketing plan.
The cons of independent publishing are mostly around recognition. You wouldn't have the same name backing as you would from a publishing house, so you're having to build that trust with readers as well that you have a book worth reading. You're starting from the ground up. Independent publishing is a lot of work. You aren't just being the author, you are the business owner as well. This is the route I've taken, and I can attest to how much work it is. My best advice if you choose this route would be team up with people who excel in the areas your knowledge is lacking. I have a business manager because business is not my forte. It allows me to dedicate my time to what I'm good at and actually write. Again. you have to find what works for you.
There can also be an almost third option. In this one, you self publish and if your book is gaining traction and success, a publishing house will take notice and offer to take on your book. In that case, you get the best of both worlds. You will have published the book you wanted to publish in all its creative control, and now also have access to the prestige of traditional publishing. This is rare, but it does happen. The Martian is one of the most recent examples of this kind of success story and this approach goes all the way back to Beatrix Potter! This is the stuff of big dreams though and shouldn’t be relied upon as a given. It’s up to you and only you to hustle and get your book out there.
It’s no small thing to pick your avenue for publishing. If it’s an absolutely agonizing decision for you, you’re probably just about on the right track. After all, nothing worth gaining ever comes easy. You have to put that time in. research and experiment and research and experiment until you find what works for you. There will be a lot of people who try to tell you "___ is the only way to write and publish a book!" And that's honestly just not true. They may have great ideas, but what works for them, may not work in the slightest for you. That's ok. Tinker with the process until you find your groove and so many other things will fall into place. It will come, just keep learning and keep at it.
Let’s find some joy,