Traditional Publishing or Indie Publishing – Which Path to Take? Part 1

As I rework my manuscript, I’m trying to decide between traditional publishing and self-publishing. Both have pros and cons, but more and more, it seems it’s easier to find positive information about self-publishing and negative points about traditional publishing. Is traditional publishing really that bad? Do indie authors really have it so good? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Here’s what I’ve read about traditional publishing:

-You’ll have a reputable editor (in most cases), with a proven track record, who will help you bring the best out of your book.
-Between your agent (if you have one), and all the members on the editorial and marketing teams, you’ll have a lot of people on your side, wanting your book to succeed. Who doesn’t want support?
-While it’s said that publishers do very little (if any) marketing for their authors, you’ll still have their name on your book, branding you as a qualified author.
-Your agent and/or editor will help you determine deadlines that will work for you and your lifestyle.
-You’ll have more time to focus on writing because you won’t have to worry about researching and hiring a book cover artist, freelance editor, copy editor, or formatter, and scheduling out all those jobs.
-If you have a print contract, your book will appear in book stores and possibly book clubs.
-If you have a print contract, you can work with the publisher to schedule a book tour.
-Your agent or editor might have some of their known authors read your book and give you a review or quote that you can use for promotional purposes.
-You may sell more books through a traditional publisher. That’s certainly their goal, but nobody can predict what will sell and how well.
-Some people will respect your more for going the traditional route because this proves you can write, whereas self-publishing just means you wrote a book. You’ll have more to prove as an indie author.
-You won’t have to pay for extra services like editing, book cover design, formatting, etc.
-With a traditional publisher, you have a better chance of selling your international and subsidiary rights.
-You may collect an advance rather than pay someone to work on your book.
-You should have a wider distribution and bigger exposure.

-Not all publishing houses have good editors working for them, so you’re not guaranteed a good copy in the end (and you have no control over this).
-Some book covers might not meet your expectations (or might be awful and downright ugly). Again, you have no control over this.
-Publishers and agents take a good chunk of your change, leaving you with a small percentage per book.
-You have no control over the release date.
-The editor might have a different vision for your book and make you change or add things that you don’t like for your story.
-Some smaller publishers fold before your book is released, leaving it in some kind of strange limbo.
-Some smaller publishers close their doors and don’t pay their authors.
-You may not sell very many books. There are no guarantees. In fact, some self-published authors report selling more books themselves than when they were with a traditional publisher.
-You can’t control the pricing of your book, and traditional publishers price e-books too high.
-Depending on your contract, you might not get the rights back for your book for quite some time.
-Your contract might prohibit you from self-publishing anything or publishing with another publisher, limiting your exposure and ability to publish what you want, when you want.
-You may be forced to continue a series, even though you’re no longer interested in it.
-You’re expected to earn back your advance (and then some) or the publisher won’t pick up your next books (ones not already in this contract).
-The publisher may refuse to publish a book because it’s too controversial, doesn’t appeal to its audience, or the marketing team doesn’t know how to categorize it.
-This is a slow process. It usually takes 6-18 months before a book will be released from a publisher.
-It’s short-lived. Many print books are only on the shelves for several weeks before they’re removed, but that doesn’t mean you get your rights back immediately.
-Digital books can compete directly with self-published e-books, but the publisher keeps 70% of the electronic royalties, about the same that an indie author would collect for him/herself.
-I’ve heard that many authors don’t make any real money off their books going this route. Your advance, if you receive one, might be all you earn for the book. Would these authors have done better on their own? Hard to say.
-All this, and it’s not easy to break into this market. So, you could waste years trying to find an agent and/or publisher, when you could’ve been selling books.

Next week, we’ll look at the pros and cons of self-publishing. I’d love to hear about your experiences with either. Please share.

If you’re looking for a copy editor, I have three extremely qualified copy editors on my editorial team. They don’t need a lot of notice, usually a month or less. Ask for a sample copyedit and quote today.

Lynnette Labelle

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