Yesterday (10/17/10), was Cancon2 (If you don't know what that is see the post before this one) and I met some great people there, most of which wanted to "pick my brain". I had mentioned to Chris Watkins (Click his name. Do it!) that I wrote a blog about the pros and cons of how I felt about each side of the tracks, Traditional publishing vs Self-publishing. I found that had I archived it on my website and then said (perhaps out loud) "Damn, no one is gonna find this!" So, I re-posted here for you all to see (again)! (Sorry it's sooo long.)
(Posted on July 1, 2009 at 9:10 PM)
In my last blog regarding the 10 (or so) accomplishments before I die, I listed two important points: 1. I want to self-publish a novel and 2. I want to have a novel traditionally published. This has led me to further investigate the true differences between both aspects of publishing and which is the best way to go. I cannot answer the latter, but the former is what is causing me to write this blog.
First, traditional publishing is already dubbed as the "best way" of getting an author's book into the hands of the masses. I don't disagree with this. I find that it makes everything much easier on the author to have someone else deal with all the headaches. The number one reason (for me) to traditionally publish a book is because of the marketing aspect. Traditional publishers, such as Random House, Penguin, and Harper Collins have always stocked the shelves in a bookstore. There is no reason why one should not try this route. Hence, the reason for including Getting a Traditional Published Novel on my accomplishments blog.
Second, (and I do believe this is always worth maintaining after signing a contract) you create a better reputation for the millions of possible readers out there. Of course, this reputation is already supplied because of the marketing and editorials that have been given by top name reviewers and such. It's also implied that you're not as good of an author if you have to resort to self-publishing over traditional. Apparently, the outlooks is that no agent or publisher would accept your work. Yes, it's heartbreaking to be rejected in anything that you set your heart on, but it happens to us all -- even if you're not a writer.
As for self-publishers, publishing is a harrowing and back-breaking ordeal. You, the author, have to do all the work -- except for physically printing and binding, of course. Out of pocket costs may be lower if you find the right printer and you will retain 100% of your rights, which enables you to decide where it goes from there (ie: traditional publishing, or movie deal.) This is by far a nice concept, because the royalties are much higher for a self-publisher than they are for authors who follow the traditional path and depending on what type of printer you use, their printing costs can vary.
Self-publishers have to be constantly marketing their books. I have posted endless links to this site on Facebook, sent emails to everyone I know, used my family's connections (I'm not Italian or Russian so this in no way implies mob connections) to spread the word, joined numerous webs rings, and even made business cards to "hand out" or "shove" in peoples faces (wink, wink).
Word of mouth is always the best way to spread the news. Even books that aren't on the NYT bestsellers list is "pushed" through the grape-vine to boost sales. I'll be lucky as a self-publisher to get more than 20 books sold by word of mouth in a year, but contests and door prizes are always helpful to get that word out and searching Google for these contests helps if they are in line with my genre. Thanks to the great site that is Goodreads.com, anyone can list a book for a giveaway. I plan on doing so myself, so you might want to join Goodreads.com if you want the chance for a free copy of a signed book. (See that? That was word of mouth marketing for theGoodreads site as well as for myself! Two birds, one stone.)
There are some interesting instances that I've found about self-publishers which helps to motivate those that choose this route. (I'm almost complete with this accomplishment.) One of which is about Lisa Genova, author of Still Alice. She tried for a year to traditionally publish her book and after numerous rejections she chose iUniverse to self-publish it. It only took another year before she received a contract and a generous sum of money. This then shows that in some cases, self-publishing isn't detrimental to the authors reputation. Another expamle is of the author for A Time to Kill. John Grishman first self-published his book and sold 100,000 copies out of his truck and then after being spotted by a publisher/agent he sold another 100,000 to become a number one bestseller and well-known author.
As for getting involved with your own marketing for self-publishing -- there is numerous ways to do this. And yes, money is involved. PRweb helps get you a press release and puts your name out there. If you're a site holder on webs then you know about the free promotions you can get with Adwords on Google and Yahoo!, but you'll always do better with more options. The other options include paying for Kirkus Reviews to review your book. This sounds great, but it's $300 dollars. I have also found another site will review your book for $15 per review, but these are regular people who just like to read. The kicker here is that they post their reviews to Amazon or Barnes and Noble or they can send it to you directly so you can print the review on your book before publication. I ask myself, "Who are they? And why would anyone who's picking up my book care what a nameless-wonder says?"
Any publicity is good publicity. Unfortunately there is no guarantee that everyone will give you a positive review (Kirkus included.) This worries me because if it's hated, it will break my heart. (Comes with the job, Jaime, suck it up!) I know that not everyone has to like it and I respect that. Not everyone loves Twilight. I read the books, and they belong in my library, but I am not obsessed. In fact, I hate it because of the movies, but I still say Stephenie Meyer is a fantastic writer. I'd recommend the books to anyone (over 13) and would still say that it's worth the cost. I do have to smile when I hear people say, "No, I don't want that." when it's offered to be bought by a parent or friend in a bookstore.
I'm getting a little off topic.
Another debate is about the presentation of the book -- the formatting and design of the cover and interior pages. Self-publishers usually get to do this themselves or give their insight into it. Traditional publishers do not give the author this choice. Most authors are unhappy with their first and sometimes second editions of their books when it is released. There is nothing they can do about it. Publishers see authors as writers and only writers -- not artistic in any sense of the word. For some this may be true, I on the other hand, am married to an Art Director at a marketing firm. He has some connections and the knowledge base to get me what I need. And I get it all for free! In turn, he gets his art out there for others to see and a way to market himself too. I'm lucky enough to love all aspects of the art world and I include writing in that world, which I am grateful for a visual mind and degree in Fine Arts, also. I knew what I wanted my book to look like before it became a novel, before it was an illustrated novel, and before it was a comic book, which it started as.
So, I'm not making a decision for anyone on which is best for them or what they plan to do with this information. I just wanted to let everyone know what the aspects are of each side of the continuum and how I view it. I hope you get a better perspective for what my small amount of research has taught me. I'm still looking forward to reaching both of my accomplishments and if you'd like to comment on this blog about what you've learned about traditional publishing vs self-publishing, I'd love to hear about it.
Writer's Digest Magazine