To self-publish or not to self-publish–if you’re a writer, you’d better be thinking about your answer long before someone else asks you the question. The two paths eventually diverge, and traditional publishing is quickly becoming the road less taken.
Coming out of Mount Hermon, Lisa and I were asked if we’d considered self-publishing, rather than going to the ABA. We’d both previously wrestled with this question, but now found ourselves faced with it once again because of the uniqueness of our book. So, like the planner I am, I decided to do some research on the pros and cons of both (and share my findings with you of course).
Benefits of Traditional Publishing
If you’ve been following along with our story and our past posts, you’ve probably already guessed what I see as a major benefit of traditional publishing–validation. Even though the stigma around self-publishing is rapidly fading, a large part of me still feels like I need a traditional publisher to prove to my extended family that I’m not a fool and a failure.
Self-publishing advocates will say readers can provide validation by loving your book, but I’m not sure that will be enough for me. I’m honest enough to admit that I need more than that. To feel like a success, I also need to earn the respect of my family or earn enough respect in the industry that I no longer crave it from my family. Traditional publishing gives me the best chance for that.
No up-front investment is also highly appealing. I’m a newlywed whose American husband isn’t able to work in Canada while waiting for his permanent residency, and Lisa is a mother of three. We sacrificed to make it to California for Mount Hermon. We’re not sure where we’d find the money to self-publish. We need to get paid for what we write, rather than paying someone else to publish it.
If we go with a traditional publisher, we’ll have their marketing, publicity, and distribution clout behind us (or as much as they’re willing to invest in us). We’re willing to hustle. We’re ready to market and promote our work. But we don’t feel capable of doing it all on our own, and hiring someone would, again, involve a bigger financial investment than we’re capable of making.
Finally, we want the confidence that we’ve put out the best possible book, and we feel that having an agent and an editor review our book and suggest improvements gives the best chance of doing that. An agent will also be able to give us the long-term career advice that we can’t get anywhere else.
Industry professionals who’ve spoken out in support of traditional publishing include . . .
Rachelle Gardner in Five Reasons to Pursue Traditional Publishing
Benefits of Self-Publishing
Authors who self-publish get more of the profits from their books. They don’t have to give 15 percent to an agent and the majority of what their book brings in to a publisher. People with the ability to sell large quantities of books on their own can quickly make back their initial investment.
No gatekeepers in self-publishing can be a blessing as well as a curse. Not all of us love bonnet fiction. Some of us love edgy space adventure. Or fantasy. Or historical fiction set somewhere other than eighteenth century Victorian England or the Wild West of America. (No offense intended if you love those. To each his own.) A self-published author only needs to please their target audience. They don’t have to worry about a publisher dropping them because too many readers complained their novel was too gritty.
You can move quickly with self-publishing. Books produced by a traditional publisher often take two to three years to reach the public. If you’ve written a non-fiction book on a topic that’s currently in the news, you might need to get it out within months rather than years. Even if you haven’t, who doesn’t find a shorter wait appealing?
Industry professionals who openly support self-publishing include . . .
Jane Friedman on self-publishing.
Joe Konrath in his post that asks Are You Dense?
Nathan Bransford in Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing: Which Way Will Make You More Money?
What We Decided
In the end, we ended up back where we started. Our choice is to seek a traditional publisher. Our decision isn’t the right one for everyone, but we believe it is the right one for us at this point in our individual and co-writing careers.
Time for you to chime in. Which direction are you taking your career and why? Do you think we’ve overlooked something important in making our decision?