A Question of Publishing Routes

To an author, the hardest dilemma they may face today is a question of publishing route.  Do you want to go down the traditional publishing route or does the idea of self-publishing appeal to you? This decision can come down to a variety of things, and opinion is split as to which one is best, for the author, for the reader, and for the writing industry as a whole.

It is often said that most authors would ideally go down the route of having their book traditionally published.  But why?  Because it speaks volumes in terms of having the backing of a publishing house.  Your work, and your talent, is being endorsed, recognised by those ‘in the know’; those who understand the writing industry, those who know what it takes to write a quality book, those who know the market, and those who know a great book and a great author when they see them.  It also does wonders for one’s confidence to know that your work was chosen above potentially thousands of other novels.  So what other benefits are there?  Well, for a start, professional editors get to ‘fix’ your manuscript, giving your words a polished, professional look.  Then there are professional cover designers, marketers, international sales teams…the list goes on.  But the available places on the books of big publishing houses are very, very limited.  On the downside, the time frame from submission to printed book available in the bookshops is lengthy – I have come across estimates of two years in some cases.

Today, the likelihood is that the majority of authors and would-be-authors have to look elsewhere to fulfil their publishing dreams and ambitions…

Self-publishing has become very easy over recent years.  Anyone can be a writer and publish their work.  This is great for the authors who believe their very life’s purpose is to see their book(s) published, to know that someone out there is reading what they have written.  There is a down-side to this though, and I have already mentioned it “Anyone can be a writer and publish their work.”  There is an argument that with the rise of self-publishing, an already saturated market has been inundated with mediocre offerings, which in turn is harming the industry as a whole.  Those who managed to put together professional-standard books are finding their work hidden amongst the badly written and badly presented.  But does this mean that the self-published route should be avoided?  As with any form of publishing, we have to rely on the reader to know a good book from a bad book.

A good self-published book is not easy to achieve.  Not only does the author have to come up with a well-written manuscript, but they have to transform themselves into a top-notch editor and cover designer, not to mention be able to format their book as well as successfully market it.  After all, a book is like any other product.  The better it is or is perceived to be, the more likely a potential reader will be willing to part with their money for it.  As economic strictures force disposable income levels down, the harder it becomes to sell a book, especially when you’re self-taught in all the areas mentioned above, and possibly without the network and connections to market the said book.

Self-published books have, on the whole, have got  a bit of bad press.  Poor grammar, bad spelling, low standard or grasp of language, are all often cited as to why self-publishing is disliked in some quarters…but then of course, not every self-published book falls into this bracket.  I have read many self-published books and most of them have been well-written, engaging and well-worth paying for and subsequently reading.  The truth is, without self-publishing there are many books and authors that I would never have come across.

Then there is the question of what is the purpose of having your book published.  Are you hoping that it will become a new career? Possibly a hobby that will bring in a little extra cash? Are you doing it for the pleasure of doing it, and sharing your words for free?  What do you think of the term “vanity publishing”?  Do you agree with it or does it offend you?  Do you think such a label implies that your writing/book is substandard?  The ultimate question is this: Where do you see it leading?

Arguably there are repercussions if you go down the self-publishing route.  What if your work is spotted after you have had it self-published?  Can self-publishing now impact your chances of get traditionally published in the future?

As was said at the beginning of the piece, the choice before an author is not an easy one.  Currently, I am asking myself the same questions.  Having written two complete novels in a series, in September 2012 I wanted to see if I could do something with them because I love them (what author hates their own book?).  I decided to write a short story that preceded the series, a freebie if you will, to entice readers to my books (see The Magician front cover on the side bar).  The feedback I have received has been greater than I had expected.

In a way, that has now made my decision on how to proceed all the harder.  I am now working on the final stages of the follow-up to that short story, but when I should be concentrating on the finishing touches, instead I am questioning publishing choices.  If I could choose, of course, I would jump at traditional publishing in a heart beat.  Yet, as with every other author out there rejection is a hard knock to take.  I have been there once before; I didn’t much care for it, and I avowed I would never put myself through it again.  And yet…what if that is never an option presented to me?  It would seem like an awful waste of time and effort, sweat, tears and hard work, to see it all come to nothing, which brings us back round full circle, to self-publishing.  At least that way some people would get to read it, right?


5 thoughts on “A Question of Publishing Routes

  1. This really is a tough decision to make. The best advice I could add to this discussion would be to get an idea of what the journey is like from both sides of the fence. If you can find an author that has been traditionally published and would be willing to talk about it chat them up, the same with someone who has experience in the sefl-publishing industry. What at first seems like nothing but roses in the traditional publishing world is not always so simple. There are contracts that usually don’t benefit the author all that much, expenses one wouldn’t have thought of and the idea of getting to keep 70% or even 35% of your earnings isn’t even a thought unless you get beyond the midlist of the publisher.


  2. Pingback: Self-Publishing Options « Sammi Cox

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