Note: My work with new clients often begins with a conversation on the options they have for publishing, the timetables associated with those choices, and the costs. The majority of my clients choose to self-publish for various reasons, among them that they are unknown, their work is simply for their family and friends, or they don’t want to wait to get their work out into the world. I’m following up a two-part series on traditional publishing versus self-publishing with a series on the topics I counsel authors on as they consider which road to choose. This blog looks at the reasons authors want to publish traditionally.
Traditional publishing is a full-time job that begins before you even complete your manuscript. In addition to writing your book, you must create an online presence, write a query and proposal, and find an agent to get by the big houses.
Why would anyone go to all that trouble when you can simply self-publish your book, with a guide like me to help you, or on your own on Amazon?
The seasoned writers I work with have one key reason for wanting to publish with a big house—or with any publisher with a well-established imprint—and that’s prestige.
There was a time when self-publishing meant bad writing that no one else would touch, but I don’t believe that is the case in this tech age when there are so many indie publishers as well as businesses, like mine, that offer editing help to ensure a self-published manuscript is a quality one.
While I agree that nothing would be more empowering than a contract with powerhouses like Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, or McGraw-Hill, I do not have the patience to go that route.
I also firmly believe that having a self-publishing partner makes all the difference in ensuring a gripping, clean, quality manuscript. Authors should not publish their own work without the benefit of an objective editor, who will assure that the work holds together, is not redundant, and is free of typos, cliches, and other problems.
What I can’t argue with, though, is that working with a publishing house greatly increases your distribution opportunities, and thus, gives your potential readers more access to your title.
A publishing house will get your book into libraries and bookstores across the country. When I speak with a new author, I always point out that this is a shortcoming for Janice Beetle Books, and it’s one I’m working on. I’m looking to find channels that will allow me to get my clients’ books into stores and book catalogs, but I’m not there yet!
Even with books in a bookstore, though, authors can’t rest in their marketing efforts because publishers do not do the PR for you. They’ll get your book on the market, but you need to tell readers it’s there.
You will still need to do a book tour. You’ll need online channels to call attention to those readings and the feedback you will get as a result. You need to pitch the media, and otherwise work the PR engine.
Another benefit of working with a publisher is the advance and payment you will receive. No one will pay you for getting your self-published book into the world, and it will be difficult to recoup the cost of editing and design. (More on that in a later blog.)
Honestly, though, the amount you might expect to receive from a publisher will likely not cover the cost of your marketing efforts. And you may need to spend some of the advance on finalizing your manuscript.
One author I know who has been working to publish his book in the traditional manner for about two years recently secured a five-figure advance but then had to spend almost half of it for photography to illustrate the book. The publisher would not cover that cost.
There is much to consider as you weigh the options: Should I self-publish, or reach for the traditional way?
I’m happy to talk about what the best route might be for you if you’d like to reach out. And keep reading this blog series as we’ll next look at the benefits of self-publishing and then, finally, the cost.
Whatever you do, don’t let worrying over publishing get in the way of your writing.