The Key Consideration in Self-Publishing Versus Traditional Publishing

The Key Consideration in Self-Publishing Versus Traditional PublishingIn the past few weeks I covered the pros and cons of traditional publishing versus self-publishing (sometimes called indie publishing). I strove to be fair in comments and balanced in my coverage. Here are the four posts:

Where do I stand on this? Will I seek a traditional publisher or go the indie-publishing route?

Though this publishing deliberation looms as a decision every author needs to make on an author-by-author basis, it’s not that simple. It’s a consideration every author must make on a book-by-book basis.

Yes, depending on the book, some lend themselves to traditional publishing and others cry out for self-publishing. Critical considerations are the book’s topic, genre, and audience size, as well as an author’s goals for reach, distribution, and earnings. I have some books I hope to publish with a traditional publisher, while others I expect to go the self-publish route.

The key is that the self-publishing versus traditional publishing debate isn’t a once-and-done consideration, but it’s a topic to revisit with each book.Traditional publishing vs self-publishing isn’t an either/or decision. It’s a yes/and strategy. Click To Tweet

That’s my plan. I want to do both.

It’s called being a hybrid author. I will seek a traditional publisher when it makes sense and self-publish when that’s the better path. Combining these two options will maximize my career as an author—and hopefully my earnings potential at the same time.

Traditional publishing versus self-publishing isn’t an either/or consideration. It’s a yes/and strategy.

Six Downsides of Self-Publishing

Six Downsides of Self-PublishingIn my post “Five Reasons a Writer Should Self-Publish,” I listed several advantages of self-publishing. Although compelling, there are also downsides. Consider these six items:

1) Quality is Often Lacking: Traditional publishers put their books through several rounds of editing to produce the best possible product. The temptation of self-publishing is to skip these steps. Even if a professional editor is hired, the chance of them catching everything a traditional publisher would in their multiple rounds of review is slim. But too often, authors self-edit or tap a friend who, although well-intended, lacks the needed experience. From a production standpoint, there’s no reason for substandard output anymore. But it’s too easy and too tempting to cut corners.

2) Credibility May be Illusive: Although self-publishing no longer carries the stigma it once did, some people still consider it a second-rate option.

3) Self-Promotion is Required: Self-published authors are responsible for their own marketing, promotion, and sales. No one else will do it for you.Self-published authors (indie authors) must be entrepreneurs if they hope to be successful. Click To Tweet

4) The Author Must Become an Entrepreneur: Self-publishing is a business, requiring an investment of time, effort, and money—all with no promise of a return. It’s risky, and you could lose money.

5) Limited Distribution: Although some distribution options are available, they don’t match the reach of a traditional publisher. Don’t plan on your book being in bookstores.

6) No Advances: Self-publishers must shell out money to publish; advances are not part of the equation. You must spend money ahead of time and then hope to earn it back later and make a profit.

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Five Downsides of Traditional Publishing

Five Downsides of Traditional PublishingIn my post “5 Reasons Why a Writer Should Go With a Traditional Publisher,” I gave five advantages of traditional publishing. Although these reasons are compelling, there are also some downsides. Consider these five items:

1) It Takes Longer: Unless a book is “fast-tracked” it will typically take eighteen months to two years from your first pitch to it sitting on bookstore shelves. Smaller presses may be nimbler. While larger publishers seek to streamline their processes, but the bottom line is, traditional publishing takes a long time.

2) Agents Are Often Required: Increasingly, publishers will only deal with agents. It makes publishers’ jobs easier, as agents become the first level of screening. Unfortunately, finding an agent is challenging. Since agents are paid on commission they won’t take a project they don’t think they can sell.

3) Rejection is Likely: For those publishers who will talk directly to writers, the odds of them being accepted are small, sometimes less than one in a hundred. Even with an agent, rejection is expected.

4) Authors Must Market Their Own Book: Traditional publishers will do a small amount of promotion for all their authors, but the bulk of their attention and dollars go to the A-list authors. If a book is to sell, the author is the best person to make it happen.Don’t rely on book royalties to pay bills; treat them as a bonus, if they occur. Click To Tweet

5) Be Patient With Royalties: The process of publishers accounting for and paying royalties is confoundingly slow. Don’t rely on book royalties to pay bills; treat them as a bonus—if they occur. Since initial book sales are applied against the advance, some authors never sell enough copies to earn any royalties—ever.

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Five Reasons a Writer Should Self-Publish

Five Reasons a Writer Should Self-Publish

1) Greater Control: Self-published authors enjoy more say over their work and the finished product. This can be good, or it can work against them, but either way they have more control, usually a lot more.

2) Earn More Per Book: Self-published authors earn more on each book sale, generally much more: five times as much or even greater.

3) Faster: Production of a self-published book is quicker, putting it in the hands of readers faster than a traditional publisher could ever hope to do. This means writers can start selling books sooner and make money quicker.Self-publishing is ideal for small and undefined markets. Click To Tweet

4) Ideal for Small Niches: If your market is small or hard to reach, traditional publishers will not likely be interested. Self-publishing is ideal for small and undefined markets.

5) Great for Entrepreneurs: Self-publishing is effectively running a small business. The entrepreneurially minded will enjoy this option, realizing the rewards of hard work.

Given all this, wouldn’t every writer want to self-publish?

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Five Reasons a Writer Should Go With a Traditional Publisher

Five Reasons a Writer Should Go With a Traditional PublisherIn “Why Self-publishing vs Traditional Publishing Doesn’t Matter” I pointed out that both options have the potential to satisfy the core needs of a writer seeking publication. Writers must carefully consider the pros and cons of each option before pursuing either one. Future posts will consider some of these issues.Five reasons why a writer should go with a traditional publisher. Click To Tweet

To start the discussion, here are five reasons why a writer should go with a traditional publisher:

1) Wider Distribution: Traditional publishers have distribution avenues that are effectively not available to self-published books. Sure, there are work-around solutions, but they’re limited and require much time and effort. Traditional publishers handle the distribution, easy peasy.

2) An Advance: Traditional publishers provide an advance. While the advances are getting smaller, they still exist. Self-publishers never receive an advance. In fact, self-publishing costs money, so it’s like a negative advance.

3) More Prestige: An author of a traditionally published book earns greater respect and garners more esteem.

4) Higher Quality: Traditional publishers generally produce a higher quality product. There are more eyes looking at it to catch errors and make it the best they can.

5) They Do the Heavy Lifting: What about e-books, hard cover and paperback, press releases, cover designs, ISBN and bar codes, back cover material, and author photos? A traditional publisher handles all these items. There’s nothing for the author to master or worry about; traditional publishers make it happen.

Given all this, why would anyone want to self-publish? Next week, we’ll consider why.

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Is Blogging a Form of Self-Publishing?

Is Blogging a Form of Self-Publishing?I once read that blogging is a form of self-publishing. The author’s opinion gave me pause. It seemed a simplistic claim. I felt it in some way diminished the noble art of publishing.

Anyone can blog, and it seems most everyone does, but not most everyone self-publishes a book, even though the tools are there so that anyone can.

While some blogs are profound and worthy, other blogs are trivial and unworthy.

Oh, wait, some self-published books are profound and worthy, while others are trivial and unworthy. Perhaps there are some parallels after all.

Given that some blogs become books, either verbatim or as a springboard, perhaps blogging is prelude or preparation to self-pub.Blogging is a form of self-publishing. Click To Tweet

What I do know is that blogging is good practice for publishing. Blogging can accomplish the following:

Teaches Us to Meet Deadlines: Having a regular blogging schedule gives us mini-deadlines to hit. Every week we must write, produce, and publish what we create. If we miss a deadline our readers know it. Even worse, we know it. Deadlines prep us to be ready to hit bigger deadlines later for our books.

Trains Us to Write When We Don’t Feel Like It: Writers write—even when we don’t want to. Sometimes we need to write when we’re sick or tired or lacking motivation or have nothing to say. That’s life, and blogging trains us to realize and accept that.

Conditions Us to Publish: We write a post, edit it, and then…vacillate. It’s scary to press “publish” and share our work with the world. What if they don’t like it? What if the piece isn’t ready? But after a couple dozen posts, it gets easier; after a couple hundred, it’s not a problem; and after a couple thousand, I don’t even think about it. That readies us to click publish on our books, too.

Prepares Us to Receive Feedback: Blogging puts our words out for the public to see. Some will like what we write and others won’t. Others will point out typos, and a few will find errors that don’t exist. This will happen with books but on a greater scale. Blogging prepares us for that.

Yes, blogging is a form of self-publishing. So if you blog, that means you’re a self-published author.

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Why We Must Understand the Continuum of Book Publishing

Book publishing options are no longer a black and white decision but an array of grays

Why We Must Understand the Continuum of Book PublishingIn past posts, I discussed the benefits of traditional publishing and the benefits of self-publishing, as well as the downsides of traditional publishing and the downsides of self-publishing.

Book publishing, however, does not exist as two sides of a coin, with traditional publishing (often called royalty publishing) on one side and self-publishing (once disparaged as vanity publishing) on the other.

Instead, book-publishing options exist on a continuum. At one end are the major presses who carefully screen, edit, produce, and promote books, much as they have done for years. At the other end are the do-anything-for-a-buck outfits who will print any book, for anyone willing to pay their fees, regardless of its content, quality, or marketability.

In between them lies a vast array of options, from indie presses, to assisted publishing, to outsourcers, to any number of companies with intriguing labels, seeking to find a niche and fill a need. Although a few of these presses care nothing of books and only about money, most possess a sincere desire to help writers become published authors, advancing the cause of book publishing in the process (as well as earning a profit). They just do it in different ways.Carefully consider the pros and cons of each book publisher before committing. Click To Tweet

These permutations of publishers are too numerous and evolving to delineate with any accuracy. An author should carefully vet each publisher before making a selection.

The key in evaluating them is to realize that each has a business plan and must make money. Comprehending what their plan is (sometimes we needs to dig a bit) and understanding how they make money (even nonprofits must generate income) will provide a basis for determining if their sweet spot matches a writer’s needs.

Book publishing exists on a continuum, as do the needs of the authors they serve. Finding the right match of publisher and author is essential for the success of both.

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Don’t Debate Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing

There are 4 reasons why self-publishing versus traditional publishing doesn’t matter

Don’t Debate Traditional Publishing vs. Self-PublishingAuthors often wonder if they should bypass finding a traditional publisher and just self-publish their books. It’s a weighty question with a plethora of answers. Each option possesses a list of pros and cons, warranting careful consideration, but today I’ll share four reasons why it doesn’t really matter.

Readership: Either way others can read our work. Although some write for personal gratification, almost all writers have a deep desire for other people to read their work. Even those who won’t admit it, generally have an inner yearning to share their words. Both self-publishing and traditional publishing can accomplish this.

Marketing: Either way we must market our books. Except for A-list authors – those all but guaranteed to sell a million copies – all other authors need to promote their own work. True, traditional publishers will do some marketing, but their budget will be limited. Unless our book becomes a run-away sensation (unlikely), its success will hinge on our willingness to promote it – regardless of the publishing method.Either form of publishing allows the potential to make money. Click To Tweet

Earn Money: Either way we can make money. It’s possible to make money with either publishing model. Though the amount of money varies with the situation, type of book, and market size, as well as our personal preferences and personality, either form of publishing allows the potential to earn income.

Tangible Results: Either way we can have a printed copy of our book. There’s something significant about holding a printed copy of our book. It’s tangible proof our work is viable – and is something we can autograph. Both forms of publishing can result in a printed version of our work (as well as an e-version and usually both).

In future posts, I’ll address the pros and cons of both options, but in the big picture, it doesn’t matter.

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3 Perspectives on Print Versus Digital Publishing

The form that a published book takes doesn’t matter as much as many people think

3 Perspectives on Print Versus Digital PublishingPublishers, authors, and readers each approach the print versus ebook debate from different perspectives. Among these three points of view exist an array of opinions. Consider:

Publishers are in business to make money. Never forget that. They aren’t philanthropists, seeking to advance authors’ work or serve the common good (though both are laudable secondary goals). They can make money in print or with e-books. While the outcome is not guaranteed, the potential for profit is there. Some focus on the printed word and others, electronic output, while most do both. For them print versus e-book becomes a strategic decision with a financial outcome.

Authors often enjoy the tangible feeling of holding a book, their book, in their hands. For them, there’s an emotional attachment to the printed word. As such, they may view e-books as a second-rate, unacceptable alternative. However, the underlying desire of authors is to have their words read. So does it really matter if it’s on paper or through a device? Like publishers, authors also want to earn money for their work. Each medium offers the opportunity to do that.Print books and ebooks are both viable options for publishers and authors. Click To Tweet

Readers may be the most passionate in their opinions about print and electronic reading. I use both, and I enjoy both. So do many readers, though some insist on a book and others will only use a device.

As long as the public consumes books both ways – which, I suspect will be for years to come – the print versus e-book debate will remain unresolved. And, I’m okay with that.

What’s your preference, print or electronic?

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How Can Publishers Become Developers?

Is it enough for authors to embrace a publishing mindset or must they go further?

How Can Publishers Become Developers?I once read, “publishers are becoming developers.” This sounds profound, but what does it mean?

A publisher is someone who prepares and issues information or material.

A developer is someone who creates, who builds, who advances.

How can publishers become developers?

  • Turn a book or publication into a platform or business
  • Repackage past and current products (books, articles, posts, and so forth) into innovative offerings for a new audience
  • Build a social media presence to curate and share information
  • Create mobile apps of content for the on-the-move, I-want-it-now demographic
  • Establish new information dissemination channels
  • Reinvent being a writer into something with a greater, grander vision

These are all general ideas, of course. I leave the details for each author-turned-publisher to determine, pursue, and achieve.

Then, just as authors become publishers, we can take the next step to all become developers, too.

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