More accurate would be: why I chose to forego even trying to go the traditional publishing route. It’s not like I’m sitting on a bunch of offers and discarding them in favor of the DIY approach.
I think there are probably a lot of authors facing the same dilemma: do I take the time to try for a contract or do I just go it alone? I’ve read a lot of pro/con lists and don’t feel any desire to add another one. Instead, this post illustrates my reasoning process in the hope it will provide some benefit to others. Drop me a comment if it helped you.
The question of traditional vs self publishing brings up a bunch of questions. First among them is:
Is it really my choice?
This, in turn, brings up two more questions:
Am I good enough to traditionally publish?
It’s hard for me to objectively analyze my writing from a quality standpoint. I think I’m quite accomplished from a technique standpoint. I can stand to add a bit more tension and emotion, and I need to work on bringing my POV closer to my protagonist. Overall, though, I think most readers will find my work clear and engaging with a minimum of distractions.
Technique isn’t enough. For a book to be special, the story and characters are the important elements, and these are the hardest to self judge. I tend to alternate between, “Hey, this is pretty good” and “Who, exactly, would want to read this crap”.
When I describe the plot of Power of the Mages, I generally get positive feedback. My characters are nuanced with weaknesses that balance their strengths. My beta readers have been pleased for the most part.
Trying to be objective as possible, I think the answer is, “yes.”
Would Power of the Mages be accepted for publication?
I consider the answer to this question to be unknowable. Even the best book has no guarantee of being published (though perhaps it does with enough persistence). It’s all about markets and whether the company thinks it will sell. Is my book targeting a strong enough market? That’s not my area of expertise.
Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Power of the Mages is both of good enough quality and marketable.
Do the advantages of traditional publishing outweigh the advantages of self publishing?
I know. I wrote earlier that I had no desire to add yet another pro/con list to the internet. It’s kinda impossible to avoid some discussion given the topic. Sorry.
What are the advantages of traditional publishing?
Let’s assume that no publisher is going to give a new writer a huge advance and put their book in every store in the country. If we were talking that, there’d be no way self publishing could compete. I think, though, that this assumption is valid. I’ve heard the figure of $5000 being tossed around a lot for a typical advance, and I doubt that most companies can afford, for an unknown, the kind of investment that printing a huge quantity of books entails.
You do get some tangible benefits:
The author takes no upfront risks. I plan on spending $1000 on Power of the Mages. The publisher would eat those costs and give me an advance in addition.
It’s easier to get your books in stores, and a lot easier to do book signings.
You get access and status as a “published” author that you don’t from the alternate route.
What are the advantages of self publishing?
You get complete control over all aspects of your book from the cover to the title to every word in it.
You reap more profit from each book sold.
So, do the benefits of one outweigh the other?
It seems to me like traditional publishing offers more of a chance for your book to become a hit while self publishing offers you more reward if you do hit it big. Overall, I’d say traditional is the better route if you can get your manuscript selected.
Why, then, did I choose to self publish without even trying to traditionally publish?
The answer comes down to mainly personal reasons.
I like the concept of being an entrepreneur.
I’ve always wanted to own a business, but I’m pretty risk averse. For a lot of time cost and $1000, I can run a venture that has potential for great success.
Yep. It may not be the best reason, but I can’t discount it.
Trying to get published is a major hassle. It takes a long time preparing queries and formatting manuscripts according to each company’s guidelines. Then, you wait as the work is mailed/transmitted. Then, you wait as it sits in a slush pile. Then, you wait for someone to contact you regarding their decision.
Let’s say the day comes when you finally get that email/letter. You’re accepted! You’re going to be a published author!
When? Next week? Next month? Probably not. Apparently, the process will take, conservatively, a year.
Too long for me. I hope to have readers buying my book by June 1, 2013.