Ever since I started on the exhilarating and scary journey to write a book, I have been thinking of what to do with it once it was written and edited to my liking. And although I am now convinced I want to share my book with the world – if I ever get it into a good enough state – I am still unsure of whether to find a traditional publisher for it or to go the self publishing route.
There is something to say for both routes, and of course everyone will tell you to do what suits your needs best. But I am not sure what that is. So let me look at each route and see if I can make a decision.
I have read a lot of articles on the subject of publishing, participated on the NaNoWriMo forums in discussions about this and have talked to published authors – both those who went the traditional route and those who self published. The opinions are definitely divisive. Some who self publish say that the reason they chose for self publishing is so that they can keep total control over the creative process. They do not have to compromise the ideas in their novels at the demands of an editor who will not allow the book to be published unless his changes are made.Others self publish because they simply cannot get a publisher interested in their work and they strongly believe their novel is great and needs to be shared with a wider public. These people are not always first time writers who have never published anything before and whose work may have been rejected by publishers because it was sub-par. Some writers whose novels have been published over the years have been told that they are not commercially viable anymore and they have had to resort to self publishing.
There are of course disadvantages of self publishing: you do not get the benefit of a professional editor, you do not get an advance for your books and you have to arrange all your marketing and distributing yourself. The advantages however are that all profits of the sale of your books will go to you.
The benefits of traditional publishing is of course that a lot of the work is done for you. You get a professional editor who kicks your novel into shape, you do not have to handle the distribution of your novel and in some cases you get an advance so you do not have to wait until your novel is sold to receive some money from it.
I was at a conference a few months ago where two published authors talked about self publishing. They were quite denigrating about it, mentioning that self publishing has introduced a lot of very bad writing on the scene. Be that as it may, and I don’t doubt that some self published novels never should have seen the light of day, there are also a number of novels that have been published the traditional way that are absolute rubbish. Take the very popular Fifty Shades of Grey for example. A book that started as a free fanfic written on an online blog until it got so popular that a certain publisher saw the chance to make a handsome profit. So the names were changed, the book was heavily marketed and bingo, it became a huge success. Although I have only read certain parts of the book, I can say with certainty that the book did not benefit from the services of a professional editor. Any editor worth their paycheck would have done a complete overhaul of the book. The publisher was more interested in making money off the book than in making sure a good piece of fiction was published. (Needless to say I will not be reviewing that book, but for a good chapter-by-chapter recap, see Jenny Trout’s blog.)
And that seems to be the way traditional publishers want to go, although there are exceptions. If you submit your book to a publisher, the foremost thought is “can I make a lot of money off this book?”. If your book is rejected, it could be because it is rubbish, but it could also be that the publisher did not think there was a market for your book at the moment and he did not want to lose money over publishing it. Of course publishers need to make a profit, otherwise they could not exist, but lately it seems that quality of writing is compromised in favour of the almighty pound (or dollar).
Add to this all the seemingly excruciating process of querying your novel and the traditional route does not seem so attractive anymore.
Have I talked myself into a decision? Not really, or at least, not yet. Self publishing does seem a lot more work than I have time for at the moment, unless you use one of those self publishing companies like CreateSpace. They take care of the printing and distributing and in return, take a cut of your profits. You still have to do the marketing, but I have heard that if you publish your novel the traditional route, you still have to take care of the marketing yourself.
So please share your thoughts, comments and experiences. I would love to hear what other people think.