Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Building a Book: Choosing How to Publish

It's been a lot longer coming than I originally planned, but this past weekend, I emailed Hannah out to a small publisher to see if there's any interest in taking it. For those of you who need to catch up on my Building a Book series, you can do so here.

For the rest of you, you're probably either excited for me, or just relieved that this series isn't going to continue much longer. Probably. Hopefully. Anyway.

So what comes after writing, revising, revising, beta readers, revising, and more revising? Well, currently, you make a choice. Do you want to go with a publisher, or do you want to self-publish? Now, I'm not going to argue here that one is strictly better than the other. That's an entire blog post in and of itself, and I'm not sure I'm really qualified to open that can of worms. There are pluses and minuses to both, to be sure, but each one is really a different path to the same destination, which is publication.

I'm writing this post at this point, because when you submit to a publisher, they're going to have their own editors they're going to want you to work with, so while you could go through the expense of having an independent editor clean up your work, as long as you've revised and cleaned up the manuscript as well as you can, it's probably unnecessary. On the other hand, if you plan on self-publishing, this is where you would seek out an independent editor, to go through, clean up and make suggestions. You may even want to make another pass with beta readers, just to make sure a work is really ready to be self-published before you go out looking for cover art and uploading to Amazon. That's not what this post is really about though.

People choose different routes for different reasons, each specific to their knowledge, desires, and goals. Sometimes it's faulty knowledge, but generally, that's going to be on them for not doing their homework. For Hannah, I chose to submit to a publisher for a few reasons.

  • Cheaper for the author. A reputable publisher makes all their revenue on their share of a book's royalties. If you're paying them anything to publish your book, you made a wrong turn somewhere. It's not an uncommon mistake though, as people get desperate after several rejections, and most companies that charge you to print your book will take anything at all that's submitted to them. A traditional publisher will cover the costs of editing and cover art, taking that burden off the author. This is probably the main reason I'm taking Hannah down this route. 
  • Distribution. There is no denying that the twists and turns of the business of publishing are hard to navigate on your own, and that is one thing a good publisher will have over a lot of self-published authors. Yes, anyone can upload to Amazon these days, but that doesn't mean your book is going to go out to the brick-and-mortar stores or that your book is going to be listed in the catalogs from which places pick which books to stock. A good, reliable publisher will make sure your book is available from just about anywhere it might be able to sell a few copies. 
  • Name Recognition. Now, I'm not specifically talking about Random Penguin, or Simon & Schuster here. Seriously, how many people can tell you the publisher of the last book they read? Probably not many. BUT, there is still a large contingent of people (though it is shrinking) who still associate self-published books with poor quality, rushed, land mines. Until that idea is finally disproven to the majority of the public, being able to say you had a publisher actually take your book and run with it, and being able to give them a specific publisher they can look up, one which actually has a good history to it, will remain a point in your favor. 
Of course, there are downsides to going with a Publisher. Loss of creative control in editing and cover art. Lower royalties. Signing over rights. But as long as you know what you're getting into and have done your research, don't let anyone else tell you the right way for YOU to publish. 

If you need resources to look up a publisher or to find advice, there are several places to look. 

The forums over on AbsoluteWrite.com are great places to ask for advice regarding just about anything on writing. They're also connected with Writer Beware, so if you're curious about a specific publisher but can't find anything, ask, and they may be able to help turn something up. 

WriterBeware is an absolute must to look up a publisher before you pick one to submit your book to.

Last but certainly not least is Preditors & Editors, where you can look up publishers, agents, editors, and even promotional companies; to see if they have a history of doing bad things to aspiring authors. 

I'm not going to let you all out for recess just yet though. It would be remiss of me to run down a list of positives for choosing a publisher without a quick list of reasons you would probably want to self-publish. 
  • Higher Royalties. Most places that allow you to upload your work directly for sale pay out much better than any publisher likely ever will. Within specifications, Amazon currently allows a royalty of 70% for titles uploaded to Kindle. Compare that to 40% or less through a traditional publisher, and you see one of the main reasons so many people are switching to self-publishing.
  • Control. You have a passage your editor doesn't like? Leave it in anyway. You have a specific idea for the image you want on the cover? All you have to do is pay someone to draw it. This is YOUR book. YOU have control over all of it. Whereas a publisher will have their own suggestions and ideas for editing and cover art that you will more than likely have to accept and swallow despite your own opinions, self-publishing leaves all those decisions in the author's hands. Some will argue that's where they belong, some will argue otherwise, but that's more of a person-by-person basis. 
  • Niche Work. Maybe your work doesn't fit into conventional boundaries. So you've written a supernatural, steampunk, space-opera. There's nothing stopping you from putting it out for people to read. You may or may not find a market or a readership, but that's the same with any book. The difference here is that you don't first have to get past the gatekeepers that say "It's a nice story, but nobody will ever buy it". People will surprise you with what they're willing to pay money for. After all, I seriously doubt any traditional publisher would have expected dinosaur erotica to be a thing people would go for. 
Of course, self-publishing, also has it's pitfalls. Paying for proper editing and cover art can get expensive. There is the stigma against self-published works right now. If you're not careful, it's easy to get taken advantage of by promotional and editing scams. If you don't do your homework and know what you're doing, it's also very easy to get lost in the work of advertising and promoting your work and not get back to work on writing your next piece. 

Resources for self-publishing is almost the same as I listed above, including the Absolute Write forums, Writer Beware, and Preditors & Editors. In addition, there are lots of blogs with some good advice on the subject. Most notably, read up on Joe Konrath's A Newbie's Guide to Publishing. He is a major proponent of the self-publishing movement and his blog has figuratively tons of advice for self-publishers looking for it. 

 So, for Hannah I chose the publisher route, mostly because I can't currently afford my own cover art and editing at the moment. The other reasons are certainly positive points in that route's favor though, and some people claim that the most successful authors in the current publishing environment are the Hybrid authors, those who work both through publishers and self-publishing.

Of course, there is one other downside to working with a traditional publisher.

I'm currently four days into a wait of what could be at least sixteen weeks. :-P 

~ Shaun


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks! Fingers and toes crossed. Though, that's probably going to make the next 15 weeks even longer. Probably get a cramp or two as well.

  2. Great points on both sides of the publishing fence. There are some authors who chose both, depending on what they're publishing, how much spare change they currently have, or how quickly they want to get that book out there. What works for one person might not work for another, and it's nice to have the options outlined.

    I've been enjoying your series and will be keeping my eyes open for the next post, which will probably be, "I Have a Cramp and Still Have Six Weeks to Go."

    1. Thanks for following along, I'm glad you've enjoyed the journey so far. I should probably do a second part to this though, expanding on the cons of both avenues.

      So far, I've found Icyhot is working pretty well on the cramps, though it's hard to use with crossed fingers.