Should established authors completely abandon traditional publishing?
I didn’t. And it turns out that I wasn’t alone. We are seeing a new breed of hybrid authors–those who can take advantage of either vehicle.
Here’s an edited list of some of the pros and cons from that post. (I took out most of the profanity because it seemed superfluous).
+1: Money up front! Maybe really good money!
-1: Could be little money, too!
+1: Gatekeepers ensure that material of relative quality gets through the door.
-1: Gatekeepers are also notoriously risk-averse.
+1: Access to pro-grade editors, cover artists and kick-ass marketing systems.
-1: Sometimes the marketing is left to you, poor author.
+1: Likelier access to: film rights, foreign rights, reviews, actual bookshelves
-1: It’s slow!
+1: Entrenched systems have value (i.e. “not building parachute on way out of the plane”)
-1: System does not respond well to change.
+1: Better discoverability of books published this way, so far.
-1: If your publisher goes down, you might be screwed.
+1: You will learn a lot about writing/publishing via this path; it will improve you.
+1: You will earn more respect and prestige, if that’s a thing you care about.
-1: Occasionally punishing contract clauses and low-ass royalties. Which leads to:
+1/-1: You need a good agent. Hard to get, but worth it to have.
+1: You have a lot of control over how the book exists in the world. Editing, marketing, cover design, e-book design, promo, and on and on.
-1: Money investment up front means more financially risky (may spend money, gain none). Anticipate spending anywhere from $500 to $5000 to get that book “out there.”
+1: Much larger percentage of the money earned stays with you (~50-70%).
-1: Significantly reduced access to film rights, foreign rights, reviews, bookshelves, etc.
+1: Strong self-publishing community full of resources.
-1: Gets a little cultish sometimes, brimming with motivations based on bitter rejection.
+1: Allows you to offer riskier materials in format (short fiction, novellas, serials) or content (edgier work, genre mash-up material, weird stuff) that publishers might not touch.
-1: Some genres don’t do well self-published yet.
+1: Some genres do gangbusters!
-1: A lot harder than it looks because it means being a publishing company as well as an author.
+1: New options every day (crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, direct sales, etc).
-1: Based overly so in digital; trad-pub is still the strongest way to print.
+1: It’s as fast as you want it to be! (Just click “publish.”)
-1: It’s as fast as your impatient twitchy self wants it to be! (Don’t be so fast to click “publish.”)
+1: You retain all rights to your work!
-1: A rising tide of turd-froth in terms of self-published bilge; must rise above or die. (The often poor discoverability of new self-published authors can be murderous.)
+1: You get to bypass a potentially archaic and outmoded system for publication.
-1: Easier to self-publish when you already have earned your audience, however small.
+1: Digital shelf-life is largely eternal.
-1: Amazon is the 800-lb gorilla here; if Amazon goes down, so do you; if Amazon changes the percentage split, not much self-publishers will be able to do about it.
+1/-1: No agent required, but honestly, one is recommended anyway.
Bottom Line: It Depends
I went back to John Wiley & Sons for my last book, Too Big to Ignore. It just made sense for me. Wiley could help me reach people that I couldn’t easily otherwise reach. I’m not slamming the door on indy or micropublishing, though. Far from it. I am convinced that the future of Motion Publishing is bright. I expect more authors to seek out companies like mine because, for them, the squeeze is certainly worth the juice.
Scott Berkun did the same thing with his fifth book. After doing his fourth on his own, he’s back with one of the bigger publishers.
The point is that today authors have tons of viable options, certainly compared to a decade ago. Certain books might make sense for certain publishers. One size probably doesn’t fit all. Do your homework and you’ll probably benefit. At a minimum, you’ll know what you’re getting yourself into.