When the Writing Bug bit me in the 7th grade, my goal was to publish traditionally. I was writing stories during high school, but I knew none of them were worth publishing. Yet.
It wasn’t until I had started writing my YA trilogy that I knew, “Ok, yeah. THIS is the series I want to publish.”
I started doing my research on agents and publishing houses that accept submissions without agents.
I had a nice list and I was ready.
When I thought the first book was ready, I started submitting it.
Then the rejections started coming in, but I wasn’t getting discouraged because they weren’t the standard, computer-generated rejections. I was actually getting feedback.
Even more interesting? The feedback was consistent. At that point, I stopped submitting and was going to work on fixing the feedback. At the same time, I was also learning about the publishing industry, going to workshops and reading articles, etc.
That’s when independent publishing (or self-publishing) started coming up and I started to consider a different option.
My goal began to waiver the more research I did into this topic. For the longest time, I was on the fence about which direction I wanted to take. My decision was made for me when I’d read about a cover controversy regarding another YA author. I don’t remember her name, but there was some uproar when her publishing house put a white girl on the cover when her heroine was black.
I took the right fork in the road instead of the one to the left.
If you’re sitting on that same fence and wondering which fork in the road to take, here are some factors to keep in mind.
1) Find Your Tribe
When you go the traditional route, you’ll be required to use the publishing house staff for editing and design. But what if their editor isn’t a good fit? What if the dude on your book cover doesn’t represent your hero? What if your book is paranormal, but they’re placing it under urban fantasy? If you publish independently, you get to choose your book cover designer. You can place your book under the right categories. And you get to choose your editorial team.
Are you looking for tribe members?
2) Show Me the Money
When you independently publish, royalties don’t exist because you’re setting the prices and deciding on the profit margins. You're not splitting your money with the publisher or an agent. Depending on where you upload your book--Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.--they’ll take their percentage, but in the end the money comes to you sooner.
Payouts from traditional publishing only occur twice a year and if you received an advance, you may not see a dime until the publisher recoups that advance. And that could take years.
3) Publishing Date: NOW
Publishing independently gets your book to the masses instantly, within 24-48 hours. HOURS! How crazy amazing is that? Traditionally, you might not see it until your fifty. Just kidding. But it will take a couple of years, at least.
4) Mine, Mine, MINE!
These selfish words we used to chant as children comes into play on this one. Remember when I mentioned royalties in #2? Royalties are what traditional publishers pay you in exchange for the rights to publish your book. Let me rephrase that: when you go the traditional route, you are GIVING UP THE RIGHTS to your blood, sweat, and tears. Months later you decide to turn that one book into a series? No can do. Think it might make a great magazine article? Fuhgeddaboutit. Publishing independently? You have the right (there’s that word again) to use your book however you damn well please.
1) Control (I feel a Janet Jackson song coming on…)
It’s hard to believe that being the captain of your own ship can be considered a disadvantage, but Whoop, there it is! I get it. You’re tired. Your mind is fried and now you have to present your baby to the world? If your answer is “F@!k. That.” Then publishing independently isn’t for you.
2) Show Me the Money Loss
Traditional publishing services pay for editing, design, and some marketing. As you’re aware, with independent publishing, those costs fall to you. There’s a possibility that with all the money you put in, you may not be able to recoup in book sales. For some, that’s not a risk they’re willing to take.
3) A is for Authorprenuer
Did you think that you were “just” an author? Bless your heart. Surprise! You’re the President of Indie Author, LLC! <cue the confetti and that noisemaker thing> Being the Producer of Books, Director of Marketing and Brand Recognition, the ARC Team Coordinator, and the CFO can be a tad overwhelming and not exactly the right choice for every writer.
4) The S-Word
Unfortunately, there’s a stigma attached to the word “self-publishing”, which is why I don’t use it (notice that I prefer to say “independently published” or “indie author”). The S-word is like the nappy-haired-orphaned-illegitimate-bastard-stepchild in the publishing industry, and to this day it is still synonymous with low quality work. There’s a certain amount of validity that comes from being associated with a major publisher, so you’ll have to work harder, as an indie author, to prove your credibility to potential readers.
The Good + The Bad = The Facts of (Publishing) Life
Who knew that song lyrics to an 80s show would still be relevant, but there you have it. For all the benefits that come with publishing independently, this route may not work for you.
Do I regret my decision? Never. But it wasn’t made lightly.
Do your research.
Look at all the angles.
And then choose the fork in the road that’s right for you.
Keepin' it romantic,