We will spend some time over the next several weeks here at Fix My Write discussing the pros and cons of Self-Publishing and traditional Publishing. Why? Well, for starters, we work with both self-publishers and those who are published traditionally. Secondly, it is our goal to make sure that every writer that we come in contact with is well-informed about the publishing process. Of course, we hope to work with everyone, but we understand that sometimes, we just aren’t the right fit for every author. However, whether you decide to work with us or not, we want to make sure that you have the tools required to be successful with your project.
It is the secret goal of every person who has a story in their heart, a tale to tell, knowledge to share, or just plain old inspiration and motivation to deliver, to have their words immortalized in a book. Of course, that goal becomes loftier when one thinks of their work hitting the New York Times Bestseller list, and receiving that coveted endorsement from America’s favorite bibliophile, Oprah Winfrey and appearing on her book club list. To be “published”, to have their words in print and delivered to the world is the ultimate “feather in the cap” of every writer. And until very recently, (we’re talking within the last 15 years or so) the only hope many aspiring authors had of ever seeing their dreams come to fruition, was to have their book picked up by a major publisher. Fast forward to today, when self-publishing is not just for those with lots of disposable income or a vanity project, but available to anyone with a desire to write and a will to win. Self-publishers are giving the “Big 5” (major book publishers – Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Harper Collins, and Macmillan) a run for their money!
So, which is the right choice? Should you self-publish or traditionally publish? The choice is yours and to be honest, totally depends on your personal values, aspirations, and a lot of other factors. Although ultimately you will get the same end result – your book available for sale, the path is a bit different for each.
Path to Traditional Publishing
Traditionally, to have a book published, once the book is complete (written), a writer would have to submit a proposal (non-fiction) or a manuscript (fiction) to an agent. Then, the agent would shop the proposal or manuscript to the various publishers until they received an offer. Now, of course, we all think our work is the greatest, am I right? Well, I’m going to be frank here. Honey, if you want to see your dream deferred and have your world crushed, imagine having your book rejected by all 5 publishing houses. For the better part of the last century, that is exactly what happened to millions of “would-be” authors. Now for some of the more stoic among them, those rejections were a push to go back to the drawing board and try again. And again. And again. There were plenty who were victorious and went on to become some of our favorite authors, and gained permanent places on the New York Times Bestseller lists. And there are others who figured they would either a) cut their losses and go find a job or b) determined they would continue to live the life of the “Struggling Writer” eating ramen and sofa-surfing at various friends/relatives homes.
The big draw for many authors is the payment of an advance from the Publisher. Who wouldn’t want to receive several thousand dollars or more for their book upfront? The misconception among many is that they will receive a million dollars, when in fact, those advances are contingent among many factors. Most notably, is how well-known the author is. In other words, celebrities, those with huge social followings, etc. get the really big advances generally. The average person gets a few thousand dollars. And it all will be recouped by the Publisher once the book begins to sell.
Is Self-Publishing Worth It?
For those that actually made it past the gate-keeping process of the major houses (which will be discussed in another post), it pushed them to a totally different level within the industry. Because, obviously, those that were chosen to be published had to be the elite, the cream of the crop, right? At least that’s what this author featured on Huffington Post thinks. (Side note, the comments are much more appealing and informative than the actual article.)
Self-Publishing gets a bit of flack from some publishing snobs, but is actually proving to be more than a fluke, and instead becoming quite the phenomenon. Over the last decade or so, self-publishing has quietly become a force to be reckoned with and rightly causing a bit of a nervous titter among the big publishing houses. Men lie, women lie, but numbers don’t. Sales of self-published work have steadily increased, and the playing field is being leveled daily. The beauty of the sales is that the revenue is actually being received by the author in totality, and not just a percentage (royalties) as in the case of going through a traditional publisher.
While I personally find the overall remarks of Laurie Gogh to be rather abrasive and elitist among many other things, she did make a few valid points. As an editor, I have received really bad work. I’ve received work that was not only poorly written, but the research on the subject matter has been non-existent. There should not be a lack of regard for quality because one is self-publishing. Like any craft, writing needs to be honed. With that being said, that’s one of the main reasons that Fix My Write was founded. To provide editing services among other things to writers that are preparing to self-publish.
Self-publishing is not only gratifying in the sense that as an author you will see your work published, it makes good business sense. You are essentially cutting out the middle men (agents, publishers) and able to keep all of your profits. And to be totally honest, there are even really bad writers making a really good living because they self-published. With that being said, keep in mind that even if you can get sales with a mediocre product, it probably is not in your best interest to build a career on that.
In any case, if you are planning on using either as a “get-rich-quick” scheme, hate to burst your bubble, but that’s not going to happen. Either way will require hard work, planning and preparation on your part. Both should be used as a tool for your overall wealth-building plan. To achieve financial success requires work, unless of course, you are a trust fund baby.