Many authors struggle with the decision between traditional publishing and self-publishing. If you're in that boat right now, here is a little information that should give you an idea of what you can expect from both sides of this equation.
When authors are given the opportunity to work with big publishers they generally receive an advance and a book deal, and publishers are hoping you will use that money to promote yourself. It would seem not only do authors have the heavy burden of weaving an intricate, compelling, interesting, can't-put-this-book-down storyline, but we must now be savvy in all things marketing. Emphasis on social media marketing folks.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Myspace, websites, blogs etc. For those of you technologically challenged like I am, take it one step at a time and google "how to's" on everything. If I can do it, you can do it.
If you are wise with your advance then hopefully all of that self-promotion will pay off. This is no time for modesty people. Get excited about your amazing novel, novella, poetry, article or what have you, and light a fire under your soon-to-be ardent fan's fannies! (Say that five times fast) Once the sales of your books cover the (generous? :0) advance bestowed upon you, your royalties begin to roll in.
Big publishers have total creative control. The cover is their business, the editing is their baby, the blurbs and bios are regulated on your behalf, and for those of you hyperventilating at the thought of losing said creative control, never fear. You do have more options.
The upside to this total lack of control is what you have at your disposal. If anyone can get your name and your book out there it will be big publishers like Scholastic and Little Brown etc. Just having their name and logo stamped on your book gives a reader more reason to trust that your book will be worth their money and time.
Small publishers equals no advance...most of the time. Bummer. They are also in charge of all the publishing, editing, cover art and the contracting of those in charge of distributing your work. You might have a little more creative control, but that would depend on the people you work with.
Once again, you will be doing quite a bit of self-promoting and your resources will be limited to what your small publishers can offer. I must admit I wasn't sure I saw a huge upside to this, except for the fact that you will see your royalties right away...and most likely use them to turn around and market your material. Okay, that last part was a downer, but getting royalties right away sounds fun.
Both big and small publishers seem to be fairly close in the percentage of royalties they offer at the moment. Digital downloads (ebooks) are within the 25% range and print books are between 10-15%. These can fluctuate so pay attention to any contracts you sign and know what your options are.
You aren't just an author you're a business with a great product to offer, and quantity is important in any business you're a part of. Your fans want more than one great book to read so focus on giving them more of what they love. If you're in between novels and your next novel won't be published for a while consider writing novellas to tide your readers over. Blog about your latest projects and do articles on subjects your fans love. Edit one manuscript while writing another.
On to self-publishing. For all you type A personalities(like me)this might be the way you want to start out. Your profits are obviously much higher. You're looking at anywhere from 70-80% with ebooks; Smashwords, Barnes&Noble and Amazon will vary a little, and if you decide to get print versions of your books, Createspace offers anywhere from 40-60% depending on the venue they distribute to.
You are on your own completely in the self-marketing department, but when you look at traditional publishing you'll find that your publishers are expecting you to work just as hard on the marketing end of things as well...but your royalties are lower when working with them.
You can see why so many authors go the way of self-publishing. If you're putting in all the work anyway, it makes more sense to be able to have full creative control and a higher royalty payout. There are some authors who would rather have less control and leave all of those big decisions to their publishers. There is absolutely nothng wrong with that. Whatever floats your boat is exactly where you should dock your yacht.
With self-publishing you will have full control over your cover design as well. I love to take a look at book covers on Amazon that are within the same genre I write. If I like the cover I usually try to find out who the designer is and contact them to see what their pricing is like.
You can also design your own cover with Canva and visit sites that have stock photography like Adobe or Shutterstock. You can also visit Pic Monkey or Google pre-made ebook designs to see if any are a good fit for you. Fiverr.com is an excellent site where you can find cover designers for modest pricing.
Just remember that your cover needs to look professionally made. If you can't achieve that on your own, definitely hire out.
You won't have an editor at your disposal unless you go out and pay for one. Rewrite and edit that manuscript like crazy and once you think you've done all that you can do to your WIP send it to some beta readers and have them edit it as well. Once you've done that, you will need to hire a professional editor to get the job done. Do not skip this step. Your product will be of higher quality if you invest some money into your business by hiring someone who knows how to fine-tune that manuscript of yours.
Once you've taken your edits and rewrites as far as you can go, put the manuscript away for a little while and let it breathe. Go back to it and look it over one last time before publishing it. Just remember, no one wants to buy a damaged product and your readers will be disappointed if they pay for something that is poorly written.
When publishing on KDP(Amazon) you get 35% royalties for books priced under $2.99 and 70% royalties for books priced $2.99-$9.99. Once you are ready to publish that book, it literally takes about fifteen to twenty minutes to input the information. Amazon then has it published within 72 hours. You could literally be making money within a week of publishing your book depending upon how much buzz you've created for your new release...something you can easily learn about with the resources I provide on this website.
Here's a little hint: it's all about the author platform.
An author platform, or how many people follow you, is an absolute must to build. And the first thing I suggest you focus on is building a mailing list, a newsletter that your fans can subscribe to so you can always notify them about new books you plan to release.
Whether you're looking to traditionally publish or self-publish, it really is necessary to build an audience even before you sign that book deal, and lately agents and publishers have begun looking for self-published authors who already have a large platform and presence on the internet.
So if you're asking yourself, "Self, should I start building a mailing list even though I haven't finished my book yet?" the answer is YES.
"Self, should I create my own webpage with my name as the web address?"
"Self, should I have several social media accounts that all link back to my web page so my rating on Google will be higher and much more recognizable for readers, agents, and publishers to find me?"
Do I really need to answer that?
In the mean time, if you're set on traditional publishing, look for agents who will love your work as much as you do. Visit query shark and agentquery.com. You can also upload some of your work to wattpad.com where readers and agents alike tend to browse in hopes that they'll find something worth reading. Good content is key folks, so keep on writing and make your presence on the internet impossible to dismiss.
If you're on the fence about which course to take, I would start by self-publishing and see how you enjoy it. You can always search for agents and send out query letters while doing so. Research both options to the best of your ability so you will know which path is going to be most advantageous for you based on your personality, goals, desires, and financial aspirations.
It's obvious which path I chose. I'm an independant author all the way, but I didn't start out on that particular path. I was traditionally published first and soon realized that my type A personality meshed better with the logistics of self-publishing. I absolutely loved my publisher and the people I worked with at Beau Coup, but this avenue has been a better fit for me.
I was lucky to get my rights back within two years, but that doesn't happen for everyone. Be careful when it comes to contracts you sign. I always suggest that people give self-publishing a try first since the only contract you're locked into is the game plan you create for yourself.
Here is another resource on the pros and cons of self-publishing and traditional publishing. Joanna Penn is a very successful indie author and someone you should definitely be following if you're serious about building your author career. Here's a link to a stellar article she wrote about this very subject. Click here to read it when you get the chance.
I hope this information has been helpful for you. Make sure you subscribe to my blog below to receive weekly tips from me and a free book that teaches you how to push through the drudgery or writer's block.
The Blond Guerrilla
The Blond Guerrilla is your one-stop guide to all things Indie writing, self-publishing, and marketing! I hope you find everything you need to make your author journey a success.
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