Publishing: Traditional or Self?

My dream, as is with many writers, is to get published. I'm talking the big time, like with Vintage, Simon and Schuster, Penguin, or perhaps Random House.

My goal was and has been to be published and see my printed book in Books-a-Million, Barnes and Noble, and maybe even Target. I don't aspire to hit that status of "New York Times' Best Selling". I just want a hard copy, printed on paper and bound in a pretty cover with the publisher's logo on the spine.

That's all I want. Really.

In the last year, I have become increasing aware of just how hard it will be to become published through a traditional publisher. Some days [and weeks] I don't write because my original goal seems impossible to reach.

Self -publishing, for some obvious reasons has become increasingly popular. Authors are able to control their destiny and have their work in readers' hands. While it's an avenue for some, for me, I still feel as though I need that little something - validation maybe - that I jumped through all the hoops and a big publishing house was willing to gamble on an unknown writer. Self-publication is not an option I've entertained.

My good friend and phenomenal writer, Jessica Rosenberg, has been going through the query process. As I watch her waiting for the right agent to pick up her book, my dream slips further out of reach. If someone of her caliber, with a great platform already in place can not sell, how can I?

Enter Ramon Presson

Mr. Presson's workshop, "Help! I've Got a Book in Me" focused on self-publishing. Ironically, this author of eleven books - all traditionally published - discussed some of the finer points of  self-publishing. His knowledge and as person "on the inside" certainly dispelled some myths I had previously believed.

It doesn't matter how a good book is published

Current Trends in Tradional Publishing

I wouldn't even hazard a guess as to how many people are querying, hoping for that shiny book to hit the bookshelves at a big box chain. With the economy in the state it is in, publishers are reluctant to pick up new authors. Further, there are some slight differences in the non-fiction and fiction genres, but for the most part, all of these points apply:

  • Just because a publisher has paid the advance and promised the book, there are no guarantees. It's not final until you are holding a printed book.
  • E-books out-sell hardback and paperbacks- combined and will continue to increase
  • 80/20 rule: 20% of authors make 80% of the houses' profits
  • Unless you are already published, know someone, or have a solid platform in place already, your chances of being picked up on a debut novel decline significantly. 

Mr. Presson mentioned that although it is increasingly difficult to be picked up, it does not mean it won't happen. If traditional publishing is your dream, go for it.

Instant gratification

There are several avenues you can take should you wish to self-publish. We've heard the stories of those that gained notoriety because they were repeatedly turned down and ultimately chose this route, examples being The Shack, The Clandestine Prophecy, and even The Tale of Peter Rabbit. 

Here are the highlights of self-publishing covered by Mr. Presson:

  • It's quick! If you chose to publish through Amazon straight to Kindle, it can be read by the masses in under an hour. 
  • Complete control of the content
  • More profits to author (in most cases) and regular checks
  • Author controls when and if book goes out of print

Tradional or self?

Because I wasn't feeling as if self-publishing was my path, I almost did not attend this workshop. However, I went in with an open mind and learned a great deal.  While I still hope to be published traditionally, assuming I finish a manuscript, I've decided to keep the idea of self-publishing in the back of my mind. 

Two things Mr. Presson said left an indelible mark on my conscious*:

"The only people that care who the publisher is is the author."
"Let your passion for writing be first and publishing secondary." 

For more information on self-publishing, please visit Self-Publishing-Coach.com, a resource used by Ramon Presson in his presentation.

Writers, what do you think? How will you get your work out to the masses? 

Disclosure: The preceding should not be construed as advice on either method of publishing. No compensation was given in exchange for this post. All opinions are my own and all information was my experience at this particular workshop.  


Heather said...

I need to print out those two lines at the end and stare at them every day.
I know exactly why you're reluctant to self publish. A part of me always thinks that if it's not good enough to be picked up by a traditional agent, then maybe it's really just not good enough to be read.
I don't know how many queries I have to send out to stop believing that. I do know you'll be one of the first to hear if I stop! 

Oh, and PSHAW. You're just as talented a writer as I am, you just need to finish your book. It took me four years to write mine. The only thing that kept me going was the thought of all the people who start writing books and never finish. I wanted to have finished. You can do it too.

Heather said...

That last paragraph? Is why we are accountability buddies. There will be a day whilst we are sitting poolside sipping Mai Tais toasting these days here while the other patrons are all, "Hey isn't that the author of (Insert Awesome Title Here)?"

Heather said...

A wonderfully informative post. I had no idea E-books out-sell hardbacks and paperbacks combined. Those final quotes are pinable for my and I'm sure, many other's inspiration boards. Can you make them all pretty so I can do that? Don't give up, Heather. Now that you've 'put it out there,' your friends won't let you.

Heather said...

YES! Making the quotes pinnable is a GREAT idea. I will get right on that. Thanks, Rajean. 

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