The scales are tipping, but are traditional publishers finished for new authors?
Publishing your work has become easier than ever thanks to the Kindle. The relative ease of self-publishing your latest book in electronic format means you can say goodbye to rejection letter fatigue for good. However, the question remains, is it really better to self-publish, or should you try to get a contract with a traditional publishing house?
Both options have their merits as well as their downside. Although at the end of 2012, 27 of the top 100 Amazon eBook sales in the US, and 15 of the top 100 Amazon eBook sales in the UK, were self-published, and that's great news for authors! However, it also means that 73 and 85 of the top 100 eBooks respectively were not self-published. If you are determined to try the self-publishing route (and really, who isn't?), here are some of the pros and cons to consider.
Firstly, as an independent author, you retain full control over your work. This may not seem like a big deal when you have bills to pay, but consider how you will feel when an editor starts chopping and changing your work so that it is barely recognizable? If you are writing for more than just the money, think carefully before signing up with a major publisher. Another point to consider is the pricing. As an independent author, you control the price of your work and you can change it as the market fluctuates. You also receive the largest royalty available to you (70% for most Kindle eBook sales).
But this is the rub. If you take the traditional route and sign up with a publisher, then you have a far greater chance of making significant sales. Your book has a chance of being available in bookstores, as well as in electronic format. You will have an experienced editor guiding you from manuscript to publication. You pay no upfront costs such as advertising and cover design etc, and frankly, the publisher will have a much better idea of what to do than you will.
If you plan to make a living solely from your writing then a traditional publisher is the option that provides greater stability. That said, it takes a lot of luck to get a publisher to take you seriously and it can be stressful and it is not always a happy relationship. You may therefore find that you prefer the risk of self-publishing; if it means that you can keep your work the way you envision it. It also takes a lot of patience to work with a publisher. Manuscripts can be rejected over a hundred times before they are accepted, and even when one finally is, you still have to wait while it is sent from an agent to the publisher. Waiting is painful.
Overall, you’re probably going to know the best route for you, and it’s not as if you cannot change (albeit harder if you have a contract with a traditional publisher). I suggest, even if you choose the traditional route, you self-publish while trying, and if things go well this can even help a publisher to take notice of you. Remember that self-publishing gives you a lot of freedom and provides a relatively inexpensive way to learn the business of writing. The most important thing about self-publishing is that it gives us more power over our own work and provides us with greater choices.
About Miles Allen
Miles Allen is a full-time indie author living in the UK. He first published in 2010 after throwing caution to the wind and giving up his 30-year engineering career to become a fantasy author. Alongside his writing he now runs coffee groups to encourage and publish new authors, and recently expanded to workshops and coaching, editing and publishing first-time business authors.
And as he says, “The smartest choice I ever made!”
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A Writer's Tale
Scarlett Van Dijk
Writer of young adult, fantasy series, the Sky Stone series, poetry and short stories.
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