Self Vs. Traditional Publishing

[It's four years since I started my blog! I know this because my first blog post was to congratulate the Americans on their lovely new President. And that's all I'm going to say about today's election because I've had a bellyful of it.]

I am up and down like a see-saw in my opinion of self publishing. A year ago I was decrying it as something which brought down the quality of literature, diluted the market and duped the public into buying poorly edited and substandard works. But just two weeks ago I wondered aloud to my co-author, Hellen Riebold, why anyone traditionally publishes any more. Dazzled by the prospect of 70% royalties and complete control of, and involvement in, my own book, I was certain that I would by bypassing my traditional publishers (Covenant, Cedar Fort, and Walnut Springs) completely in future. But today I'm swearing never to self-publish again.

There have been many blog posts, comments and articles in the past along the lines of "What have traditional publishers done for us?" Well, here's my Monty Python-style list.
  • They put it in the book shops. The internet revolution notwithstanding, that's a really big one and can't be understated. My previous books were in Costco, Wal-mart, Seagull and several other LDS and non-LDS retailers throughout the US, plus in the two LDS bookstores in the UK. And on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all the other major retailers. And as a result, people came across it, read the backliner, and bought it. My new book is only available on Amazon Kindle and no one will have any idea it's there unless I tell them. Having my book for sale on a shelf would be a huge boost to sales and general interest in it. But self-published books don't get into the bookshops.
  • They professionally edit it. We were lucky enough to find an editor who would work for a share of the profits on The Saved Saint, but editing can be expensive (around £700/$1,000 for a full-length novel) and with a traditional publisher you are not limited to one edit. In fact, my books generally go backwards and forwards between my editor and me a number of times until we're both happy that it's perfect. That's not to say that mistakes and typos don't still creep in, but the overall finished version is likely to be far more polished.
  • They produce a better cover. Yes, you can have a professional cover artist design your cover for you (again, at considerable cost) but an in-house designer at your publishers can do a brilliant job at no cost to you. I particularly love the covers of my books Easterfield (which was painted specially for my book) and Honeymoon Heist. A better cover means that the book stands out on the shelves (remember the importance of those?) and looks more professional.
  • They market it. Not much these days, it has to be said, but enough to make a difference. When my first book, Haven, was published my publisher produced posters, bookmarks and a radio advert for it. They paid to have it appear in book catalogues, and wanted to arrange book signings for me (although I lived too far away for it to be practical). By the time my third book came out in 2008 the internet had changed things and there was very little in the way of this expensive marketing. I was advised to have a website, blog and Facebook page, and a Goodreads giveaway was organised for me. Now, I know this is still me doing my own marketing, but I had their advice and backup, and ultimately the onus for selling the book rested with them and they had a major financial interest in it doing well
So have I sworn off self-publishing altogether? Not entirely. I think it still has its place, and I may self publish again some day. But I would far rather stick to traditional publishing if at all possible.

Comments

  1. Anna, thanks for your thoughts. I'm very interested in your self-pub experiences; as you know, I'm thinking of going that route with a project. We'll see what happens!

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  2. Oh, like you I was of the mindset that traditional publishing was the only way. And like you I changed my mind. And like you I have not given up on traditional publishing. I have just decided to do self-publishing and hope that at some point along the way the traditional publishers will want me, for all those reasons you said. Still, the game is changing.

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