What does it take to get published? Does a writer try the traditional route or go Indie? And what is given up and or gained by choosing? It was a crossroad I faced after completing my children’s chapter book, Pink Sneakers in Space.
The most successful authors such as JK Rowling and Stephen King were unknown at one point. Ms. Rowling started writing her first book in about 1990 and didn’t get published until six years later. Stephen King’s first novel Carrie was rejected 30 times before it hit the bookstores. But they were lucky with traditional publication.
Traditional publishing has been around for centuries controlling what was printed and left many writers out in the cold. But self-publishing has also been around a long time too. Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, and Edgar Allan Poe self-published, and just think what would have been lost if they didn’t.
Getting something into print is not easy no matter the path chosen. If the author wants to go the traditional route, the manuscript must grab the attention of the targeted literary agent. Does this work? Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen often enough. The slush piles are high and maybe the agent is looking for something else.
I feel too much control of the author’s work is lost publishing traditionally. There is little to no say in the editing process or cover art. Is advances and prestige of proclaiming to having a literary agent worth it? Not sure.
However, with self-publishing, the author has a direct line to the publisher. No writing and sending the query letters. No disappointment when the rejections roll in. And the Indie Author has no time constraint on when the next book is ready for publication. You write when you want. But it’s a double edge sword. No book equals no sales.
One drawback with self-publication is editing. Every literary work needs it. Authors try to do it themselves and few are good at it. A writer will read and reread a WIP (Work-in-Progress) and not see all the grammatical errors or plot issues. Indie Authors need to pay for a good editor which can cost a lot. However, I find critique partners and using Grammarly works well.
Another thing to consider is the book cover. They are probably the most important thing about a book. It is what captures the attention of the reader as they skim Amazon or walk the aisles of a bookstore. If it isn’t compelling enough to make a reader pause, the book will sit. To me, having control with the cover is important. The story inside is mine, and I should have a say what’s on the outside.
There is a bottom line to business. With traditional publishing, the average percentage of sales that goes to the author is about 15%. They also give up the rights to their book. The literary agent gets their cut. The publishing house gets their cut. Of course, the author didn’t have to front any money, but exactly who is profiting on the creativity?
On the other side of the coin, the Indie Author receives 100% of the sales and holds all the book’s rights. This includes movie rights. It’s a long shot for a new author’s book to be made into a movie but think about the book, The Martian. The author Andrew Weir, self-published the story, but after selling 30,000 copies, it was noticed by the publishing world. Weir sold the rights for $100,000, and I hope he retained the movie rights.
Today, the traditional publishing world is trying to reinvent itself while holding onto its old ways and habits. The all-inclusive club that controls what the public reads has been threatened by the explosion of self-published books. Smashwords, Cafepress, and CreateSpace are a few tools used by Indie Authors populating Amazon and cutting into the traditional publications profits.
Traditional publishing houses are losing market share to Amazon. There has been a downward trend over the last few years, and because of this contracted authors are being offered less and less.
Indie Authors are expected to market their books and build a fan base. However, contracted authors are expected to do the same. Yes, all authors must have a social media presence. Yes, all authors need a website. But is the author ready to give up control of their hard work?
This was my dilemma. Do I try traditional publishing or go Indie? I weighed the pros and cons of each and decided becoming an Indie Author was best for me. It has taken me years to push the button, and I wanted control of my work. I’m not saying it’s an easy path, but it’s my own.
Saturday, October 8th is Indie Author Day. Please join me in supporting the mavericks of the publishing world by visiting, <https://www.pinterest.com/kathrynrbiel/indie-book-day-2016/>