While the traditional publishing vs self-publishing rages on across writing blogs and websites, a self-published ebook that was launched into cyberspace under the Booksoarus label (the first one under this brand) has done pretty well for itself.
But does it mean, you should get all starry-eyed about self-publishing and ignore the traditional publishing industry completely? Not at all. The decision to go with traditional brick-and-mortar publishers or become a self-publishing author will depend on many factors.
Traditional publication or self-publishing: Which is better?
Here’s a quick lowdown to help you.
Why Traditional Publishing is good
Mainstream publishers have resources that you can never dream of replicating on your own.
Free access to professional editors: You’d be working with an editor who’s been there done that several times over.
Apart from the focus on the writing quality and the craft, the editor can also help you tweak the book to make the content more marketable (if you don’t mind letting go of your little baby into their hands).
Free access to their vast distribution network: The big publishing companies have a network that is country wide and they possibly have an extended network through partners and associates.
This network can help get your book into the big bookstore chains, the small retail shops, and possibly into other unconventional outlets (through marketing partnerships).
Free professional packaging: Right from the typesetting to the book cover design, your publisher can manage it all.
An impactful book cover will compel readers to take the first step and pick it up from the book shelves when it is surrounded by thousands of other novels screaming for attention.
Free money even before your book sells a single copy: Or if you prefer the regular term – book advances. That means you get the fruits of your labour before critics and readers have had a chance to read, comment and rate your novel.
Why Traditional Publishing is not so good
There is no Free lunch: If you thought all the goodies were being doled out for free, you were wrong. There are many hidden costs that you may not think about, but it’s eating into your pie. All the ‘free’ services providers will be in queue before the author to get their (lion’s share). Here’s how the publishing industry divides the revenue pie.
Super slow: Imagine the speed of a pregnant snail with legs dipped in grease trying to climb up a steel pole (smeared with more grease) on the wettest rainy day of the season.
You may not get the pampering that you thought you would: After struggling for years to win that first publishing contract, if you thought the writing world was waiting to embrace you with open arms, you’d be mistaken. The competition for eyeballs and readers is more fierce once you get into the real battlefield.
15 minutes of fame? Nah, more like 15 seconds: Bookstores have no reason to keep your novel in stock forever. You have to ensure that there’s movement. Old stock getting sold out, so new orders can be placed. If you aren’t making money for the retailer, you are deadweight.
There are thousands of authors and novels waiting in queue for their 15 seconds of fame. And the impatient bookstore owner will feel no remorse in cleaning up the space for the newer kids on the block.
Right, so it may seem as if we’ve killed the old beast and have a shiny new toy to play with. Here’s how the pros and cons of self-publishing stack up.
Why Self-publishing is good
Super fast: If you’ve got a book, you can publish it yourself in a few days. More like a few hours, if you are thinking about ebooks.
Imagine our snail in the final days of its (surrogate?) pregnancy now, with additional grease on its legs and on the pole. The big difference now is that the snail turns around and aims for the other end.
Lesser layers: You – the printing press – your readers. For ebooks, it looks even better: you – your readers. Of course, you still have the flexibility to add additional teams if you want – book marketing teams, distributors, retailers, the family priest to ward off the evil hurdles that may come in the way of your literary superstardom.
The rewards are better aligned: With lesser number of ‘stakeholders’ and middlemen in the publishing process, you get a bigger chunk of the sales income. Unlike the traditional publishing, where you keep paying the publisher (in terms of a bigger commission) for the rest of your book’s life, you could hire a good book editor for a fixed fee and say bye-bye once the book editing job is done.
You control the book marketing process: Despite all the resources available with the big publishing houses, you as a small, first time author will not get much of that love showered on you. So why not stop depending on their largesse and take the reins of marketing in your own hands.
Why Self-publishing is not so good
Fighting a lonely battle till the end: It might be cool for you to say, “To hell with the traditional publishing industry, I’m gonna write my own destiny.” When you realise that destiny and the probability of success for your book is influenced by a 101 aspects, the coolness starts to fade.
You aren’t an expert at everything: You are a fantastic writer. Are you also a brutally honest editor, a brilliant social media savvy marketer (you gotta spread the word, right?), a popular blogger (you need an established readership to create the ripple effect), a shrewd negotiator (if you want your books to be stocked by retailers or purchased in bulk by reading groups)?
Perception of bad quality: As it’s so easy to get published, there’s a lot of crap out there. When a new author (without a ready reader base or track record) joins the party, how would readers know that your writing is good and it would be worth their time and money? The likelihood that your book will be struggling at the bottom of the ocean is high, especially in the initial days. Good quality, a strategic marketing plan and persistence are the only ways you can hope to the top of the pile.
So what’s it gonna be for you? Self-publishing or traditional publishing? We’d love to hear your views.