Publishing Stances: Self vs. Traditional

So, now that I’ve completed writing my first novel, I’ve been wandering around the publishing forums exploring my options. Like all the other planning I do, I’ve made lists of pros and cons of self-pub versus traditional, now that self-pub has become considerably more user-friendly, and wallet-friendly an enterprise.

Here are my observations so far.

Pros of self publishing:

1. E-publishing companies like Amazon and Nook make creation of e-books so easy that even a computer-impaired idiot like me, with fewer skills than a chimpanzee, can format and produce it. In addition, programs like Picnik have made professional quality cover art possible, so those of us not artistically inclined don’t have to settle for hiring, or drawing stick figures.

2. We can let our visually creative juices flow by creating our own art and inserting in the books however we want. It has been really fun learning Picnik and experimenting with cover creation. And it gives me a sense of pride when I can look at a cover I made on Kindle and say, “Wow, I did that, and it doesn’t look like a kindergartener made it. It looks cool!”

3. We can set our own price. I really like that. I understand complaints about indie authors underselling traditional published materials on Kindle and elsewhere, but I think it sometimes winds up being an effect of the economy, and the nature of the different modes of business, rather than a conscious strategy. I know that in my case, I feel better charging less in this economy. I live at the library, thrift stores and used book stores, and now online indie pages, because people everywhere including me, are strapped for cash. I love being able to pay $3.00 for a book, and as a result we read more. And my daughter will read more because we have the books in the house that we’ve bought cheap, though we still go to the library. The parking there is challenging, and with our home books we never have to return them. And, I’m not saying that there aren’t good reasons for charging more for traditional publishing. I know that more administration and marketing goes into traditional publishing, which means they do have a base price to recover cost. But as a struggling family, we try to spend as little as possible, and so I know it is easier for everyone else to do so too. I just love writing, and I want people to read what I write and share my thoughts. And if I can make a little money at it, awesome!

3. I’m a type A, impatient, neurotic person. The thought of being able to write something, format it, design it, put it up, and start making even little dribbles of money on it as early as the next day is like dangling a box of peanut butter cups in front of a sugar nut.

4. More artistic license or discretion is possible because there is one voice that goes into it, the writer’s. Now, that can easily translate into lack of editing and bad books. But often enough, it doesn’t, and every once in a while, you get a really great idea that becomes popular that never would have been picked up in a traditional setting. Indie pubs are not as subject to market whim, and a company’s opinion of what might or might not sell. You arrange the book, edit the crap out of it, shove it out of the nest, and whatever happens happens.

5. Once you put a book up, it stays there till you take it down. So as long as you sell it, it’s yours and still visible i.e. not out of print.

So the pros of self-pub seem to amount to one big thing: Control, control control…and immediate gratification as far as availability.

On the other side, here is what I came up with as far as the pros of traditional publishing:

1. After the work of query letters to either agents or publishers, they do the intensive critique, and editing editing editing.

2. They do most of the selling, I’ve heard.

3. It seems that there is more initial publicity.

4. Traditionally published works can be up for awards, and are thought of as more legitimate. This pro depends on what your goal is and how much this means. I personally haven’t decided how much it means to me. Like every other writer on the planet, I fully admit having delicious little daydreams of winning the Hugo or some other award. But I also just get really pumped when people read my stories and write me about how much they got out of it. And ‘legitimacy’ is not necessarily a mark of quality. People not legimitized until later have been visionaries. The establishment in ancient Greece thought Socrates was bonkers, etc. I’m not comparing myself to these people, just making that point that I’m not sure yet of the value of legitimacy as defined by traditional establishments.

So it seems to be that the main advantage of traditional publishing is that someone else does the heavy lifting as far as the administrative/marketing side of things. Though I am a type A crazy person, I am a LAZY crazy person with the marketing skills of a socially-crippled nerd baboon in an all-jock troop. I’m just not good at getting attention…for the right things. So these advantages are also very appealing.

I haven’t come to any conclusions myself, but thought this might be a helpful analysis for starting writers like me. Why re-invent the wheel.


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