Friday, June 21, 2013

Self-Pub v Trad Pub: 3 Reasons I Like Each

I was going to make these lists 5 items long, but I got long-winded, so I'm only doing three of each. Besides, my reasons kept getting subsumed in the general headings. I'm not mentioning small indie presses, because they can emulate the best of both.

Self-Publishing provides these benefits for readers and authors:
  1. Niche publishing: Since the advent of self-publishing, biographies and memoirs no longer have to be by celebrities or people with big or exotic stories to tell. A cousin of my husband self-published a biography of his grandfather, my husband's uncle. I read a self-published biography of an old woman who taught everyone who knew her to be joyful and spread joy. Neither of those would have been published traditionally, but they were well worth reading. Quirky fiction can find -- indeed, can create -- a niche.
  2. Responsiveness: If the formatting in a self-published eBook, which looked perfect in Preview, is wonky on a buyer's eReader, the author can be personally contacted, the book can be corrected, and the updated version can be online within days at the longest. The relationship between a self-published author and readers is, on the whole, much closer than that between most traditionally published authors and readers.
  3. Control: The self-published author can choose whether or not to have professional help. If the author chooses to publish without being critiqued or edited, to make their own covers, to publish but not promote, and then let buying happen or not happen, the author can choose to do so. If the author chooses to only publish digitally, only publish in print, or do both, if the author chooses to be exclusive to one platform (Amazon, Kobo, iTunes) or to distribute as widely as possible or to have the book only available as a PDF download from a website, so be it. If the author wants to price the book at $100 or free, so be it.
Traditional Publishing, on the other hand, has these benefits:
  1. Readers can, on the whole, expect a certain level of technical quality from traditionally published books. The story may be less than stellar or may be superb, but the spelling, grammar, and punctuation will most likely be correct. If poor proofreading puts you off (it does me), you want to buy from a traditional publisher (or good small and/or indie press). If you feel you need help in those regards as a writer, and you can sell your work to a traditional publisher, you can have those things done for you. Traditional publishers will handle the covers, too, with no input from the author.
  2. Variety of formats: While many self-published authors and small presses publish only electronically, most traditional publishers publish mainly in print, with electronic offerings. Bigger-ticket books may be published in more than one paperback format and in hardback, and may be issued as audiobooks. As a reader, I like these choices. I'll sometimes buy or download free an eBook and, if I really like it, buy it in paperback; if I LOVE it, I'll buy it in hardback. 
  3. As an author, I concede that The Big Six (or however many of them there are at the moment) have a lot of clout. Movie deals and international publishing deals are more likely through major publishers, as of this writing, anyway. As a reader, I'm more likely to find a book if it comes from a house with advertising dollars to get it in front of my eyeballs. It's more likely that people I meet will have read it so we can talk about it.
The variety of paths from one person's imagination to another's has grown and will go on growing. What are some reasons you, as a writer and/or reader, love one or more of the paths?

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes


Jean said...

I have been involved in both sorts of publishing. I am beginning to prefer self publishing. However, my husband frequently "reads" great books as he drives. You are correct. Audiobooks are a wonderful contribution from traditional publishing.

My aunt had 20 books published traditionally. Her brother, my dad, self published a fantastic book about WWII(and an earlier book called Spearfishing Diaries). I adore both their collective works! None of us on our family seem to be able to shut up in any way, shape or form!!! LOL
xox jean :)

Excellent entry! Lots to think about!

Marian Allen said...

My small press publisher is talking about getting into audiobooks. Self-published authors can do audiobooks available for Mp3 download, but I haven't done that yet. I might, though, except that my family wants me to do the reading, and I don't have time right now. Someday....

Anonymous said...

As a self published mystery author, one of the benefits that I see to self-publishing is that you have control of the longevity of your career. I know many mystery writers who were traditionally published for one or two books, then dropped by the publishing company because their books didn't meet whatever quota is set for sales. Not much chance they'll be picked up again by another publisher. Some of them had to resosrt to writing under another name, and had to drop their original mystery series to have any chance of getting picked up again.

With self-publishing, you don't have to worry about being dropped, and you can take years (and multiple books) to build your fan base. I currently have 3 books published in my Highway Mysteries series, and from reader feedback, most readers who like one of them go on to buy the rest. It may take me a few more years to build a significant fan base for the series, but I have the time to do it.

Marian Allen said...

Excellent point, Ruth! I hadn't thought of that, but it's absolutely true.

I know of several authors who revived their series and careers by getting the rights to their backlist and starting over with a small press or with self-publishing.