I’ve had this conversation at length with my friend and author Matthew Quinn. Which is the route you should take with your first book? I was arguing heavily in favor for Self-Publishing. Matthew maintained a desire for a traditional route. We had a civil back and forth and it boiled down, I think, to these points.
Self-Publish: Getting your book out quickly
Traditional: Getting your book proper support.
Self-Publish: Only have yourself for marketing.
Traditional: Have to wait years going through rejection before getting a publisher.
What Concerns me most with Traditional Publishing is the time frame. While listening to Writing Excuses, Brandon Sanderson mentioned that it took him eight years to get his first book published. Six years of shopping it and two years before it was finally released. When I hear that I get very discouraged by that route. Nearly a decade to get someone to notice. By the time I’m ready to shop my book that would put me close to forty before it gets picked up.
However, I can’t deny the fact that it would be an amazing feat to have a Legacy Publisher pick up my book. As an author, I would feel legitimized. And I think that is a large part of why we would all want to be published through that route. Crossing that barrier means something. I honestly can’t see anyone saying they wouldn’t feel honored to be picked up by a Legacy Publisher. For goodness sake, Self-Publishings poster child, Amanda Hocking, switched. And her reason is very telling.
Amanda said, simply put, she didn’t want to have to worry about marketing herself anymore. Now I am aware that even first time, traditionally published authors don’t get much marketing support. But I can imagine they’d get more than you would with Self-Publishing.
There is also, I believe, more room for growing your name. With the glut of work being dropped onto the open market, the chances of becoming an Amanda Hocking are growing slim, daily.
With all that, however, there is something to be said for Self-Publishings ability to get your work out there in a timely manner. The digital age has removed that barrier of getting published. At this point and time, the only person you have to consult is yourself. I wouldn’t suggest it. But if we want to be frank, it is the lowest bar.
Obviously, to have an above average product, you’re going to have to invest in your manuscript to a point. That is for sure. Hire an editor, there are plenty of services online that you can look up. You’ll also want to hire someone to do your cover art. In addition, you will have to do some research on how to format an e-book and how to market yourself appropriately.
Which marketing is a big hurdle in and of itself. One that you will never really be able to get away from. The only person who will be peddling your book for you, at least at the beginning, will be yourself. And maybe some of you would/will enjoy the challenge. For me, that sounds like a drag. I want to be an author, not a businessman.
I’m purposefully staying away from the potential for making more money with Self-Publishing. While I agree, you can make a vast sum of money going through route, so far I’ve only seen a very small percentage of people making a living from it. So at this point it is not something we can hang our hat on.
Where does that leave me?
I’ll be honest. I vacillate on this subject daily. I have a very strong desire to get my work out for people to see it once it is done. As I’ve said in other places, I’m an entertainer. The faster I can get the entertainment in people’s hands, the better I feel. I want people to be passionate about the words I wrote. I want to see people get into debates on forums over the little noodley bits of the story. Just like I’ve done with my favorite books.
Martin, I’m looking at you.
But I’m also a person that likes the idea, would feel legit, of being picked up by a publisher. Would I make as much money? Probably not. In fact, more than likely not. There’s no guarantee I’d make money Self-Publishing either. I’d also have the joy of going to a book store and pointing to my row of books on the shelves and saying, “I did that.” And then moving a few copies to the front and signing them.
The best plan I’ve come up with is this: Finish the first draft of my book. Give it to my beta readers and get their feedback. Go through another round of edits and, depending on how that goes, probably give it to another set of beta readers. Once I feel it is strong enough, I’ll shop it for a year.
My hope is that I can get a good sense from editors on the strength of the story. Maybe receive some, “It’s good but not for us,” type of messages. If after a year I don’t have any kind of inkling that the book has a chance, then I’ll move to Self-Publishing. Because–as my wife rightly pointed out last night–with your first book you can go from Traditional to Self. Going the other way takes a miracle.
I’m making the right choice, right? Write.