Traditional Publishing – For Bragging Rights Alone?
Above is an infographic that I came across recently, which was first published on The Write Life some time ago. According to the original author, the intent is largely humorous – it serves to highlight just how tough writing really is, and in that regard it works very well. However, there’s one particular aspect of this picture which I reckon deserves some discussion – one that suggests a mindset that appears far too often within self-publishing circles.
Now, let me just start by saying this: there are indeed many good arguments for self-publishing, particularly in this day and age. Many of these arguments revolve around the control that self-publishing provides: you control the cover, the title, the price, the schedule, and so on. And you keep all the associated rights, not to mention a much larger chunk of the profits. And with the number of freelance editors and artists available, you don’t have to go it alone, and in theory can produce a product just as polished as those form the largest publishing houses.
Plus, you can self-publish things that simply would not get picket up by a traditional outfit; Danielle E Shipley’s Wilderhark Tales novellas, which are simply too short to be published as full books, remain an excellent example.
But with all that said: “Personal growth and the chance the to see my writing in a physical book” is not an argument for self-publishing. That is an argument for writing, period. And as good as being traditionally published would feel, “bragging rights” is hardly an accurate way to put it. There are many reasons to publish traditionally, just as there are to publish by one’s self.
The main point is this: those “bragging rights” come with numerous opportunities and advantages which are simply not available to the average self-publisher. For one thing, you get access to a whole range of professionals (editors, copy-editors, cover artists and so on) without having to fork over money yourself. Plus, it remains much easier to secure early reviews, among many other things, when a book has gone through the gatekeepers – a situation unlikely to change any time soon.
And you don’t just not fork out money yourself. The publisher gives you money right off the bat, in the form of an advance. Granted, this advance is rarely enough to live on even when it’s from a big publisher – but the point is, it certainly doesn’t hurt.
Another point on editors concerns the exact dynamic between author and editor, which varies significantly between the traditional and indie paths. Personally, I reckon this Terrible Minds post puts it best: in independent publishing, an editor is essentially being paid to criticise his employer – a relationship which can easily go very wrong indeed. In traditional publishing, the editor is the boss and such things aren’t an issue; this, come to think of it, is something the infographic gets across very nicely.
But of course, this kind of dynamic can indeed work very well, with this post by Colin Mobey providing one of many examples
A final point worth mentioning, which is also covered in the Terrible Minds article, concerns the role played by traditional publishers in the marketing process. Many indies will argue that you do most of the marketing yourself even if you get a publisher, and that is indeed true…to a point. What a publisher can do here, though, is to offer professional advice: how to present yourself effectively, avenues of marketing you might not have considered, and so on. This is all useful stuff to have, particularly for an author just starting out.
In case you couldn’t tell from the above, I fully intend to pursue the traditional route if/when I consider my novel ready. I’ve discussed this decision previously and so won’t repeat myself here. Instead, then, I’ll say this: there are valid reasons to pursue either path, just as there are advantages and disadvantages to each in turn. To dismiss either out of hand, without first researching their respective merits, would be a tremendous mistake for an writer to make.