It’s official. I’ve stopped looking for a replacement literary agent (mine left the biz before we got the chance to sell my novel in 2013). This has caused an internal tug-of-war on what to do publishing-wise for about 16 months now. It’s wonderful to have clarity at last and to feel good about it.
I’m still scared to death, but I believe I’m making the right choice for my career. I plan to follow my own advice and take small steps.
What about you? If you want to publish, will you take the traditional route (agent – publisher – etc.)? Or, will you go indie and Do-It-Yourself?
Each path has its own pros and cons. Let’s explore both, so you can make an informed decision.
Traditional Publishing: Advantages
* Still the more prestigious route, hands down.
* Pays the author an advance (average payment for a first novel is $5,000). Many indie authors would love to earn that much for their book.
* The publisher does all the dirty work once the book is complete: editing, formatting and distribution.
Traditional Publishing – Disadvantages
* On average, authors only receive 7.5% of the income for their books (assuming the advance earns out), even though the author does the majority of the work (the writing, most of the marketing, etc.).
* The author might maintain foreign and film rights for each book, but rarely keeps eBook rights. This is where publishers are making the majority of their profits these days – eBooks are the future. Don’t worry, print sales are still just fine.
Here’s an interesting post that discusses that very topic. It’s by former Writer’s Digest editor, Jane Friedman: How eBooks Have Changed the Print Marketplace.
*Authors have no control over vital elements of their own book: pricing, cover design, sales, keywords, etc., but are expected to accept all these decisions, then create a successful marketing plan.
* The potential to earn more money, much faster (30 – 70% of the income for your work).
* Complete control of everything: editing, formatting, book cover design and the marketing.
* Author can publish much quicker (a traditional book takes six to eighteen months to publish). It’s also easier to implement changes.
* The burden of everything falls on the author’s shoulders (writing, editing, formatting, marketing, distribution). Do you notice this is also on the self-pub advantages list, too? Even if you pay someone else to handle these tasks, the results still fall on your shoulders. That’s a lot of responsibility and devours your precious writing time, which should be your #1 priority.
* Exponentially higher volume of poor quality writing. Because anyone can publish these days, there’s complete junk out there.
* Sole responsibility for success or failure. How do you stand out among millions of other choices?
Why I’m Choosing to Go Indie
My debut novel, Pennies from Burger Heaven, does not easily fit on a bookshelf. Here’s the premise: Eleven-year old Copper Daniels sleeps each night beneath the Warrior Angel statue at the cemetery for protection, then spends her days battling the mean streets, hell-bent to discover what happened the night her mama disappeared.
* I have a child narrator, but the mature themes still makes this adult fiction. Some agents wanted me to rewrite my entire novel to make her older, so it’s a YA. Others wanted me to remove all the dark parts to be a middle-grade reader. Others told me to rewrite it from an adult perspective. To me, these ideas ruin what makes this book so special. I’m no longer willing to compromise the integrity of my novel to please a publisher.
* Most readers do not care where the book is published, they care about the story and the quality of the writing.
* Since I’ll do all of the writing and most of the marketing anyway, why shouldn’t I keep most of the money?
* I’m tired of waiting for permission from someone else to become a published novelist. I’ve been working towards this for years. I’m ready.
Mind you, I’m still very much an advocate of traditional publishing, but I’ve decided to take an alternative route. I’ll never know if this works unless I try it.
I had a flashes of this insight during the Creative Monsters Challenge, but needed more time to accept it. I journaled volumes about this, then just woke up one day and knew the answer for me.
I write fiction and nonfiction and want to publish both, so here’s what I’m thinking:
1. Publish an expanded version of Creative Monsters first. It’s the eBook I gave you in January. I’m changing the title, adding other writers’ stories to it, as well as including several exercises for each writing struggle. It’s sort of a Do-It-Yourself Guide to overcome your fears. This will teach me the ropes of self-publishing, but the stakes don’t feel as high.
2. Publish Pennies from Burger Heaven second.
The only problem is I want to publish Pennies NOW! I’ve waited so long and since I have my answer, I’m ready to act. I’m about to revise both books, so my answer will come, but I WILL self-publish in 2015!
What About You?
If you intend to publish, what’s your plan? It’s okay if you don’t know yet.
The best advice I can give you is do not rush it. The market has been so saturated with self-published books sent out into the world too early, rushed and in need of polishing — if not a complete rewrite.
Here’s an insightful post from The Write Life: 5 Reasons You’re Not Ready to Self-Publish Your Book.
From here on out, the quality of your writing will make or break your book’s success. Do not jump ahead in your excitement to be published to share less than quality work.
Take writing classes (online or in person), read writing books, enter contests, hire a writing coach, attend workshops and conferences.
Whatever you decide, Mudpie Writing is here for you with suggestions, encouragement, and if need be – a swift kick in the arse. Good luck!