On my previous site, I wrote a detailed explanation of the different paths of book publishing, and when I took down my old site, I didn’t think it was something anyone would really care if I ditched. A few days later I found myself in a conversation with someone who wanted to know about the different platforms and paths of publishing, and I realized that article would’ve been quite useful. So here I am, putting Humpty Dumpty back together again because I’m an idiot. I’m going to try to keep this brief, to the point, and accurate. I’ll also include my opinion on the pros and cons of each.
As the name indicates, this is where you publish the book yourself. There are a few different platforms to accomplish this, but the most popular is Amazon’s Createspace & Kindle Direct Publishing. By this method, you edit, format, choose the cover, and market for yourself.
You get to do it all yourself.
You have to do it all yourself. While that may sound very appealing on the surface it can be rather challenging. To put out a solid product you need a well edited and well formatted product. Then you need to come up with a professional cover. Lastly, you have to sell the damn thing, and again, you’re the only one for this department as well.
The other con of self-publishing, though it seems to be dissipating, is the stigma it may put on you. Just a few years back, people tended to snub their noses at self-published authors. You weren’t a ‘real’ author if you self-published your book. Now days it seems like many of those folks who were adamantly against it not so long ago are more accepting now, but there’s some people who might not take you seriously.
I know there’s plenty of success stories out there, but in reality, the chances of striking it big on a self-published is about as likely as winning the lottery. In other words, don’t quit your day job. You’ll be lucky if you make enough money to buy a sandwich. I’ve heard it said that a self-published title ‘does well’ if it sells 100 copies. Certainly not good enough to retire.
A Note about Distribution: The self-publish platform uses ‘Print on Demand’ to create your book in print. What this means is that anytime someone orders a copy, it’s then printed.
Big traditional publishers, on the other hand, have numerous copies of books printed and then shipped out to retailers with the understanding that if the books don’t all sell, they’ll buy them back. Since you aren’t printing enough copies to follow this same program, don’t expect retailors to order your book up. Though, through extended distribution channels, people may be able to order your book from various retailers.
Traditionally Publishing with a Small/Med Press:
This follows the traditional method. You submit your story to an editor. If the editor likes it they offer to publish it for you.
You can earn some reputation points buy working with a reputable house. More importantly, if there are experienced people onboard, you can learn an awful lot. Furthermore, it doesn’t cost you any money to publish your book, and if it’s a good house, the royalty rate will probably be exceptional. You don’t have to format, hire an editor, or get a cover artist. The publisher does this for you, and they’ll help you market some as well. They may even be able to get you a spot at convention, and if not, they may be hauling your books to conventions which you aren’t even attending.
This isn’t a con if you know it going in – But you aren’t likely to strike it big with a small press. You will likely sell more books than you would on your own, and they may get you into conventions, and help you get opportunities you wouldn’t get otherwise – But just don’t expect your book to land on the New York Times Best Seller List. Be realistic. I owe so much to the small presses that have worked with me it’s unreal, but I still maintain realistic expectations.
Also, know who you’re working with before you sign anything. Because of the rise of self-publishing, small presses are popping up like the plague. Now days everyone is a publisher, but that doesn’t mean their reputable. I put a lot of work into my work, and I, for one, am not going to just hand over my intellectual property to anyone with a name and a website. Be smart. Know who you’re dealing with.
Traditionally Publishing with a Major Publisher:
This also follows the traditional method, but it’s much harder to get in the door.
This is where Steven King and the other big names live.
It’s extremely hard just to get your foot in the door. In many cases, an author needs an agent to represent them just to have a chance, and getting an agent without having publishing credits can prove very difficult. It’s that whole chicken egg thing again. But if you can manage to get in, your chances of being carried by retailers and making enough money to do this for a living goes up, but it’s still incredibly hard even then.
The last and final form of publishing…
This is where you, the author, having written the book, YOU, pay a ‘publisher’ to publish your book for you.
One of the first things you’ll hear from anyone in this business is that the rule is… The money always flows to the author. An author should never be paying a publisher.
Maybe this doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, but let me put it in a different perspective. A company that charges authors to publish their book isn’t making its money off of book sales. It’s making its money off of authors. In traditional publishing (small or large) the publishers make money from book sales. Without book sales, they don’t have a business. In vanity publishing, the cash flow comes in from the writers, so where’s the motivation then to sell the book? Or to properly edit the book? Or to do the best job formatting the book?
To make matters worse, some of these vanity presses are unscrupulous charlatans that make a living scamming and ripping off authors. I have friends who’ve been through hell because of vanity presses. I’m not suggesting that everyone in Vanity is a crook, but certainly enough that I avoid it like the plague.
But again, the biggest issue for me is that lack of motivation for sales in the partnership. When a traditional publisher (small or large) takes a chance on your book, they’re making an investment. They’re putting time and money into your art to help make it the best possible product so that it will sell.
Since diving into this business, I’ve seen only one case where I felt an individual made the right call in going with a vanity press. It was an older gentleman who’d been diagnosed with terminal cancer and he just wanted to see his book in print before he died. That’s about the only case where’d I’d give you the green light. Otherwise, do yourself a favor and stick with the first three.
And just to be clear, I'm not referring to any of the many business who cater to self publishing now. There are numerous services you can hire for editing, formatting, and creating covers, but they don't call themselves publishers.
An additional note: There have always been crooks, scammers, and thieves, but now, due to the rise of self publishing, there are even more. You need to very careful and make sure you're always doing business with reputable people.
Okay, I’ve tried to keep this fairly brief, and I know I could have given a ton of more detail, but you read this and have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me through the contact page.