Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest asked 5,000 authors what factors influenced their decisions between traditional and self-publishing. Without reading the full (expensive) report, the accompanying chart is ambiguous because it merely states what factors influenced the decision, but not which direction authors were influenced. If you and I both consider “Publisher prestige” a factor, and it causes you to pursue traditional publishing, but causes me to choose self-publishing, the factor itself has limited value without the reasoning behind it.
These are, in fact, important factors; too important to leave to the ambiguity of a simple chart. Let’s clarify, shall we? As usual, I’ll fall back on opinion. Mine, of course. Where I see shades of grey I’ll say so, but where I see black and white, expect hyperbole.
I’ll dispense with one vague generality right here: the entire publishing process is easier with traditional publishing. That is, once you’ve found an agent, created a proposal, and gathered the requisite number of rejections, and finally joined the less than 1% chosen by traditional publishing. I refuse to accept “waiting to be picked” as a viable artistic or commercial plan.
- Wide distribution — Your self-published book can be available anywhere in the world, any place books are sold.
- Distribution into bookstores — Available either way, but immaterial as far as sales go.
- Marketing support from a publisher — You’ll do the bulk of the marketing no matter how you publish.
- Publisher prestige — The only people who consider one publisher “prestigious” and another not are folks in the industry. Unless your audience is made up of professionals in the publishing industry, this is no more important than which lumber mill provided the 2x4s for your house.
- Managing the publishing process — Excellent reason to self-publish. With traditional publishing, you relinquish all control.
- Editorial help — With traditional publishing, you’re assigned an editor. You may have a voice in switching, if they’re not a good match, but in the end, the editor and the edits are owned by the publisher, not you. Choosing your own editor and having final say in the edits is a valuable reason to self-publish.
- Maintaining or losing creative control — Perfect reason to self-publish.
- Avoiding the expense of self-publishing and distributing — Waiting to be picked is not just foolish, it’s lazy.
- Speed to market — Self-publishing is a huge win here. A determine author with a good team lined up can have a manuscript published in 90 days. Traditional publishing takes a year or more, even in a best-case scenario.
I know quite well how our biases affect our thinking. I keep looking for the good parts of traditional publishing, in order to develop a balanced perspective.
I just can’t find them.
How ’bout you?