By Tiana Warner
I was talking with a writer friend recently, and we got into a discussion on traditional publishing vs. self-publishing. She’s been querying agents like crazy. I’ve been doing self-publishing prep like crazy. She was surprised to find out I didn’t even bother trying to get an agent or traditional publishing contract.
Why would I do such a thing? Why would I not even try to get a publisher?
I’ve done a lot of research on the matter, and while both approaches have advantages, I decided self-publishing was a better option for me. Let’s talk about why.
Follow your own timeline
The traditional publishing timeline takes a zen-like level of patience. Realistically, you’re looking at a few months of querying agents, revising your query letter, and querying some more. Once you’ve acquired an agent, she then has to find you a publisher, which takes even more time and patience. Upon acceptance, the timeline for a publishing house is often one, two, or even three years. After all this, you’re not even guaranteed to have a book deal.
Even Queen Rowling got rejected about a dozen times before finally getting published. Life’s too short for that, and what’s “hot” in the book market evolves too quickly. Self-publishing gets your book out there as soon as you want. While I wouldn’t recommend publishing your book the day after you’re done your second draft, it’s motivating to know you can see it in print a few months after completion.
Control your story and platform
When you get picked up by a publishing house, you’re signing over the rights to your book. It’s quite possible that their editor will make you change stuff you don’t want to change—including the title. When you hire your own editor, you have the freedom to decide where to draw the line. It is still your book.
Personally, I like being able to choose the cover of my book, and the price, and where it’s distributed. What if the publishing house gives me a horrendous cover or a $34.00 hardcover copy? What if they want to price my eBook at $15.00? Unfortunately this happens all the time.
CreateSpace takes about 40% when you sell a paperback. Publishing houses usually take at least 85%, and your agent gets a chunk of what’s left (usually about 15%). There are other means of payment, like advances and flat rates, but in summary, you’re left with about enough to pay rent on the cardboard box you’ll have to live in.
Sure, if you sell a million copies that makes $40,000, but I’d rather sell a million copies at 60% royalty, thankyouverymuch.
The time is right
We’re in an age where self-published books have a better chance than ever of making it big. Print-On-Demand services and free eBook distribution are abound. One in three ebooks sold on Amazon are self-published. You don’t even need to be in a bookstore to be successful.
People don’t care how a book is published, as long as the book is good. If it’s going to explode, it’ll explode, whether or not it’s traditionally published.
Either way, marketing is up to you
Publishing house or not, you’re still responsible for marketing your own work. Yes, sometimes a publishing house helps out with PR and reviews, but it really varies. These days, you’ll likely need to create a marketing plan anyway if you want to impress a publisher enough for them to pick you up.
For me, the chance that a publishing house might help me promote myself is not enough to make me want to forgo the above advantages.
You believe in yourself
Ok, let me get all self-helpy for a minute. Write this on an index card: “I am a bestselling author.” Put it on your fridge. Look at it every day. If you believe wholeheartedly you can achieve something, then it absolutely will happen. I promise.
You’re an organized, driven person who has just written an entire book. You can absolutely put in the work and follow the steps required to publish it. You know there are infinite resources on self-publishing and marketing waiting for you on the web. You have every reason to be confident that you can self-publish your book, without giving up control, royalties, time, and that scene you love so much.
50 Shades was self-published. If 50 Shades can do it, then for the love of all that is holy, you can do it.
Here’s the thing. No matter what the medium, you need to do research to figure out how to market your book as best as possible. The more you get exposure and reviews, the more you do giveaways and networking and interviews, the better your chances of selling a lot of copies.
Self-publishing does cost more money up front. You’ll need to pay for your own editor, for cover design, and other miscellaneous fees. But if writing truly is your passion then this shouldn’t matter. Hobbies cost money. Startup businesses cost money. Writing is a hobby and a business. Personally, I don’t mind spending money on something I love this much. It’s like an investment in myself, and in the plan that soon I’ll make it back.
To be clear, I’m not against traditional publishing. Books are sexy and I think both approaches win. In fact, maybe a “hybrid” approach is best.
What do you think? What’s your take on self-publishing vs. traditional publishing? Tell us in the comments.
Tiana Warner is a YA fantasy author from British Columbia, Canada. Check out her upcoming novel, Ice Massacre. Tiana enjoys riding her horse, Bailey, and collecting tea cups. She would love to connect with you on Twitter—find her @tianawarner.