Publishing: Self vs Traditional

First things first – for those of you not in the know: I quit my job last week. T and I have been wanting to move back to his hometown for awhile and of course that meant getting new jobs. We knew that my husband wouldn’t have a problem finding one (he was pretty much guaranteed a job at his old company if anything – which is what he got).

But finding work for me was going to be a problem. While I studied Biology – I have worked as a Microbiologist for almost 9 years. I have a lot of experience and unfortunately there are not many jobs available (at the moment) in the region for my qualifications. But I am a native English and Spanish speaker (with a Spanish degree) so I may have to go freelance until jobs where I do qualify are actually open – I’ll land on my feet. I’m a Tishner – it’s what we do.

Abner helping me learn to watercolor – I am a big DIYer

But just so you know – in Germany, you have to give three months notice (not two weeks) so I have plenty of time to plan my project: working full time on my novel – which I have decided to self publish.

The prospect both excites and terrifies me.

But of course you’re probably wondering where I came up with the decision…….easy: resesarch!

So today, I decided to go into the pros and cons with each (based on my findings) and let know you what I have found.  I will do my best to keep these points as unbiased as possible – because at the end of the day: you have to decide what works best for you.

So let’s dig in…

Traditional Publishing

The Good:

You did it! You finally spent all those years writing a book, finding an agent, having that agent find a publishing house, then working with that house and editors until you finally published your work! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH FUCK. YES. If you survive that entire process – you should feel validated. It is a REALLY hard industry to get into. Through your publishing house – you could be up for awards (hello there Hugo Awards!) and you will be able to see your book in a brick and mortar book store! Once you’re successful – all you have to do is keep writing! Your house will take care of the look and feel of the book with their top notch team of designers and editors all working together to make your book a product that will guarantee a return on investment and all you have to focus on is the story. You may even receive an advance!

The Bad:

Since your house will take care of the look and feel – you don’t really get a say in house your book will look. They may even ask that you change certain aspects of your story to make it more marketable. If you hate it – tough shit. If this doesn’t bother you – rock on. Remember, the company is literally investing in you so they get a lot of creative control. As a result, these folks also do need to earn their paychecks – which results in your royalties not being as high as you think (which you only start receiving after you have sort of paid back the advance). Industry standards set the royalty rate between 7% and 25% with the latter being VERY generous.

The Ugly:

Your book could be so good that it may be able to compete with a house’s established author. The House would then sign you on without ever intending to publish you. OR if your book doesn’t sell a certain number in two years – it also gets shelved  – and if you don’t have a clause in there that states that the rights get reverted back to you…..then that’s all she wrote.

Abner is a big fan of Jenna’s self-published work….

Self Publishing:

The Good:

You have complete creative control of every aspect of your book – the cover, the editors, hardback, paperback, release date. ALL OF IT. As a result – you get a much higher royalty: 70%. You can even rebrand and redistribute your work if you wish. You can learn from your mistakes and get it right again later – you will learn about each aspect of the book publishing process and your learning curve will be hella steep. Also there’s no rush – maybe your book takes more than two years to take off. At least it wasn’t taken off the market before it had a chance to potentially become a cult classic.

Hell, you can become a hybrid author and go traditional later! If you have already been a successful writer with your previous books, you can even use it as leverage to get a better deal with the publishing houses. Just look at The Martian and Fifty Shades of Grey – they both started out as self-published and both were taken on by Houses and they even had movie deals!

The Bad:

You have to do everything yourself. You don’t have a vetted team behind you – you have to do the vetting. Also, if you want quality (the same quality that the houses produce for their authors) it’s gonna cost you. A lot. You have to pay for everything and it’s a gamble. You may not get your money back if you don’t sell enough books. If all you want to do is write and have someone else take care of the financial and other icky stuff – then self-publishing is not for you.

You also have the stigma working against you. There are plenty of people who will look down at you and automatically think your book is crap because you didn’t “put in the work” or you didn’t have the patience to go through the process and wait years between agent, publishing houses, and editing before finally seeing your work on shelves. Just because an agent/publishing house rejects doesn’t (always) mean that your work is crap – it may simply hard to market (especially if you fucking curse a lot……like I do).

Yes, you can see your books being sold at books stores – it’s not impossible and I will get to the tid bits of that in a later post.

The Ugly:

It is fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucking expensive to produce great quality. There are ways to cut costs (in my case – my sister is a graphic designer and has taught me some tricks of the trade in terms of book covers) or using Betas to help with editing and proofreading (and I mean LOTS AND LOTS of Betas). It is doable – even if your budget is tight. I will get into that later, but know that publishing a book is much much more than stringing together a few words and uploading it onto Amazon.

But we’ll get into the nitty gritty of self publishing as I go on my own journey down the self pub route.

I did the lettering for each guest at my wedding….
I also designed the menus and table names (aaaaaaaaaand translated them into all three languages – German, English, and Spanish)

So why did I decide on the self-publishing gig? It’s a combination of me being a control freak (although I do know how to work with others – when it’s convenient for me) and that I am a BIG Do-It-Yourself-er. Anyone who knows me, knows my family (my dad especially), or at least had been to my wedding, or at least remembers the stress of planning the big event knows all about the DIY. Whenever we (meaning myself and those in my family) see something, our first question is usually: How do I make this? – then – Can I improve it? As a result I come from a family of Jack-of-all-Trades and it’s awesome.

Anyway, I wanted to end the post on a lighter note and show some self-publishing love to Jenna Moreci and Natalia Leigh. Both are successful Vloggers on YouTube who found success through self-publishing.

I thought I would add some of their videos where they also go a little more in depth about the pros and cons of Traditional vs. Self Publishing. Just a little info on each of the ladies:

Jenna is a sassy as fuck cyborg who is a hell of a business woman. She decided to go self publishing and doesn’t appear to have any regrets. I kinda worship her….

Natalia’s video is actually in collaboration with Meg LaTorre from iWriterly. Natalia has self published her first two novels and is currently trying to go traditional with her third book. Meg is a former agent who is also going through the traditional process.

I find that all three women have great points and are just a joy to watch 😀

Bis nächste Woche!


2 thoughts on “Publishing: Self vs Traditional

  1. What a great post! I’d add that traditional publishing houses these days more and more expect the author to handle promotion, through social media, library connections, trying to get reviewed, etc.

    1. You are absolutely right! I meant to also mention this. It was one of the big reasons why I was leaning towards traditional for the longest time. I assumed that the Publishing House would take care of the marketing for me. But with today’s technology – the author is now tasked with that bit (unless you’re a guaranteed cash cow like George R. R. Martin or J.K.Rowling). Thanks for bringing it up!

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