I remember when I was a child and the only available avenue for legitimate publishing was the traditional route via securing an agent beforehand. I knew of self-publishing, but a lot of it was considered vanity publishing and even brushed off as a scam. And it was like this for quite some time until Amazon released an e-reader that rocketed into popularity. A lot of people didn’t think it was going to make it, arguing they preferred print instead, but it’s popular and the fact that it’s still around inspired writers to self-publish under their own names/companies. And other writers launched their own publishing companies that became known as independent presses (or indie). Of course, there are large publishers out there that you can argue are the traditional route that don’t require an agent (some would consider these independent), but the point I’m getting at is there are options now. No one has to worry about never being able to make their dreams come true.
With options now, I know there are writers out there struggling to figure out which route to take. So I’m going to outline the various paths along with the pros and cons to hopefully help you out with your publishing journey.
- Traditional Route. A lot of people take the traditional route because they want to see their books in bookstores (although you can get this with certain indie presses). You’re also more likely to net a movie deal this way. The marketing is also usually done 100% for you because traditional publishers tend to have much larger budgets for it. If you know your book has commercial appeal, this route is something to consider. Now a book without commercial appeal can still stand a chance, but when we talk about commercial appeal, the book can usually draw in a wide audience from many different backgrounds. For most of these publishers, you will have to secure an agent. Royalties are considerably smaller, and it’s anyone’s guess what your advance will be. You also most likely will not have control over your book cover–really, you’ll be giving up a lot of control in general. I think only big name authors are granted that privilege of having a say in what goes on. So if you want all or some control of your book, this route probably isn’t for you.
- Independent Press (Indie or Small Press). This route usually does not require an agent, although some indie publishers are open for them. This is the route I have taken with The Stars Trilogy. I chose this route for those books because to me they are more niche and don’t have commercial appeal. I have also loved being able to have some control in the process. I had a say in what the covers looked like (though these will be changing under my new publisher). Indie presses pretty much encourage you to fully take part in the process, even though if you’re like me, I don’t want 100% control because I do trust the experts and all writers have innate bias with their own works. You also get to see your book published sooner than you would for a larger press. Royalties are also at least 50%, which makes up for the lack of advance in a lot of indie presses–but mostly if you sell well. The downside, of course, is that the marketing budget is limited and you have to do some yourself, you usually won’t end up in bookstores (unless you’re lucky or approach independent bookstores), and some indie presses do e-book only. Your book may also struggle to sell depending on who you go with, which is why I recommend finding indie presses that have bestsellers.
- Self-publishing. This obviously allows you full, 100% control over everything, from editing to cover design. Some people use this as a last resort when other options have failed. Others use this as their only route because they want control and don’t want someone else dictating the direction of their manuscript. Self-publishing is great because it means your hard work still has a chance. Not only that, but you can still bring it to print and even get it into local bookstores with a little legwork. E-books are also, as far as we know, forever. Unlike with being with a publisher where your book is only signed on for a certain number of years unless you sell really well, you don’t have to worry about that with self-publishing. So if your book starts out slow, there’s always a chance it can gain traction. Of course, this option does involve needing to spend money. It is up to you how much you want to spend, like whether you’re going to create the cover yourself or have someone else do it. However, you absolutely need to hire an editor/copy editor/proofreader. Writers are too close to their work to be able to properly judge it. Marketing is also entirely on you, and that is its own skillset you have to learn if you want your book to be successful. But despite this, all profits are yours.
Whatever path you choose, make sure you are well-informed about these options before deciding. I’m likely going to keep my paranormal books with my current publisher and try to find a literary agent for any contemporary books I write.