Self vs. Traditional Publishing

I decided that I’m going to self-publish.  The model for self-publishing, as I understand it from the ‘how to become a full-time author’ books and podcasts I’ve read and listened to, is for the author to pump out multiple books per year, and build the author brand, and income flow, and even writing skill along the way.  I have no interest in this pulp hackery.  It’s the equivalent of soap operas on television—pumping out high-quantity, low-quality entertainment.  James Patterson can spit out a ton of books per year, but he has a staff of ghostwriters.  My primary goal is not to build an author brand and become a full-time writer.  It is to create the best piece of art that I can (and I use the word ‘art’ with fear and trembling), and expose it to as many people as possible.  Creating the novel took me years of thinking and writing in turns.  So why go the self-publishing route when the model doesn’t fit my approach?

The obvious answer is that I won’t have to wait to strike a deal with a publisher.  But say I did strike a deal.  Say my quality is as good as I think it is, and a publisher is willing to overlook my deficiencies in social media presence.  In that case, there are still some downsides to going traditional.  The main one is that it takes on average two years from striking a deal with a publisher to the book hitting the shelves.  And that doesn’t count the time it takes to strike that deal.  My book has cooked long enough and is ready for market.  It even takes place in 2020.  Also, I don’t hear good feedback about traditional publishers’ promotional efforts, especially for new authors.  I hear it’s spammy—where they send out emails and press releases (without follow up) and hope something sticks.  Better to know that it all rests on me than subconsciously let myself off the hook, hoping that the publisher will do their job.  As for money, I don’t really care about the publisher’s 85% cut.  I’ll spend at least that promoting my own book.  I’m less interested in making money than I am in getting people to actually read my book.

Not that there isn’t a positive side to traditional publishing.  Even though odds are long to have a best-seller with a traditional publisher, they are much better than the odds are with self-publishing.  Traditional publishers still function as gatekeepers, letting readers know they are getting a quality product that has been vetted (but that’s less the case now than it used to be).  They earn the author instant credibility.  I’m sure a publishing deal would open up many podcasts and blogs to having me on as a guest.  As a self-published author, I’m going to be relying on my B.S.-ing skills to land these interviews.  I mean, I love my product, but I’ll need to represent it like it’s a big deal before it is, and pray that the right influence makers will fall in love with my book and help me spread the word.

Granted, I haven’t done any of this yet, and don’t know what I’m talking about.  These are just my current impressions.  In my next post I’ll lay out my battle plan for self-publishing.  I’m sure you’d be more interested in knowing what worked and what didn’t after the fact, but posting this beforehand will be a good contrast with my post after the fact.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *