Traditional Publishing, Assisted Self-Publishing, or Self-Publishing?
I published my very first novel, The Guardians of Eastgate: Seers Book I, the summer of 2017. It was officially released for sale on all online platforms on August 30, 2017. During the process of getting that first edition out to the public, and since then, I have learned a lot. And I’ve learned enough to know that there is still a lot more left to learn. It’s a never-ending process. I say ‘never-ending’ because there are always new things happening, so I expect I will never know everything there is about the subject.
In order to help other authors who are starting out and thinking about self-publishing, I decided to start writing this blog series. In it, I will tell you about the things I’ve discovered while stumbling my way through the dark.
In this first issue, I will talk to you a little about traditional publishing, assisted self-publishing, and self-publishing.
When I finished writing my first manuscript, I knew I would need it edited, formatted for print and eBook, and so on. Really, though, I was aware there was a lot to be done, but I didn’t know what it all was, or how to go about doing it. So, I searched online for help.
Some major benefits of going with a traditional publisher, I have learned, are that they take on the costs of publishing the book, and they provide editors, cover artists, and pretty much every other service that you need to get your story from manuscript to published book. So, it’s the publisher who takes on the risk of putting money into a book that may or may not make back the value of the investment.
Sounds great, right? Especially if you are a new author who can’t afford to carry all the costs yourself, or you don’t have the time to search for all the talent you need.
Well, it can be great, but there is also a flip side. Traditional publishing companies provide you with everything you need, but they also claim much of the royalties from the sales of the book. Of course, you can negotiate contracts most of the time, but some publishers will actually take up to 70% or more of the royalties. On top of that, the publishing house will most likely hold the copyright and take the creative control.
And, that’s assuming you can get a traditional publishing company to take you on in the first place. Did you know that when J.K. Rowling was looking for a publisher for her first Harry Potter book, she was turned down many times before a small publishing company decided to take a chance on her? And look where she is today.
There are two morals to that story.
First, never give up!
Second, don’t expect that you’ll find a company to take you on right away.
Publishing Companies can end up with more manuscripts sent to them than they can process. At the same time, though, some publishers don’t like it if you’ve sent the same manuscript out to other publishers to look at while it’s with them. Many won’t even take submissions if you don’t query through an agent.
Manuscripts can end up sitting for years on an editor’s desk before they even get the chance to look at them. Then, once they do, your manuscript may end up rejected not because it wasn’t a good story or because it wasn’t well-written. It could end up being rejected for reasons such as, how many manuscripts in your genre has the company taken on presently? What genres are selling well at that moment in time? And so on and so on.
However, you may never know why the manuscript was rejected. For example, one of the members of a Facebook writers’ groups I belong to recently wrote about how he had asked an editor that “why” question. He was told, in not a very nice fashion, to never ask that question again. So, you may end up sitting there, deflated, thinking your story and/or writing are not good enough. Of course, there is always the possibility that’s the case. But there is also the possibility that it was rejected for a completely different reason.
Many authors write query letters to the publishing company instead of submitting their manuscripts cold. A good query letter can help your book stand out, so it is a good idea to learn how to write one well if you are going with traditional publishing. Some authors also go the route of finding literary agents to take them on as clients. These agents can help make them more noticeable to traditional publishing companies. Again, you have to write query letters and be prepared to go to numerous agents before finding one who will take you on as a client.
Another thing I discovered is that there are many so-called “Assisted Self-Publishing” companies out there. However, many of them are linked to traditional publishers and, while you still have to pay for everything yourself since you are “self-publishing,” these companies still charge for services, and even claim royalties. In some cases, they claim much more than I would have expected, considering that the initial costs come out of the author’s own pocket. So, if you go this route, you have to be very careful in researching and choosing a company. You also need to make sure you purchase the ISBNs yourself, and not through the company, if you want to be listed as the copyright holder.
As for myself, I decided to go the assisted self-publishing route in the beginning because I had waited more than 25 years to get the story in my head down on paper, darn it! I didn’t want to take years more to get it out to the world. But, since I knew nothing, I decided to go the ‘assisted self-publishing’ route.
I know what you’re thinking. Why would I go that route after all the negative things I said about it above? Well, there were a couple of reasons. First of all, I had a book that needed publishing and not enough time or patience to learn to do everything myself. More importantly, I managed to find a Canadian company called Tellwell (www.tellwell.ca), who provides the ‘talent’ (editors, layout people, cover designers, etc.), sets up distribution accounts, and various other things you might need, depending on how much you want to spend. And this was the ONE company I found who didn’t claim the copyright, and who did not take ANY royalties.
They can even, if you purchase that particular service, set you up with a domain name and a website. In fact, they have recently helped me transfer the domain name owner from them (because they do all the initial set-up) to me.
If you go the true self-publishing route, you can either do it all yourself using a service such as CreateSpace, or find and pay the people and/or services you need to get your book published. I will give you more information about self-publishing and self-publishing options in Issue 2 of this newsletter.
In the next issue of Tips from a Self-Published Author Finding Her Way in the Dark:
- More pros and cons of assisted self-publishing
- Why I am glad I used a (true) assisted self-publishing company for my first novel
- Why I would NOT go this route for the second edition of my first book, or for planned future books
- More information about self-publishing options
Please note that these are my own experiences and opinions. I am not saying my choices would be best for everyone. It is always a good idea to do your research. My goal is to inform you of the kinds of things you need to know, and maybe even give you some insights and direction.
I look forward to posting more blogs about self-publishing, for your information and enjoyment, in the future.
Thanks for reading!