Self-Publishing VS Traditional Publishing


Writing a book takes a lot of time and energy. You pour your own emotions and experiences into your characters, twist the world you live in to create something new and complex. It takes years of brainstorming, writing, editing, brainstorming some more, rewriting…and eventually you have a 100,000+ word book.

And you may have written double or triple the number of words than the wordcount of the final product.

When you finish, you want to give it the best chance of success in the world. You want people to read it, so you have to market and advertise it. For this reason, many authors go the traditional publishing route. I was going to do the same thing with REM World: Lucid…and then changed my mind. This is to tell you why.

And not to, in any way, bash those authors who choose traditional publication.

Control

If you know me from social media alone and haven’t spent time with me IRL, then you might not know this about me. I have a strong need for control. The idea of someone ‘letting’ me do something, telling me I ‘can’t’ do something, or forcing me to change something I’m working on (writing or not) completely enrages me.

This is not to say I can’t accept and integrate critique. I have several beta readers that can attest to that. I’ve implemented so many suggestions from CPs, beta readers, and my editor without so much as an indignant huff. So that’s not what I’m saying here.

The problem arises when it comes to ultimatums. “Make these changes or forget it,” doesn’t sit well with me. And I know there are times in traditional publishing where that might be the case, but this isn’t the issue, either. It’s more, I don’t want to wait for permission to write. And I want to write the entire REM World trilogy. In traditional publishing, the publisher can pull the series before its completion if they think it isn’t selling well enough.

That’s why many agents suggest that you don’t start writing the second book in a series until you get a deal for the entire series. But what if only the first book gets picked up and the publisher decides not to sign you for the rest? Well, you just never finish the series, that’s all.

It’s infuriating.

Write What You Want

Let’s say you do get the three-book deal for your trilogy. Then, after the first book, the publisher decides to pull the series before its completion. It’s just not selling to their standards, so they’re going to cut their losses now.

But you’ve already been paid for the other two books, so now you have to write something else for them to fulfill your contract. Something that will sell. Now you’re on the hot seat to write two novels that maybe you aren’t even that passionate about.

I hate writing to a prompt. Chaste Kingdom is a novella I’m writing to a prompt…and I’m on Chapter 3. Probably not going to finish it right now, to be honest, because I want to write the second REM World book.

And now I can, because I don’t have to wait for permission to write it. And if the first book doesn’t sell exceptionally well? Doesn’t matter to me much, because I’m writing what I love.

Of course, I’m not expecting REM World: Lucid to fail. In fact, I’m putting together a solid plan to ensure its success once it goes on preorder this summer of 2021. I have aspirations to hit the bestseller lists and a logical path to get there. But if it doesn’t make it there, guess what? I can still write books two and three.

Because nobody is telling me I can’t.

Paying For Everything

Book cover, editor, formatting, distribution, audiobook, marketing & advertising…

When you’re published through traditional mediums, the publisher picks up the bill for most of these costs. But when you publish your work yourself, you’re in it for the whole invoice. Yay!

But don’t freak. I’m not rich, but I can do this.

Let’s talk about the pros of this first. You get to choose how your book cover looks. Every aspect of it is up to you, so you get to decide how you present your work to the world. I’m not going to bash any specific book covers, but I will tell you that there have been a few that don’t match the contents of the book. It’s a story about something dark and serious…but the cover looks like it’s a middle-grade mystery.

Maybe the author loves it, maybe not, but it’s not up to them in the end. The publisher decides how to present your work, though they might give you the option to offer feedback sometimes.

This is still too little control for me. But if I was being traditionally published, I don’t really have a leg to stand on. They’re paying for it, so I gotta sit down and shut up about it, I guess. No thanks.

The price tag for indie authors might have them clutching their pearls, but fear not! For most professionals you’ll work with to develop your book, you will be asked to pay a percentage up front and the rest at the end of the transaction. And many professionals are willing to tailor a pay schedule to your personal needs. There’s no excuse to cut corners, my dear friends.

Quotes I’ve received so far:

Editor: $400 (Super affordable!)

Audiobook: $4200 (This is on the high end, because I want the best. You can get this cheaper.)

Cover Art: $450

Editing: Indie Books Are ‘Hit Or Miss’

A lot of authors who intend to traditionally publish have their work professionally edited before they query anyway, but this is a must-have step for indie authors. Sending your book out into the world with typos and misspelled words is cringe as fuck. It gives you a bad name as an author and reflects poorly on the entire indie community.

I have yet to watch an indie book rec video on YT that doesn’t mention, ‘Indie can be pretty hit or miss,’ or some variant thereof. This is a completely fair statement, because some indie authors don’t spend the time and money to have their books edited. Professionally edited.

And if you think you don’t need it, you probably need it. You can see in my blog posts that I don’t often make spelling or grammar errors. Still, when I had REM World: Lucid edited by the fabulous Jodi Jensen (@WritesJodi), it came back with plenty of things I never even considered. Technical writing issues are things you need to consider, too. Overused words, dashes instead of em dashes, wording, continuity errors, and on and on and on.

No individual author is going to be able to think of all of this while editing their own work. We all have our crutch words, our little tics that interrupt the story for the reader. And when you hit ‘publish’ on Amazon without running this under another set of professional, trained eyes, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. And you’re perpetuating the belief that indie books aren’t as good as trad books.

Which isn’t true at all. There are plenty of indie authors who put in the time. They make sure their books are edited and formatted in such a way that they’re indiscernible from traditional books. Quality is so important, indie or trad, but especially if you’re indie. We already have a reputation working against us, so we have to work extra hard.

No Contracts & All The Money

When you work with an agent or publisher, you’re hiring the agent and the publisher is investing in you. So you’ll need to follow your contract agreements and pay both of them a percentage of your royalties. Because of this, the traditional author typically receives much lower royalties than their indie counterparts.

This is understandable, however, as they’re doing a lot of the heavy lifting with the book cover and…some marketing…

Yeah, actually, there’s a reason I finally decided on self-publishing. Agents and publishers are both in the business of making money, because they’re a business. And you’d think that would mean that they’d want to bend over backwards to make sure you succeed, right?

Eh, not exactly. See, an important part of business is knowing when something isn’t working and cutting your losses. So if you’re not working or your project isn’t working, publishers are quicker to give up on you than you are to give up on yourself. You’ve sold 300 copies your first year? Maybe you feel great about that! But maybe your publisher doesn’t, so they pull your books from the shelves.

But as an indie author, you decide what success means to you. You like that the first book in your trilogy sold X number of copies in its first year? Brilliant! Write the next book! You don’t like it and want to move on to another idea? Also brilliant! Move on! You’re in complete control of your business.

Now the downside is that in addition to paying for all the marketing and advertising yourself, the book cover, the edits, and whatever else you need, you take the hit if it flops. (Chances of it flopping are slim, in my opinion, if you do all the things I’ve mentioned. I’ll let you know by the end of the year, I guess.)

But if it does, 80 or 90 percent of nothing is still nothing. Traditional authors usually get an advance (somewhere between 5k and 15k or something), which isn’t much. But at least it’s something. And you didn’t spend money on the book cover or audiobook or whatever else. So you come out in the black usually with traditional publishing.

This is appealing, even to me, but I decided that I wanted to take the risk. It’s not ‘wasted money’ if the REM World trilogy doesn’t take off. Any investment in myself will never be a waste of time, effort, or money. I’m worth every penny I spend on myself, full stop.

And this is what I want to do for the rest of my life, so I can think of no better way to spend my money.


If you enjoyed this article, please consider adding your name to my Preorder Alert list for when REM World: Lucid goes on preorder or subscribe to my newsletter. ♥ Sweet dreams, Travelers & Dreamers!

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