The Many Faces of Publishing

Man-E-Faces_human There are more avenues to getting published these days than ever before. I’ve been through a few of these and I have friends that have been published in even more ways. That makes us “hybrid” authors and it seems to be a good path to pursue since each way comes with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Traditionally published (large publisher) – There are a few authors I know that have been published by what I would consider large publishing houses. Scott Sigler has been published by Crown, a subsidiary of Random House. Tee Morris and Philippa Ballantine have been published by Harper. In watching their careers it seems that first and foremost, the advantages involve mostly things on the book production end. They don’t have to be concerned with getting covers or editing done. The publisher takes care of all of that. There is also the matter of getting their books in major chains. It seems that that’s a given with the larger house. That doesn’t automatically result in higher sales, but the visibility can’t hurt. Depending on how large your audience is, there’s also the matter of larger advances (though from what I’ve heard those are getting smaller unless you’re already very popular).

There are certainly a few perceived drawbacks. It can take a year or more to get the book out. You give up a certain amount of control when it comes to things like the cover. You also give up many of your rights in traditional contracts. Given the number of authors I know who like to do things like produce their own audio books, this can be problematic.

Traditionally published (small publisher) – The above authors also have experience with smaller publishers. Then there are folks like Jake Bible, Paul Cooley, and Nathan Lowell who are making or have made significant strides in their careers by publishing primarily with houses like Dragon Moon Press and Severed Press. This direction can often give you more creative control. You may be able to retain things like audio rights and could have some input on covers and marketing. There’s also the matter of a greater amount of mobility with them. Many smaller publishers can get your book to market more quickly. Paul’s latest book, The Black, was written, edited, and published in about seven or eight months.

Of course, since these houses are smaller you might not get the amount of visibility. You might also have to do more of your own marketing. Then there’s the matter of that publisher surviving in a very competitive market. Small publishers are more likely to fold up shop without notice or not live up to their commitments thanks to staffing or other issues.

I’ve had short stories published by smaller presses in anthologies and magazines. So, I’ve experienced both the above mentioned advantages and disadvantages.

Independently published – This is where I have most experience. Most of the authors I know have done this with varying degrees of success. It grants you the most freedom since you are the master of your own domain. With that freedom comes a greater amount of work. In order to be successful, it’s wise to do things like acquiring the services of an editor, a cover artist, and someone to do layout and design. You also have to figure out how to do all of your own marketing or hire someone to do that for you.

With that freedom though also comes a higher percentage of profit in sales. Whereas someone in the first two instances might earn a royalty from six to fifteen percent depending on the contract, an independent can see anywhere from thirty to one hundred percent of sales. All of that depends on what sales channels you use and whether or not you are doing ebooks only. The margins on paper books can be smaller. Of course, that’s also up to you.

The more I watch the careers of my friends the more I am convinced that there’s no ONE TRUE WAY. Having said that, what makes the most sense seems to be some combination of the three. As an author who’s still largely independent, I do hope to one day be published by both a large house and a smaller one. I want to experience all of the options for myself and see what works best for me.

For those of you who have experience in any of these venues, I’m curious as to what your expereinces are and what advice you have for authors like me and those who have yet to dip their toe into any of these turbid and turbulent waters. And have I left anything out?

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