Writer. Adventurer. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a series of steampunk novels and short stories.
Do you want to be a little fish in a big pond or a big fish in a little pond? Do you want to publish your book this year or wait three years? How important is that cash advance to you?
I was lucky enough to participate in a webinar this week hosted by Grant Faulkner of NaNoWriMo. The guest speakers were the Book Doctors, Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry. They were wonderful and spoke for over an hour, then followed with a half hour answering all of our questions. I’d like to share some of the wisdom they imparted to us. I’m going to break it up into five sections:
Part Four – Pubilishing
Once you have written your book, what do you do? Where do you go? There are essentially three options currently where budding authors can do to get their newly fledged novel into the hands of readers. Let’s talk about the pros and cons of each.
Option One – Publishing with the Big Six (or Big Five)
Pros – Established in the industry. Has strong connections to all key players in producing the book, many of whom are in-house with the publisher. They have editors and copy editors, a marketing team (although not as robust as a decade ago), cover designers, hardcopy book manufacturing, and amazing distribution channels. If you sign with them, you will get an advance of $5000 to $20,000 and 18.5% royalties once you earn out your advance.
Cons – You have to find an agent (which takes time) who has to find an editor (which takes time) who wants to publish your book (which takes time). The timeline for Big Six publishing is 3 years to 5 years to never. Sometimes a publisher buys your book, but then they decide to not print or sell it. I don’t think most writers are in the business solely for money; we want to see (and hold) the finished product. There are much easier ways to make $5000 than the hours of anguish at the keyboard bringing your vision into reality. If your book does get tapped for publication, the digital version cannot be released until the same time or after the hardcopy version. (There are protectionist policies in place here by the Big Six to keep people buying books) So even if it is ready, the digital version will wait until the hardback copy is also ready. 18.5% royalities also goes in the cons list.
Option Two – Signing with an Independent Publisher
Pros – Independent publishers have been growing in popularity in the digital age. Many of them have decades of experience in the industry and saw the writing on the wall that times were a’changin’. You can often find independent publishers that specialize in a niche. They will assist with marketing as well as with all the editing, etc. to bring your book to the market. You may not need an agent and can contact them directly. You may be able to negotiate a more flexible contract with them that can meet both your needs. Usually you will get a smaller advance, so don’t quit that day job, but you will be a much bigger fish in their pond.
Cons – Because there is so much difference between various publishers, and because the industry is still in flux, it is difficult for me to list all the pros and cons. Certainly an independent publisher is only as good as the people who work there. You are relying on their expertise and connections to make your vision a reality. Make sure you vet them well to get the best possible publisher for your book, especially if you are skipping getting an agent and querying them directly.
Option Three – Self-Publishing
Pros – You control everything yourself, from the title to the book cover to the price and release date. You are the only fish in your pond. Especially with genre fiction, which already has large consumer bases ready to read your book, self-publishing does not have the stigma that it used to have. Genre fiction categories are very reader-driven. You can also go this route while you are looking for one of the publishing partner above. Market your book to its eyeballs, make all the money you can, then take an advance when it is offered to you. It is okay make a change as long as it matches with your goals and your plan to get there.
Cons – You are responsible for everything and have to make all the hard decisions. Spend some money and hire a reputable copy editor when you book is ready. Also develop some cover art and a distinct title that will set your book apart. Remember that readers will be scanning titles online, so have a book cover that looks good as a thumbnail. You will also need to know the rules for formating your books to upload to digital retailers. This is another time where you can reach out to experts who are offering these services for a few hundred dollars. Do your research. It is important to your success that you do a job to rival the professionals.