Independent publishing, or self-publishing, has seen a huge rise over the past several years. Instead of waiting for rejection letters, authors have taken matters into their own hands and started getting their work out there. For better or worse, self-publishing is here to stay.
I know this because I am a self-published author.
My first book was independently published by a ministry I volunteered for in 2010. I currently have 14 books in print (and more that are available only as eBooks). In 2014 I blew all of my income goals out of the water.
However, for the first time, I am actively seeking an agent. My first step was to submit my work into a contest that is offering five authors the opportunity to sit down with a publisher, agent, or marketing agency.
Why would a successful, independent author seek out a publishing contract?
I am so glad you asked. In this post, I am going to highlight some publishing pros and cons. However, you should also know that it has been a life long dream of mine to work with a publishing company. That dream didn’t go away when I received my 200th review on Amazon. It didn’t diminish when my book won an award, or reached international best-seller status. I know it is possible to be a successful independent author, but I would still like to work with a publishing house. You’ll learn more about why below.Learn the pros and cons of independent and traditional publishing with Heather Hart Click To Tweet
Independent / Self-Publishing
Complete Control – No one is going to tell you what to write or how to write it. You have control over your book from start to finish. Cover, content, marketing, you control all of it.
Speed – You can work at your own speed. No one gets upset if life happens and you miss a deadline, and you aren’t restricted by waiting on others before moving forward. The speed of your publishing process is controlled by you and you alone. A book a month, a book every five years, it’s all up to you.
No Quality Control – Sometimes when you self-publish, you get excited and publish something that is less than the best. Sometimes you are worried it’s not ready yet and never go through with publishing because you aren’t 100% confident it’s up to par. Because it is all up to you, there is no one there to run quality control and either encourage or discourage you from moving forward.
Investment = Outcome – Contrary to popular belief, self-publishing isn’t free. What you invest will determine your success. That either comes in the form of man hours or good old American dollars (or Euro’s or… you get the point). Writing, editing, formatting, cover design, marketing, all of those things take time and money. And all of them are important. You can’t just invest in the writing process and hope to be a success. You have to invest in all five. There is a learning curve. You can outsource the process or learn to do it yourself, but it is an investment any way you do it. If you don’t have any time or money to invest, independent publishing will never take you anywhere.
Learning Curve – Publishing your own book takes a lot of work. There is so much to learn. From formatting to editing, cover design to book marketing, website management to list building, there is always something to learn. If you don’t want to learn to do it, you have to learn how, where, and when to outsource it. It can be very overwhelming for new authors.
No Guarantees – Even if you sink 10,000 hours and thousands of dollars into your book, there is no guarantee it will become a best seller. You can publish 3,000 eBooks and never make a single sale. You will have better chances if you have a good book cover, blurb, and market your book to the right people, but there are no guarantees in the publishing industry.There are no guarantees in the publishing industry but there are pros and cons Click To Tweet
Publishing Team – Having a whole team behind your work is an awesome experience. Knowing it is not all up to you. Having experts working beside you. Having design work, editing, formatting, and marketing paid for by someone else. What more could an author hope for?
Plus, part of having that publishing team, is being on the team. You’ll get to rub elbows with some of your favorite authors, because you’ll be on their team. Who doesn’t want another author with a large following on their team? Endorsing their book? The publishing team is the best part of working with a traditional publisher.
Pre-Built Platform – Traditional publishers all have their own platform. Even if you have your own platform, your book will reach beyond what you have built to get in front of new readers. Some of those new readers will try you out, both your book and your online presence. And every author know having a platform is a huge part of success.
Quality Over Quantity – Part of having a publishing team is knowing that the people in your corner will help your book be the best that it can be. Traditionally published books aren’t always perfect, but they pass through multiple hands before they reach the reader. Traditional publishing houses aim to put out quality products to keep their readers coming back. They want to be a publishing house readers trust. And quality is a huge part of that.
The Waiting Game – This is the biggest downfall of traditional publishing in my eyes. Pitching a project or story idea to an agent or publisher is a ton of work. It can take months or years to find the right fit, and sometimes it never comes to pass. If you get an agent, it can take months before they find a publisher for your manuscript. If you find a publisher, you start another waiting process as the book goes through edits, rewrites, etc. I read one blog post that suggested the average traditionally published book project takes two years. That’s a lot of waiting.
Learning Curve – While you have an experienced team on your side, there is still a learning curve to traditional publishing. From learning how and when to contact an agent to how to format your manuscript for submission. There is a process, and the process varies from agent to agent and publisher to publisher. You will have to learn which agent represents what, what publishing houses are looking for what, etc. Some agents want completed works, others want ideas and outlines. You really need to know before you start writing who you are going to submit your work to and what they are looking for.
Less Control – Sometimes having a whole team on your side can actually work against you. Your publisher will take charge of your book cover, and will sometimes request rewrites on areas of your manuscript. They may ask you to add or remove a chapter. They may want you to include something you would rather not, or remove something that was important to you. You lose control over your project. Sometimes this is the best thing possible, other times it can be frustrating.
Investment – While traditional publishing helps you with a lot of the time and costs of publishing, there is still an investment needed. Some agents and publishers want you to have your manuscript edited before they ever see it. There is time needed for marketing, editing, promotions, etc. Who you work with will depend on how much of an investment they need from you, but no matter who your publisher is, there is always an investment on your end. You don’t just write the book, turn it over and start getting paid.
No Guarantees – If you decide you want to traditionally publish your book, there are no guarantees it will ever happen. You can get an agent and never get a publisher. You can get a publisher and never make any book sales. Getting an agent and publisher improve your odds, but they are not a guarantee for success.Why @_HeatherHart is considering hybrid publishing (and maybe you should too) Click To Tweet
As the years go by, I am seeing many authors ease into what is called hybrid publishing. Essentially, they do both. They work with a traditional publisher for some books, and independently publish others. This gives them the best of both worlds, and can actually be amazing for book sales. People who buy your independently published books will also buy your traditionally published books. People who buy your books that are published traditionally will also check out your self-published books. It gives you an amazing amount of flexibility.
As a successful independent author, I look forward to the possibility of working with a traditional publisher. Not just because it is a life long dream, but because I think they can take my success to a new level. I know they can help my books reach even more readers and I sincerely believe they can extend the reach of the message God has placed in my heart. And that is why I write.
Sitting On The Fence?
If you are on the fence about your own publishing decision, I would recommend picking up a copy of Rachelle Gardner’s book, How Do I Decide? And grabbing a free copy of my book, Self-Publishing Books 101. It outlines the process of self-publishing and gives a great comparison of the different types of publishing options available for authors.
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