With the popularity of the indie publishing route, I
know some beginning writers may wonder why someone would choose to pursue a
traditional publisher at all – either byacquiring a literary agentor
submitting directly to a publishing company. Indeed, what are the benefits,
especially when it’s just as easy to upload your edited manuscript to Amazon KDP and
add a cover? Bam…done! There’s a book! ;)
Yet, it would behoove us to explore the
possibilities, the pluses and minuses of having a traditional publisher, if you
will, while considering this approach as a writer…
Despite the prevalence of indie publishing, having a
contract with a real publisher is heavily respected in most circles. It increases
your credibility as an author. However, many readers don’t tend to care which
publisher you have as long as you're with one.
Writers have the luxury of being a bit pickier, though.
Most of the time, an author support group/writing
community develops at the publisher. All the authors there are in the same
boat, and veterans can offer advice to newcomers.
William White, Unsplash
If being a traditionally published means a lot to
you as a writer, you gain a sense of accomplishment, having mastered a
milestone of your career goals.
Unless you somehow got stuck with avanity publisher(Yikes!), a lot of the cost is on your publishing company. The
editing, book cover art, final proofreading, and minor marketing are all
covered, among other aspects (distribution). And that's a relief, because these services are often so expensive.
In some cases, the job of a
release or launch party is on you as the author. The promo graphics for
featuring the book on social media are your responsibility (you can create them
on your own, or hire a designer to do it for you), and the cost of the prizes for
readers will come out of your own pocket. In the scheme of things, though, it
isn’t much to expect if you’re not paying out for all the other stuff.
Your Author Platform and Reach Places You Couldn’t As an Indie.
Periodic book launches and Amazon promo deals help
you reach book readers. Furthermore, if you’re lucky, your publisher has great
book distribution, and the title might even land in a bookstore at some point.
Renee Fisher, Unsplash
Your Security Blanket.
An added benefit of having a publisher – of course,
it doesn’t hurt to have a published book – is confidence. You’ll get more
comfortable stepping out of your comfort zone, so to speak. If you’re an
introvert by nature (some creative types are), you will often be forced to try
on different roles as an author. Through your marketing efforts, you may deal
with radio hosts or even journalists who want to interview you. Enjoy the
experience, and work despite your nerves.
Austin Distel, Unsplash
These opportunities will help you grow accustomed to
similar situations. Before long, you’ll be able to confront any promotional event
like a pro!
Now…let’s flip to the other side and discuss some cons.
In the Door Is Tough.
If you’ve started the traditional publishing
process, then you know there are protocols. You must havea query letter, a synopsis, and sample chapters (not to mention a fully
polished manuscript) before ever approaching a potential publisher. It’s normal
to suffer numerous rejections from literary agents and publishers alike, before
someone finally offers you a book contract. This process can take time, and some
writers grow discouraged and give up long before they’ve given themselves a
Nathan Cowley, Pexels.com
Often Have No Control Over the Finished Product.
Let’s say you’ve landed a publisher.
Congratulations! But, there’s still work to be done. The problem is that now
you have to try to accept what you’re given, even if you don’t always agree
with the decisions at hand. Some publishers cut corners on book covers, or even
on final proofreading. Diversely, if they do it right, you still might end up with a cover or
title that you hate. Or...let's say you disagree with an editor about subtle changes he or she wants you to make. There’s really not much you can do after signing a
contract. The publisher has final say over this stuff. All you can do is hope
that your feedback is acknowledged, but try not to become the problem author (one who complains
about every aspect of the process, and goes out of his or her way to badmouth
the publisher on social media and such). You’ll be tanked before you even have
a chance to enjoy being published.
May Do More Than You Ever Planned.
If your initial strategy was to get published, and
then sit back and let the Benjamins roll in, you’re in for a world of hurt.
Pepi Stojanovski, Unsplash
have expectations of their authors. They want to see their writers trying to sell books, or at least
developing their brand. If you’re lucky, the publisher you signed with helps
out with some of the marketing/book promotion. But sometimes it falls back to
you. Your platform is solely on you as the author, and with good reason. Would
you expect your publisher to build and maintain your own website/blog/Facebook
page/Twitter/Instagram profile? No. Yes, there are services that help you with
these things, but it will be much better overall if you try to do it yourself
Building your brand and platform is your job. Unless
you have a great PA and stellar publicist, be prepared to work your butt off
and sell the hell out of your book!
That also, unfortunately, means reaching out to
reviewers on your own. Not all publishers automatically send out ARCs (advance
review copies) to review sites. If you know a friend with a book reviewer list,
jump for it. Otherwise, you’ll have to find them all yourself. And that, my
friends, is time-consuming. Believe me, I know.
If you’re at a loss, contact me directly for such a reviewer
Is A Thing.
Not only is the publishing process slow,
accomplishing anything real seems impossible, as it has to circulate through so
Your best bet is to be patient, unless you know for sure that someone at the publisher is violating a policy of your contract.
Contracts Don’t Last Forever.
Most contracts have a three-year span, with the
option of renewing if both parties are still interested. The truly unfortunate
thing is that a publisher can drop you at any time for any reason.
Book Royalties May Not Be What You Expected.
How often you receive royalties is up to the
publisher (and most don’t offer an advance). Some pay once a month, others
quarterly or twice a year. And the income you get may pale in comparison to all
the labor you actually put into writing the book.
Regardless, you still have to pay taxes, even if you
only made what amounts to ten cups of coffee that year. Unfair, I know.
A Victim of An Industry’s Evolution.
Things are constantly changing in the publishing
Your favorite editor may leave the publisher or switch jobs. The publishing
company might change their mission statement, which could affect the types of
books they offer. Some publishers close their doors – it’s not unheard of –
leaving contracted authors in quite a pickle.
And I’m not saying any of this to discourage writers
from traditional publishing. I just want everyone to have the facts upfront.
It’s overwhelming, to say the least. You may decide
to go full-on indie instead of bothering with a publisher. For myself? I prefer
to be a hybrid, to dance in both worlds. That way, I can gauge the benefits of
each approach. And yes, perhaps someday one side will outweigh the other. That
remains to be seen.
The choice is yours. But I like to have all the
details in advance so I can make an informed decision. A lot of new writers go
into this situation with huge expectations, and then get discouraged. Some quit.
The journey isn’t easy, for sure. Yet, having your book reach readers – to give
it the best chance possible – is rather the point of publishing, right? Let’s
do what we can to get there, even through the ups and downs. Hopefully my
experiences have offered some insight so you can make the best choice for your
own work. That has always been the goal for this blog – to help writers of any
background at any stage of their careers.
But I can’t stress enough that you should manage your expectations. Whether you
choose to self-publish or find a traditional publisher, be prepared for a big
reality check. If you got into this to become an instant millionaire, you’d be
better off buying a lottery ticket. Making a ton of money off books is pretty
rare, almost a pipe dream. Many authors still have to supplement their income
with a second job. So don’t do it for the money, but rather because you love
writing and your dream is to get your book to readers.
Ian Schneider, Unsplash
The choice is yours. Find a publisher, or try to
navigate the world of publishing on your own. I just hope I’ve provided the
tools necessary for writers to make an informed decision. And, of course, keep
in mind this is subjective, though I’ve also tried to draw from the example of
others as well. Every writer’s journey is unique, though some experiences are
universal. We just all go at a different pace.
In any case, I hope you have a wonderful autumn
season, and happy reading and writing, everyone! :)
author of Victorian maritime romance/family saga, Heiresses in Love Series, and 19
other books. Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and two cats.
She has been writing for a little over twenty-five years, with more works in
progress than she can count on two hands. Since 2010, Marie has published 22
books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic
suspense, paranormal romance, dramatic fiction, fantasy, science fiction,
mystery/thriller, literary fiction and poetry. She writes adult fiction, as
well as occasional stories for children, and has recently started some young