Traditional or Not
Posted Fri, 06/15/12
My books have been released both by traditional publishers and through my own efforts. As e-books continue to influence the market, making it all the more easier to publish your own work - therefore taking in the lion's share of royalties - industry discussion often centers around the changing roles of traditional publishers and the major influx of self-published books being released on a daily basis.
Traditional publishing has limits, especially for the author. E-book royalty rates are around 40%. You often have no say in book cover design, not to mention the book title. While most contracts state that the publisher will take an active role in promoting and marketing the book, the author is expected to do the same. Truthfully, authors do most of the legwork for promotion regardless of what their publishing contracts might indicate. In other words, it's all on the head of the author for a whopping 40% of the profits.
You'd think getting a contract would relieve some of the pressure, but it does not. I've been lucky in that my suggestions for book cover designs have been taken to heart, and that my editor is very easy to work with. My biggest issues with traditional publishing include unbalanced royalty rates, the length of time from signing a contract to actual book release (more than a year in some cases), overblown pricing and the miniscule effort they put into promoting and marketing an author's work.
There are still those from the "old school" who believe you aren't really a published author unless your book is in print, which is utter rubbish. Time and technology are not going to roll back for a select few. Books in print and digital format are equal, as far as I'm concerned. One is certainly not better than the other, depending on your reading preference.
One major downside of self-publishing is there are millions of people with the same idea, which often floods the market with "junk." I don't profess to be better than anyone else, yet I do make the effort to polish my work to the best of my ability. There is nothing worse than reading a book that is filled with typos, but we are all human and we make mistakes. I can't tell you how often I've read print books and found typos. It just happens. As long as glitches don't glare from virtually every page of a specific work, I'm more than willing to read on. Storyline and writing style top my list.
On the positive side, self-publishing royalty rates via Amazon and Barnes & Noble are 70%. You can avail yourself of their respective cover design or print services, or do it yourself. The final say on book title and cover design rests with the author, along with setting the price. Royalties are paid every month rather than every quarter.
Currently, I have fifty-two books released under my own volition. These include full-length fiction (3), short story collection (11), poetry (1) and culinary history titles (37). All of the self-published titles are distributed via multiple pseudonyms to match content and "genre" (Deborah O'Toole, Deidre Dalton, Shenanchie O'Toole and Food Fare). Keep in mind that the books were not written overnight. It took me years of hard work to reach even modest success. Writing, designing and publishing your own work is not for the faint-hearted. Be prepared for boatloads of criticism, and do expect resentment and downright hostility from certain people, including your fellow-authors. It comes with the territory.
So which way is better? Getting signed with a traditional house or taking the self-published route? Both have their merits, and each author has to make his/her own decisions.
However, the pendulum seems to be swinging away from traditional to the self-published avenue. To each their own.