Nathan Bransford, Author


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Do You Plan to Bypass the Traditional Publishing Industry Entirely?


In a recent guest post at J.A. Konrath’s blog, Barry Eisler laid out numerous reasons why he no longer foresees pursuing traditional publication.

And in the comments section on this blog, I’ve noticed a definite uptick in the number of people who are questioning the wisdom of querying agents and trying for traditional publication at all, whether because of the length of time it takes, the fear of losing control, e-book royalties, and many other factors.

So. For all you writers out there: Do you plan to pursue traditional publication or are you going self-publishing all the way?

Poll below, please click through if you’re reading via e-mail or a feed reader.






91 comments:

Rick said...

The wording of your answers is a bit narrow... "I will try traditional publishing first" implies that if we don't succeed, we will self-publish.

I plan to pursue traditional publication, period. If the first novel is not successful, that's when there's a second, and a third, and so on.

Self-pub is fine; but it's not for all of us.

IsaiahC said...

I get why people want to bypass traditional publishing. We hear about low royalty rates, difficulties breaking in, authors complaining about lack of control over the finished product, etc. etc. etc. And we hear about those who have made millions through self-pubbing and think "Why not me?"

Thing is, I know, for myself, why not me. I don't have the resources to give my work the best shot it can have in the self-pubbed world. (For one thing, I write Middle Grade fiction, and plan to emphasize school visits. Schools are wary of bringing in self-pubbed authors) I don't have the talent to design a cover, and don't have the money to invest in an artist. I don't have the money to invest in an editor (a must for any successful self-pubbed author) nor do I have the connections to get my book in the eyes of influential reviewers or purchasers.

Bottom line is, self-pubbing is much more viable today than ever before, but it still isn't the best option for everyone. If you can break into the traditional publishing world, I feel like you have a better foundation to build your writing career.

CourtLoveLeigh said...

I agree with Rick and IsaiahC... I just don't have it in me to self-pub and know that my book wouldn't be the best it could be if I went that route. Plus, while there is a lot of frustration with traditional publishers, I still see authors/agents/editors who get along swimmingly and really believe in what they're putting out there for the world, so I just have to be hopeful that it will happen for me, too :]

Sarah McCabe said...

I plan to only pursue self publishing, but if a trad house come knocking on my door with a million dollar deal... I probably wouldn't say no unless the contract was atrocious.

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

I tried traditional and went to acquisitions with 4 books only to not make it. After parting with my agent, I decided to publish my own book, Untraceable, coming out Nov 29th. Its been a wonderful process but I would love to make it back to traditional publishing someday. I do believe in the traditional model.

MacEvoy DeMarest said...

As a hobbyist writer who has made no moves in either direction yet, I can only say that self-publishing looks like an increasingly viable option.

I do buy into the notion that traditional publishing is largely "book as event" publishing, and if you fail to knock peoples' socks off, you're likely to be pulped and forgotten.


Self-pubbing, on the other hand, gives you an awfully long period of time (like forever) and much better royalties with which to meet whatever threshhold of financial success you set for yourself.

And if you write something good, I mean really, really good, I believe it will eventually float to the top, whether it's traditionally or self-published.

Mark Terry said...

I didn't respond because both is where I'm at. I've been traditionally published and I've self-published. Hell, I did an iUniverse thing 10 or so years ago when a traditional pub deal fell through. That said, I've got a couple projects out with trad publishers, but everyone's so skittish right now they can't seem to commit to anything, so I'm self-publishing some of them. I'm sifting through ideas that might make a good project for a traditional publisher for both fiction or nonfiction, while continuing to work on some of my own projects that traditional publishers haven't been terribly interested in, although readers have responded reasonably well to.

Nicole said...

You need an additional answer in your poll:

"I will try traditional publishing first, but will resort to self-publishing if necessary."

That's what I'm starting to seriously consider.

Nathan Bransford said...

Rick-

Yeah, I thought about splitting up the first category into those that would and wouldn't pursue self-publishing if it didn't work traditionally but thought it would be easier to have two options.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

I self-published my first novella last month and am working on the next project. It's really not that hard to find a editor or cover artist (I consider them business expenses), and the formatting/uploading process, though tricky, isn't hard to learn. Marketing is the hardest to do on your own, but I have an ad campaign running on Goodreads and have asked some bloggers for reviews. I enjoy the freedom of doing it myself, and since novellas are tough to market, they're good choices for self-publishing.

This doesn't mean I'm giving up completely on traditional publishing. I may still try selling some short stories to traditional markets for exposure. I'll probably hold off on traditional publishing for novels until the industry settles down, though.

Sera Phyn said...

I read Konrath's post a few days ago and he has some very valid points. Self-publishing is very appealing. In fact, if it came with editorial services, I would probably already have gone that route. HOWEVER, it doesn't. I am at a point in my writing where I don't know how much more I can improve on my own without good, thorough, knowledgeable edits to learn from. Maybe down the road I'll go with self publishing (although not strictly ebook publishing as many are doing--I still dream of having my own hardcover sitting on my bookshelf), but for now I'm chasing the legacy dream.

Melissa Alexander said...

I'm aiming for traditional publishing. If I had a novel that an agent believed in but that failed in Acquisitions (after serious consideration), I would consider self-publishing. But, honestly, I wouldn't self-publish anything that didn't have gatekeeper approval first.

Anonymous said...

Haha, there should be a "Still trying to WRITE IT" option. ;)

Anonymous said...

Still haven't made up my mind. The idea of self-publishing is very appealing for all the reasons you mentioned, but I still would like to know that the people who know the market better than I do and have slogged through mediocre book after mediocre book would see something special and marketable in my work. There's a little part of me that thinks, "If self-publishing is the only way I could put my books out there, maybe they're not good enough to sell."

LJCohen said...

I'm not sure it's an either/or proposition. I have an agent. She as a book on submission. I also have another book I am self-publishing. Just as a particular publisher might be a best match for a particular book, so will a publication route be individualized.

Vivienne Westlake said...

I couldn't vote because neither was the correct option for me. I just self-published my first romance novella and I plan to continue writing more in the series. These will all be shorter length and self-published. And I have some other ideas brewing in my head. However, I don't think of traditional and self-pub as mutually exclusive. I still plan to submit future stories to digital-first publishers and to NY houses later down the line.

For me, it's an issue of focusing on my career and I do not feel that traditional publishing alone can support an author's career--unless you're a breakout sensation. Most authors I know make more from their digital-first published books than their NY books, but even digital-first publishers have their drawbacks as well.

I feel that in order to survive as an author today, I have to diversify and take charge of my own career as publishers are looking out for their bottom line and not necessarily out for me as the author/content producer. In my mind, I feel that having self-published, digital-first, and also traditionally published books is the way to go. It's not an either/or option. It's more of a question: "What is the right publishing option for this particular book or series?"

Peter Dudley said...

Would love the personal validation of the traditional method, but I kinda feel like it's high school all over again... everyone wants to date the prettiest girl, but once you really get to know her you realize what a high maintenance, arrogant, self-centered rhymes-with-witch she can be. And you open your eyes to other--better--possibilities.

I would like to point out that I am referring to the process and industry above, not any particular agent or editor or other individual. For the most part, the people I've met have been sincere and lovely. But it's getting harder and harder for me to see the real benefits of traditional over self.

Wyndes said...

Self-publishing entirely. I've finished my first novel, and am working on the second. I have some revisions to do on the first before I post it for sale, but I'm planning on having it ready for January. I sort of like the irony of publishing in January, because I spent the past decade as an editor madly pushing books out the door to hit November for fiscal year close and holiday sales. It's fun to have the freedom to choose to do it as I like.

And that's basically the self-publishing answer to me: at this point in time, I think the financial rewards are just as likely to come from self-publishing as traditional publishing, and with self-publishing I get the freedom to write my own marketing copy, to design my own cover, and to tell a story that doesn't fit smoothly into genre categories. As an editor (non-fiction), I used to have to say "I really like it but I don't know how we'd sell it." I look at my quirky novel, and I'm pretty sure that's exactly what an editor would say to me -- but I don't have to sell 10,000 copies to justify the print run, I can just hope for a few readers who will fall in love with it enough to read number two (and then 3 and 4 and 5 and so on.)

Josin L. McQuein said...

Konrath has some good things to say, but his blog is (understandably) skewed toward self-publishing. That's what people seek him out for, so it makes sense that the lion's share of his followers would be people seeking to self-publish.

I wish more would listen to Mr. Eisler, however. His posts and tips are more balanced and more realistic for the mainstream. Everyone CAN'T make it self-publishing (or any other kind of publishing), but if you read enough of the posts and comments over there, you realize that's what too many of the posters there think is guaranteed.

Having said that, I have no qualms with self-publishing something, and there's a project I'd try it with, assuming I can get it into the sort of shape I want it to be, first.

So, my long and muddied answer is... both.

Rick Daley said...

I'm self-pubbing one WIP, but I'm planning to pursue the traditional route for my other WIP. It's like managing a diversified stock portfolio.

Anonymous said...

After my one-and-only experience with a legacy publisher, I wouldn't ever want to go through that again. This was a huge publisher, one of the largest in the world, and I was treated horribly. I didn't get paid on time (to the point they called for an internal audit), I have to bug them every step of the way to get things that should be a given (author copies months after the book came out?), they never even told me when the book was to be published! I felt like nothing more than a cog in a machine through most of the process, like I was just a factory worker turning out some generic product. No thank you. I've sold hundreds of copies of my ebooks so far, with very little effort on my part beyond writing. Self-publishing isn't for everyone, but then again, neither is legacy publishing.

MKS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MKS said...

I gave the tradition agent querying a try first. It didn't pan out even though I felt like I learned a lot from the process. After sharing the manuscript with some friends I ended up acquiring an editor and cover artists who believed in the book enough to help me bring it to publication.

I was going to make a pass at agents again after a few more revision, but now it is looking more and more like self-publishing makes more sense. Sometimes these things just take on a life of their own.

Bryan Russell said...

I'm all about tradition. What would Christmas be like without eggnog?

Margo Lerwill said...

I'm pleased to see such thoughtful, reasoned responses over the usual rhetoric (on both sides of the imaginary fence).

I responded self-pub all the way. A few background details: I've had an agent and went as far as contract discussions with Penguin, before it fell through. I've been published in magazines. Hmm, based on that, I suspect my answer is really self-pub all the way *from here on out*.

Earlier this year, I had a couple of agents I've networked with over the years ready to look at my newest project, and I had to make a decision on whether I was going to try out self-pub. Not because I'm anti-trad or hate agents or have a compulsive need to control every aspect of my work. It was mostly a financial decision and a long-term plan (especially after a brutally frank discussion with an industry professional I really admire about the future of publishing).

So I self-pubbed in May and did quite a few things wrong. Big splash and then petered out.

But I learned from my mistakes and self-pubbed again in October under a pen name and saw a hugely different (positive) result. It has been great motivation to keep putting in those long hours at the keyboard.

To those who are going to go self-pub, I have a single piece of advice. You've heard it from Konrath and Mayer, but it's also hard to follow until one's sees *firsthand* how right they are. Write A LOT. There is no promotion like a new release. A book or two a year is not going to earn a living for you in self-publishing.

Internet Geek said...

Put me down for answer #4 or #5 - I plan to self-publish, and if my numbers are decent enough, I will try the traditional approach.

Susan said...

I am hoping to be querying my novel, after years of work, in about 6-8 months. I'm not considering self-pubbing at this point. From what I can see, the current self-publishing marketplace greatly resembles San Francisco in 1849: lots of people mining for gold, and most of the money going to the people who sell the equipment. Just like back then, there's always a handful who make a big strike and make the papers, luring the masses over the mountains to try their luck.

Maybe that will change, but in the near term I like the idea of working with an agent, in particular, if I'm lucky enough to find one. I've worked too hard on this to throw it away in Smashwords or Amazon's endless pile, and I do not have the time to both write and become a full time publisher. I'm happy to take lower royalties for a better chance at really establishing myself as an author.

Mira said...

Great topic, Nathan!

I thought the Eisler/Konrath discussion was great. I really like Eisler's viewpoint. I thought it was both balanced and clear.

I've been pretty open about this here, so no surprise, but I won't ever pursue traditional publishing, and even if my book hit it big I wouldn't accept any offers to publish traditionally.

The 'writer as lowly drudge' culture that permeates traditional publishing is the main reason for this.

I couldn't bring myself to sell rights to my work, work which is deeply meaningful to me, to an enviornment that I feel doesn't treat me respectfully.

If the culture of traditional publishing substantially reformed, I'd reconsider, but for now, it's really off the table for me.

I'm just grateful that I have options today that many generations of writers did not have. And good options. E-publishing is very appealing to me for many reasons - the creative control, the higher royalty rates and the pacing all appeal to me as well.

Misty Provencher said...

I was 100% for traditional. I had offers, I got an agent and then I was turned out for something that didn't seem too reasonable. Traditional turned out to be something far different than I expected or hoped. Frustrated, I began to release my novel on my blog a few chapters a week, but when advised to protect my work, I self-pubbed. I don't know where the road will take me, but it has given me choices that I wouldn't have had as a traditionally pubbed author. I chose my own title, I chose my cover art. All the choices and work can be overwhelming, but with all freedom comes great responsibility.

Najela said...

The problem is that neither one is mutually exclusive. I don't see why author couldn't pick both. I would publish traditionally for exposure and self publish for the money. My main goal would be to write the best story possible and after that is done, figure out where the best home for it would be whether that be through one of the big 6 or to do it myself.

historywriter said...

Things in publishing are so fluid. I think it's wrong to dismiss traditional publishing and vice versa. I sincerely believe that publishing in both worlds will become normal.

After years of querying, I decided to self-pub a historical fiction novel of mine. It is about the Civilian Conservations Corps. It's doing well and I have unique audiences that are interested in the story and the subject. Libraries are picking it up. Self-pub is good for THIS book, but I'm querying two others. One, an agent has been very interested in. I hope to go the trad way with it.

Hiroko said...

I'm more inclined to self-publish because I like having freedom over my own material, though the exposure traditional publishing brings is fairly tempting. Where I am right now is going for self-publishing, but if I were to be offered a traditional deal (by some miracle), I might or might not consider it.

Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised more people said they prefer the traditional way.

David said...

Self-publishing only, from now on, forever. If I were advising a young writer, just starting out, I'm not sure what I'd say, but for those of us at the other end of a writing career, self-publishing is the only way to go.

This sort-of relevant blog post might be of interest: http://eyeblister.blogspot.com/2011/10/those-awful-self-published-books.html

Lexi said...

I self-published, and last year made considerably more than the advance I'd likely have been offered by a trad publisher.

I've given up submitting. I'm not against the right legacy deal, but contracts seem to be getting tougher and more all-inclusive, while offering smaller advances. And the time they take to get a book on the shelves is inexcusable...

D.G. Hudson said...

I will try trad, and keep open options for self-pubbing.

Attending a writer's conference recently helped me re-align my next moves.

There's no reason for a writer to narrow their own options by taking one side or the other. That said, I couldn't help but chuckle at Peter Dudley's take on the whole process.

Miranda Hardy said...

I'm not attempting the traditional path. Although, it's for some, the industry is shifting drastically and it's no longer necessary to do things the same any longer. With the right cover artist and editor, not to mention a great marketing plan, it's viable to do well on your own. I'm not looking to make millions. I desire to write good books with no pressure.

anya* said...

I am going the traditional route. The book I am trying to get representation for right now is a contemporary ya and I just don't see how that would work well for self-pub e-book format. Maybe it depends on the sort of books one is writing as to wether they are more or less likely to go the self-pub route?
I wish I wrote suspense/thriller for adults because those are the ones I keep hearing about being hits as e-books. Maybe I'm wring?

Annalise Green said...

I definitely want to try the traditional route first. I certainly like having self-publishing as an option, but I think there's no reason not to try traditional publishing, at least for me.

I'll admit that it's not such a rational decision as an emotional one - I've always bought books through bookstores that were traditionally published. I'd like readers to be able to access my books the same way.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I'll be trying the traditional publishing route and keep writing if I can't get an agent for my first book. With working full-time, I don't think I would have the time to independently publish and do all the marketing. But I can see how this is a good option for some people.

SBJones said...

I think the first publishing house that develops a model to recruit successful self published authors with a fair and reasonable contract, is going to come out on top of the business.

I'm not talking Amanda Hocking or other self pubed millionaires. But the authors who are selling 1000 books a month, but could be selling 10,000 with the right polishing and muscle of a traditional method.

LM Preston said...

I always pursue both. Give it a year to pimp traditional then publish with my small press. My small press is doing well enough for me to consider pubbing others. So why does an author ever have to decide in a blanket. At the end of the day it's about sales. Either to a large pub then to market or straight to market. It's up to the author to decide what's right for them. Some authors just don't have the desire to run a business which publishing something is the business of 'selling' a product. And that's okay. Now we just have - more options. And I like it that way.

LM Preston said...

Oh, I do want add that now that I partner in a small pub I totally understand the biz way more than I ever did when all I wanted to do was write and get paid just to do that. Now I can write, sell it, and take it to market ... and do it darn well. Something I would have never discovered had I not had the journey of publishing.

Ann Best said...

I just successfully self-published a novella, after having published with a small press my first memoir, which I don't regret at all. In fact, it was the best way to go. But I'm too old (71) to wait and wait again for the publishing process to play out (and there's also the issue of control, and promotion, which more and more authors have to do on their own). I voted self-pub to your question; but I WILL try my next full-length memoir traditionally first, but only with two companies I have in mind that would be possibilities. Otherwise...I've done the querying, and I'm done with the querying! The rest of my time here on earth is too short. I am confident about self-pubbing because I got degrees in English and creative writing, and have worked as a proofreader and editor, and have a friend who can make covers for me. And I'm having great fun with this since I just figured out how to get my work properly formatted for Amazon!
Ann Best, Memoir Author of In the Mirror & Imprisoned

filmworksusa said...

Sure, it would be wonderful to hand off the actual publishing work to "professionals", but even that is no guarantee. I had a contract with An Important Publisher some years back but walked away because of a conflict with an assigned editor who clearly had no understanding of, or deep interest in, my project.

A few years later I had another project at a Very Large and Important Agency. When a fair and reasonable contract offer came in, the agent responded by screaming down the phone and demanding a high six figure advance. The offer went away - and so did I.

My experiences are perhaps not typical - but, before you can find out, 'legacy' publishing demands you submit via an agent. Given that even the smallest boutique NYC literary agencies are getting (at minimum) 1,000 queries every week - is this the kind of lottery you're comfortable with? Makes you wonder if Tolstoy, Trollope and Twain could have passed the query letter test. Well, Twain certainly.

I spend 5 months writing a novel, 3 months researching and tracking agencies so that I can make a personalized and appropriate query, and then wait a further 3 months until the responses, or non- responses, have come back to me.

I think that putting the effort into self-publishing rather than gambling my time away on the 'legacy' route is probably a smarter way to go.

We live in an amazing time for emerging writers.

Karen Coombs said...

I've had eight books published with traditional publishers. After an unwelcome hiatus from writing, I'm back submitting a number of mss, but find the industry has changed so much it's a challenge to get back on the production line. This month I waded into the waters of e-book publishing with one of my out-of-print MG novels and am waiting to see how it goes. Success might encourage me to go the same route with my unpublished works, even though self-promotion is not my favorite activity and it takes a lot of time away from my writing. I'd rather have a traditional editor in my corner, who can take off some of the pressure and leave me more time to write. However, I am pleased with the way my e-book turned out--once the initial glitches get exorcized.

Sassee B said...

As a newbie in the writing world I haven't decided yet whether I'll go traditional or self-pub. I recognize that I need editing services, and I've researched enough to know that an agent can get me a smoking deal with a publisher (if my stuff is worthy), but self-publishing also looks appealing in that I can keep more of the profit for myself. I'm just not sure which way I'll go when I have something sellable.

Taylor Napolsky said...

Traditional. I want a real editor. I want a team to help develop me. I want my $5,000 advance damn it!

Serena Casey said...

I self-pubbed my first book (not in print, digital only). It was a fairly painless - and free - process, and rather than still sending out queries, I'm already earning money. Only a teeny trickle so far, but I'm not doing it for the money anyway.

Would my book be better if I had the valuable advice from a editing team and whatnot? No doubt. But people are loving it as it is, so it's a win-win.

lrcutter said...

I had three books published traditionally. Then I stopped writing for a while (personal reasons.) Now I'm back, and it's self-pubbing all the way. I'm releasing my novels electronically on my own, as well as new short fiction. Next year I'll start releasing new novels.

That being said, the publishing landscape is changing. Would I accept a contract today from a legacy publisher? Probably not -- terms are too draconic. Would I accept one in the future? If the terms change significantly, I may.

DearHelenHartman said...

My vote - self pub all the way - is a bit disingenuous - I continue to write and publish in my genre of 14 years as long as they will send me checks. But because of micro managing that work is no longer my best so the community and persona (dearhelenhartman.com)and the platform (I hate that word almost as much as Tribe - ugh) I am building on line will support my more interesting, work (what used to be called Break Out books) and I will probably not even try traditional publishing for that.

Paul said...

Konrath has a solution that works for him. He is a well known author with a popular blog, and he is well positioned to do his own publicity. I have never published, do not have a blog (yet) and have no idea how to get the publicity thing moving forward. So at this point, self publishing does not look attractive. Then again, by the time I get the novel finished, the landscape may look quite a bit different.

Jenna St. Hilaire said...

Quite possibly both. I have confidence that the traditional industry will hang around in some form, and would love to see one of the old houses' logos stamped alongside my name on a novel's spine.

But I also have confidence in the 'long tail'--the power of self- and indie-publishing to match readers of less-popular genres/voices to plenty of good books that fit their tastes. As a writer of rather old-fashioned high fantasy for young people of every age, I suspect the long tail may prove friendly. :)

No firm decisions either way yet, but lots of thought.

Therese said...

I have every intention of doing it all, traditional print, digital direct and self(e & print). This is a career and I already have more than one book in the can.

If I was selling hats, why would I only get them on the shelves at Macy's when there's a wonderful hat store around the corner?

Some of my books are better suited to a more traditional distribution and marketing process, others will do better if I hand sell out of the trunk of my car. The author objective is to connect with an audience - wherever they read.

Chris Eboch said...

I think the future will hold a mixture of both traditional and self-publishing for many successful authors (and perhaps hybrids or new forms yet to be invented). I've done both, and they both have their advantages and drawbacks.

I've given a couple of talks on self-publishing, and most people who walk in thinking they'll try it walk out thinking they won't. When they hear the realities, they decide it's not such a great option after all. Both traditional and self-publishing are hard, both require a lot of skills, and with both you have a slim chance of major success.

I think self-publishing is a great option for previously published authors who want to continue a series the publisher dropped or bring back their out-of-print books, for people who have a niche market and know how to reach it, and for people who love marketing and are good at it. But it's not easy or a guarantee of success.

Vera Soroka said...

I will still try to find an agent.Right now I have to focus on the writing and making it the best it can be.It's tough no matter what way you go. You still have to promote yourself either way. I don't think I have what it takes to do self publishing. There is alot of work involved. I need a team behind me and even though some authors get fed up with their team I think I will take my chances for now with traditional publishing. The next step for me would probably be the small presses.

Mira said...

You know, I hate to be cynical, and I think it's wonderful that you're doing this poll, Nathan, because it's interesting. And I know that you'd be the last one to say that it's scientific research.

But I do want to point out that there is no way to prove that the people who are answering this poll are actually writers.

Of course, that's true with all of your polls, but this is an especially controversial topic, and where people try to influence each other.

Just a thought about what this poll might be measuring, since many people can be answering it.

Anonymous said...

I think we're standing on the precipice of a new world... it will be interesting to see where things go, as a lot of 'bad' writers will be self-publishing as well as the good.

I find it hard that so many agents 'aren't taking queries right now'. Self-publishing it suddenly looking a lot more enticing.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Although the stigma against self-publishing is lessening, my main reason for pursuing traditional publication first will be because I want the resources I could potentially get through a traditional route. Having an editor, art department, possibly publicity (I hope), etc., provided is worth the lost profits I might make by going the self-publishing route for me at this moment. I'd like to have that sort of support.

Dave Cochran said...

I'm trying for a bit of hybrid approach; I don't want to throw my work into the public-facing slush-pile that is Smashwords, Kindle Direct, etc, to bob around unregarded in an undifferentiated soup of under-edited amateur content. On the other hand, I don't want to be lumbered with legacy media's business models (I plan on distributing the digital edition under a Creative Commons license, and on generating revenue through artwork, mobile apps, etc, as well as physical editions) or with their marketing demographics (I'm going for readers aged 9 to adult, but have no intention of removing the explanations of evolutionary computation or nuclear fusion, or changing the fact that my semi-delinquent 11 year old protagonist sometimes says swears), so, with a friend, I am setting up a small press (http://robotsquid.net), with the intention of putting our work through some proper editing, typesetting and design, before publishing and marketing it - and if we're successful, we might just open up for submissions!

Lisa Manterfield said...

Having self-published once I plan to consider both as viable options. My self-published book was for a niche market and found an appreciative audience. My current book is aimed at a much wider audience and I plan to try the traditional route. Part of it is curiosity, so I can compare the two, and part is still a confidence thing of having a publishing house standing behind my work.

I would definitely self-publish again. I think there are a lot of benefits, such as speed, flexibility, and control, that you give up with going there traditional route.

Joe Collins said...

I spent two fruitless, frustrating years trying to get published at a brick and mortar publishing house before I decided to self-publish on Kindle and Nook.

While I haven't had great success yet, I can control more of the aspects of publishing and I get to keep a larger percentages of the profits.

L. V. Gaudet said...

I'm on the fence.

On the one hand, I'm not experienced at publishing and am certain I could learn a lot from everyone involved with going the traditional route. And, I want anything I have published to be the best it could possibly be.

On the other hand, getting picked out of the slush pile seems like more of a picking the winning lottery number thing than being about the quality of the writing and story.

Either way, it sounds like you have to do your own marketing anyway.

Whirlochre said...

Given that most writers would willingly throw themselves off a cliff in order to be heard, the presence of a world wide absence of cliff adds to the scenario a hint of potential freedom.

For now, it's a free-for-all, and the question of self-pubbing vs 'trad' invites legitimate options.

Come 2016 (or whenevah), I suspect we'll see the usual rules of shaftitude enacted, with writers in thrall to the New Pub rather than the Old Pub.

"for all regurgitated spew cometh the rag"

Reina said...

I didn't read all the comments, but as others said, your poll doesn't cover all the answers...I have 3 pen names, and I am going forward with self-pub on one while still pursuing traditional pub for the others...it's partly about what traditional pub houses are willing to take a risk on, partly because I want to try my hand at what fellow SFA-RWA member Bella Andre calls "the grand experiment." But I'd never self-pub if I didn't have the help of some of my friends, who are writers, freelance editors, and designers, as well as the knowledge gained from RWA and researching the market on my own. And still it feels risky. But there's always the next book. :)

Donna Perugini said...

I re-issued my children's picture books in 2010 and had wanted to use them to get a publisher interested in my writing. It's a no-go with publishers now and I'm getting my books into ebook format for e-readers, tablets, etc.

If a publisher or agent popped into my life, I might reconsider using them. At present I don't see the value in a publisher except for their credibility and exposure for some sales.

Granted it is work to up my credibility and exposure for sales, but eventually, it will happen. I have time, an author platform and other marketing tricks under my tiara!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I didn't answer the poll, because I'm currently doing both. And I know a lot of other authors, young in their careers, doing the same.

Lisa Tener said...

For my own book, I do want a traditional publisher again--for the expertise, distribution and cache they provide. While I may make less per book,it's worth the trade off.

As a book writing coach, at times I do recommend self-publishing-- when an author wants the book fast, wants control or doesn't necessarily want/need to sell many but is using it mainly as a way to promote their business to potential clients/customers.

For those who want a bestseller or more cache/credibility, I often recommend traditional publishing. It's also easier to get national publicity coverage with a traditionally published book.

Kevin Lynn Helmick said...

These writers mentioned have sold tons of books and have at some point taken advantage of the marketing muscles of traditional publishing to get there. They don't often mention that.
I've self published my first three books after about twenty, thirty submissions and rejections. I have a new novel finished and I'll keep trying for a agent, or an editior at a reputable small press, but my list has been reduced to only those that have responded in an interested, respectful, professional, manner the past. I've learned a lot, and my time is important too.
But landing a book with a major publisher is still a goal, I'll keep trying till that last rejection comes in, and then I'll publish it myself and move on to the next.
At least I know I have a few readers waiting and that's a pretty good thing too.

Matthew J. Beier said...

Self-publishing is a double-edged sword. My first novel comes out January 17, and my decision to self-publish had to do with all the things Nathan mentioned but also with the fact that I wanted to do a career experiment. I have yet to see the result, but the learning process has been extreme, to an extremely extreme degree.

I have vowed not to release my book until it is indistinguishable from anything coming out of New York, and having that mindset has made the process both incredibly difficult and incredibly rewarding. If you choose to self-publish "properly," you absolutely must hire a professional editor and line editor. That is AFTER you get as much feedback as you can from as many different people as possible. Even then, the work involved in making sure the book is as perfect as it can be makes traditional publishing look positively easy, at least from an outside perspective. When you pay editors by the hour or page, you must learn to be even more meticulous and self-critical than you already should be, because if you're not handing your work over for editing when it is 100% the best you can make it, it will cost you to backtrack. There is no safety net of quality control that a traditional publisher would offer. This has become the #1 most difficult aspect of the process, and it will be the #1 factor in my future decision to self-publish again or pursue the traditional route.

Then there is all the other stuff, from typesetting, Epub design, cover design, marketing, and all that jazz. The work load can be utterly overwhelming, and it can repeatedly be a punch to the gut when you realize that few "official" people will ever take you seriously, even if your book is good. (I'm talking about reviewers, particularly, even though I've managed to have some success in that realm so far.)

All that said, this foray into self-publishing (something I never thought I would do) has been one of the most rewarding, expanding, and intellectually stimulating experiences of my life. By treating this as a business, thinking like a publisher instead of a writer, and making my book as "real" as anything professionally published, I have gained a set of skills that most traditional authors would never have. I wouldn't trade it for a five-book deal. If I do seek the traditional route in the future (a huge possibility), I will be prepared for it in a way I otherwise wouldn't have been.

Amy Armstrong, MS, NCC said...

@Peter D. It definitely feels like high school all over again. The more conferences I go to, the more it feels that way. Still, I don't think I have it in me to deal with self-pubbing. At the same time, I'm not jazzed about an agent or editor getting on me about what I should be writing. I want to work on what I want to work on.

Sofie Bird said...

Self-publishing all the way - at the moment.

I'll freely admit I'm a control freak, and a hyper-creative - I enjoy the whole process of creating books. But I also think that when the industry is going to change so dramatically, it's most prudent to self-publish. I keep control of my rights and my IP, and if/when traditional publishing is revamped and reborn into their new business model, I don't have any existing contracts or obligations tying me to my previous business model, should I choose to switch.

Marilyn Peake said...

Having self-published four novels and four short stories and selling those publications each and every day now, I plan to stay with self-publishing. Except for traditionally published authors in one or two genres, the happiest writers I know are self-published. I've also noticed a lot more typos in the expensive traditionally-published eBooks I've recently purchased than in recently self-published books by authors who have won awards or consistently received good reviews. There's a lot of excitement and creativity in the self-published author community right now. It's a good place to be.

L. V. Gaudet said...

I'm on the fence.

On the one hand, I'm not experienced at publishing and am certain I could learn a lot from everyone involved with going the traditional route. And, I want anything I have published to be the best it could possibly be.

On the other hand, getting picked out of the slush pile seems like more of a picking the winning lottery number thing than being about the quality of the writing and story.

Either way, it sounds like you have to do your own marketing anyway.

Becca French said...

This is exactly the question I've been wrestling with the past few months. I'm new to the book world and I'm still in school, so I've been planning (and hoping) on traditional publishing. I am very much okay with the idea of letting professionals handle all of the publishing details. They definitely know a lot more about it than I do, and after all, they are adults :)

However, the thought of finding an agent as a teenager fresh outta high school with no prior experience is really intimidating. Persevere, persevere, persevere.

Nick Rolynd said...

I selected the first option, but I'm actually thinking about going both ways. I really want my novels published traditionally, but I'm strongly considering self-publishing some short stories, novellas, and poem collections through e-book markets.

I feel the latter three would be a much harder sell, but I still want them out there at some point, and perhaps generating some sales and readers.

lynnfc said...

I attended ThrillerFest/CraftFest/AgentFest last summer in NYC and pitched my fiction to 11 agents of the 65 who were in attendance. Ten wanted me to send pages from 10 to 100 pages each. I am currently working with a UCLA Writer's Certificate program author/instructor/editor in completing my final revisions. Soon, I'll be sending out to the agents who requested pages. I think you have to know when to "hold them and know when to send them out."

Anonymous said...

I believe that going with a small epress should be considered a viable third option. You can get the help and support of a print publisher and the higher control and royalties of a self-pubber at once.

-Anna

Simon Haynes said...

I was querying publishers with my first middle-grade novel when I unexpectedly got the rights to my adult series back.

I decided to set up my own imprint, re-release my adult books and also ... while I was at it ... release my new MG novel under the same imprint.

Since September this year I've tidied up and released a dozen short stories which were cluttering up my hard drive, I've finished one new adult and one new mg novel, and I'm halfway through finishing another adult novel.

All my works are scoring mostly 4 and 5 star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, so I'm doing something right.

In summary, I'd say self-pub/indie is definitely the way forward for me.

Apart from anything else, it seems to be the only way to keep a moderately popular open-ended series going. Bookstores ordering to net will kill most series stone dead after 2 or 3 books.

domynoe said...

I'm hoping for a traditional contract for one novel I'm finishing up now. Another novel is soon to be subbed to small presses (with epic fantasy in the place it's in, no surprise to me that there were very few nibbles). Self-publishing would be a last resort.

Self-publishing would be too much of a slog for someone in my position, I think. I'm not known so no name recognition to help sales. I'll be helping my husband with his restaurant, so sinking as much time in self-promotion as would be required (and somehow finding the balance between promotion and spam) would be difficult, not to mention the money that would be involved. While I realize some marketing and promotion would be necessary, I don't want them to be my primary jobs. Plus, even though I'm an editor, I know having someone else go through it would make my work better and less mistake prone. Can't pay for it so wouldn't get it if I self-pubbed.

jseliger.com said...

Do you plan to pursue traditional publication or are you going self-publishing all the way?

I will do what desperation forces me to—which I wrote about in more detail here.

Rick said...

Thanks, Nathan - that's fair. The results are interesting, too. I honestly expected more folk to answer on the self-pub side!

Tres Buffalo said...

I have gone the self-publish route because I have a good editor (my wife) who tells me when I've exceeded the bounds of sanity as quickly as she will tell me things look okay. I am also comfortable with cover design. The marketing is the hard part and the only reason I would consider anything from the traditional route. I have ebook sales and will have paperback as an option soon. Right now I am trying to get my second novel out before Christmas.

Amanda K said...

I am really, really enjoying this conversation. Everyone seems to have thought long and hard about their reasons for or against a certain type of publishing, and that's very refreshing. Personally, I'm 100% traditional all the way, for no other reason than the fact that it has been my lifelong dream since I was six. I don't care about the money (though I would eventually love to switch careers from professional copywriter to professional novelist if at all possible) or the control, or even whether or not it was successful or a flop.

Is this an odd mentality?

Word... said...

There's nothing "self" about self publishing because if you want to do it right, you need help. Editors, designers, web designers, etc.

A lot of people say they don't have the resources to self publish but you'd be surprised what can be done with a few thousand dollars. Eat Mac and Cheese for a month. No drinks with friends. Hire an editor.

People spend tens of thousands taking out loans to go get a degree in "What the hell am I going to do with this?" Then they put their heart and soul into a book and they won't spend money to make it better. Take out your 401K. The country is going into the crapper anyways. Live on the streets when you're old. Publish a book now.

Publishers are wising up. They will slap their name on your book, upload to all the same places you can upload to YOURSELF, and then they will take your royalties. But at least you'll have a Bird or a House on your book.

Agents are becoming publishers. Big publishers are forming self publishing-vanity rip-off services (Penguin=Book Country) and some agents are quitting all together to go work for CNET!

Give self pub a try and get your book into readers' hands instead of spending years typing a silly letter to strangers trying to convince them your work is "worth" something.

End Rant and Wahbah!
(Spinning back kick at Big Publishers)

India Drummond said...

Self-pub all the way. I tried traditional for years, and got the "It's really good, but it's not for me." response to partials and fulls. I finally got a contract with a small press, and it was a disaster. I was lucky to escape with my rights a few months later.

Now I self publish, and in 6 months, I've already made more money than I would have expected to get as an advance for a debut author. I have complete control, I set the schedule, and the people who work on my book work for *me*. I'm basically running my own business, and I love it. Seeing my book pop up on those Amazon fantasy bestseller lists shows me that I made the right choice!

S. F. Roney said...

Why should one deal with print publishers? They are an unnecessary middleman in today's evolving industry. There really only needs to be authors, readers, and in most cases, stores. However, the future may offer more venues where work can go direct from authors to readers, with no one skimming profits off the top.

Anthony J. Langford said...

I like what S. F. Roney said. More power to the people. What do tradtitional publishers know anyway? They knocked back some of the greatest works in literature, and the biggest successes. They are just a hindrance.
It's unfortunate that bookstores don't have self-published sections so that readers can get access to material of their choice, rather than being dictated to by (generally conservative) business people. I think this will change though.

John G. Hartness said...

I self-published, sold a decent number, landed a publisher and from here on out will do both. I see no reason to stick with one way or the other. I will publish my work in whatever way I think will make me the most money.

Danielle Leonard said...

I have self-published a children's novel and it has done okay. It is on the shelves in 30 Chapters retail outlets, which is a huge deal in Canada (as Chapters is the bookstore monopoly). I've written the sequel and would give anything to not have to self-publish again (I'm querying my butt off). While the journey has been a lot of fun, it has also been agonizing. A lot of time marketing, PR, and to be honest, the worst part of self-publishing is that the industry itself shuts me out of everything - literary festivals, associations (I'm not a real author), book reviews. Thankfully Chapters is more forward-thinking. I'm working on a YA novel now and fingers crossed - will find an agent to represent it.

Anonymous said...

He no longer 'foresees' pursuing traditional publishing methods?

Foresee?

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