Please welcome Cindy C. Bennett to The Authorteers! She's here today to discuss writing indie versus traditional.
The Question that Plagues Author’s Like No Other: Indie or Traditional?
With all of the changes that have occurred in publishing over the past several years, writers have moved from the hope that they’ll be published, to having to decide which path to take: traditional publishing or self-publishing.
I entered the world of self-publishing about 6 years ago after the nth rejection by an agent. I was part of a fledgling critique group (before it was cool to be part of a critique group) and one of the other authors, Jeffery Moore, suggested self-publishing. I honestly hadn’t known that was possible. So I read about it, and published my first book, Geek Girl, in June of 2010. In December of that year, I published Heart on a Chain.
At the time, I knew nothing about marketing, and so decided I should try to get a smaller publishing company to publish my books. I felt Geek Girl would be an easier sell, so I searched several small publishers that would accept a previously self-published book. In March of 2011 Cedar Fort Publishing accepted it for publication and I signed with them. However, in the 3 months between my searching and signing, I learned a great deal about marketing, and around the time I signed, my efforts paid off and Heart on a Chain suddenly began selling very well.
Because of that, I decided to continue self-publishing. I had agreed to write a fairytale retelling for Cedar Fort, and so honored that with my submission of Rapunzel Untangled. Other than those two books I continued to self-publish.
Last year, after my publication of The End of Feeling, I received an email from Skyscape Books inquiring if I’d be interested in signing the book with them. Because I was pretty firmly sold on self-publishing, I wasn’t interested. But after a few phone conversations with them, and talking to some of their authors, I decided to put my trust in them and signed it with them in August of 2014.
The reason I’m giving you this history is just so that you know where I’m coming from when I talk about the two different types of publishing. I think both have advantages and disadvantages. And, just so you know, I co-own a small publishing company with Sherry Gammon called Creative Prose Publishing. The fact that I still believe self-publishing has merit in spite of owning a publishing company hopefully shows that I’m unbiased. From my point of view, and my experiences, here are the pros and cons to each (these are short lists, and by no means cover every single pro and con, and other authors may have completely different experiences).
- Creative control of your cover and formatting
- Creative control of your manuscript content
- Control of your pricing
- Higher royalties
- Ability to give away your books whenever you’d like at little to no cost to you
- Ability to change anything about your book at your whim (cover, content, price, etc.)
- You retain the rights to your book forever
- You’ll have to pay for editing (this is one thing you cannot bypass)
- You’ll have to pay for a cover unless you have the artistry and capability to create your own
- You’ll have to either pay for formatting, or spend some time learning how to format on your own
- It’s difficult to get word out about your book when you’re unknown
- Marketing is entirely on your shoulders (and sometimes on your wallet)
- It’s almost impossible, or at least very, very difficult to get your book into bookstores
- They will edit, format, and create your cover at no cost to you (note: there should never be any costs to you when your book is with a publisher. If they are charging you for anything, they aren’t a traditional publisher but a vanity publisher, and you should not sign a contract with them or pay them a penny)
- Many publishers have the ability to get your book into bookstores
- Some publishers pay an advance (but not all, and many times not to a debut author)
- They will share their marketing expertise with you
- A feeling of validation (note: I think this is silly. If you’re selling books, what more validation do you need?)
- Generally a publisher will provide a certain number of books to readers to obtain reviews
- You’re going to do about the same amount of marketing for a publisher as you’d do for a self-published book
- With eBooks, you may never get your rights back because it will never technically be out of print (note: some contracts have a provision for this, where you might get your book back after a certain time period or if your sales drop below a certain threshold)
- Lower royalties
- Though a publisher may get your book into bookstores initially, it’s extremely difficult to hold shelf space, so your book may be only online within a few months
- Loss of creative control: You probably will have little to no say about your cover, and sometimes even your book content as they hold the right to edit it as they see fit
- You will have to abide by your publishers limits on books they provide for giveaways (though you’ll be able to purchase books at a discount and give them away)
When making the decision whether to traditionally publish or self-publish, I suggest you research them both, and then talk to authors from both sides. You have to do what’s right for you, ultimately . . . and you’re the only one who can determine what the right thing is.
Thank you for sharing, Cindy!
About the author:
Cindy's latest book is The End of Feeling:
Benjamin Nefer seems to have it all. He’s the most popular guy in school, the star quarterback with college scouts looking at him, his grades are near the top of his class, he can get any girl he wants . . . but he hides behind his dream life to mask the nightmare of his reality.
Charlie Austin is the new girl. Forced to move in with a bitter aunt, she only wants to protect her fragile mom from the world’s cruelty. When Benjamin sets his sights on Charlie, she’s armored against his charm—friends warned her about Benjamin’s game of pursuing and then dumping a long line of girls, not caring about the broken hearts he leaves behind. She doesn’t count on how single-minded he can be when she refuses him, or how charismatic, easing into her life through what he claims is just friendship.
Benjamin thought he could keep Charlie in the same place he keeps all girls—something to be used and then discarded. But Charlie has as many secrets as he does, secrets he’s determined to discover while keeping his own hidden. He realizes she’s the perfect girlfriend candidate . . . someone he can use to keep up the façade of a perfect life. Now he just has to keep his frozen heart from softening toward this unique girl, because if he doesn’t, his carefully constructed lies might just come thundering down around him, crushing him beneath the burden of feeling.
What do you think about indie versus traditional?
Sound off in the comments!
Sound off in the comments!