Write to Pub Wednesday: Traditional Publish or Self Publish?


That moment of self realization has come; you are ready to begin the publishing process. So self pub or traditional? Holymoly, this is a huge subject, and lately all over the news and the Net. How is a writer on the verge of discovery to choose which route to follow?

Let me begin by saying that my coming release is traditionally pubbed. That said, I’d still very much like to try my hand at self pubbing, too, just to have that experience. It is not whether one is better than another; it is more which one works for the present situation. It is about achieving the balance between life as an author and commitment outside a writing career. Choose the one that  suits your current position best, keeping in mind that the other stepping stone awaits should you decide to walk that path at a later date.

So why did I decide on traditional over self-pub for my book even though the traditional process takes longer? Chalk it up to inexperience. I can write, am a decent fact finder and edit with some success; but technology? Not my strong-suit. I decided to learn from the experience of going the traditional route and hone skills already present. Now, I have that knowledge to build on for self-pubbing later. Going initially with my strongest skill-set; learning and perfecting those before delving into self-pub is akin to an athlete changing their ultimate competitive sport. Could a swimmer make the transition to competitive rowing? Probably. Will the skills I’ve learned and perfected from traditional publishing transfer to self pubbing? Absolutely.

Balancing a day-job along with family needs left  little time to commit to another venture–but commit I did. While researching traditional and self-pubbed authors, the importance of scheduling time to write vs other needs cropped up time and again, mirroring my own situation. Having elements ready to go is like having a pre-made lunch packed for a long haul; very convenient and ultimately saves time and money.

Mastering the technology of self-pub appeared daunting for this newbie; I can barely program a cell-phone, let alone design cover art, format a manuscript into shape for an eBook or printrun, not to mention self-editing vs other people’s eyes making a huge difference in quality of the final product. The traditional publishing house was golden because they provided technical items such as no fee in-house editing, free cover artist, access to house-only master classes taught by seasoned professionals to better perfect writing and marketing skills, guides for style and content, a built in network of editors, and other authors for mutual support. All this leaves an author free to decipher the wonders of social media and set up a marketing platform for the book release. Did I mention that my publisher helps with that, too? The big picture here is getting a book to publication takes a commitment of time no matter which way you go. A traditional publisher can help free up your valuable time by providing a variety of services.

There exists the option of paying for most items listed, but funds were dear, and time to explore providers was being sucked up by my research for how to craft a better story, setting up and sending in a manuscript and to whom, learning about submitting to a big house vs a smaller house, and avoidance of predators within the business. Are you becoming aware that the true price of getting your work published involves a dogged perseverance and an Iditarod Musher’s drive? Good! Then we’re on to the next leg of our trip: Self Publishing.

You have some tech skills, are comfortable enough in the social media-sphere that set up comes easily, have a manuscript that looks like it is ready to go, and possess some knowledge about photo-shop. Sounds to me like you are a candidate for self-pub road-trip. There is a whole host of information about self-pub how to sites on the web,  in books, and even indie groups to help in setting it up. As with traditional publishing, there can be a lot of footwork involved in tracking down the right elements needed for your self-pubbed book, but there are plenty of authors who boast great success at it. Self published books are a hot ticket, if you do the research and put in the time to do it right, you can have your work in your readers hands the second you hit send. But wait! Before you hit that golden button, lets time out from the publication race to discuss proper execution of form.

What are the drawbacks of self Pub? The foremost gripe about self pubbing is the number of mistakes that appear in the final copy. Self pubbers need to allot plenty of time for rewriting. Run that manuscript by a handful of friends for critiquing, maybe join a writing group, hit up an old teacher for advice; anything to whip your manuscript into shape and catch errors. The downside of these books is that they have a reputation for poor content. I say rubbish to that. It isn’t a lack of good content; more it’s a lack of proper editing. The value of an outside editor is that they aren’t in your head.Your work comes across to them in an entirely new perspective because it is seen through different eyes. If your invited beta reader doesn’t get it, neither will your future audience. Time to chop sections that don’t work and rewrite until the meaning is clear.

Which brings us to the finished product–or does it? You have created your cover art, edited and polished your manuscript until it shines, consulted with indie groups for content and formatting, chosen where you are going to upload it for release day–what did you miss?

Marketing. Second to editing, for a self pubbed author, the trail of a social media platform through keen distribution plan is key to hitting a home run. In this arena, self pub is no different from traditional pub. Your name is your brand as much as your product, so getting it out there is what will make you visible to future customers.

So, which path is the best for you? If you research, train, and map out a good plan, there are multiple ways to reach the summit. Consider both types of publishing as valuable components in building your road. The short  answer is; each writer is unique; so their paths in publishing will differ too, but both have the same goal on the journey from writer to published author.

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