My daughter is studying the Civil War for history.
As I’ve prepared her lessons, read books, directed her projects and watched Gone with the Wind and Shenandoah, I’ve been struck by the analogy to the current trend in publishing. Not to make light of the tragedy of our American Civil War, nor to imply that the publishing world holds the same weight as the potential division of a nation and the issue of slavery. Nonetheless, I find some similarities between the two.
Traditionalists fight for a publishing norm and standard. Publishing has been handled a particular way for centuries. Authors submit their labored words in hope they will capture the attention of those in charge of determining who is worthy of publication. If so deemed, contracts are made in which, ideally, both the publisher and the author will be satisfied with, well, let’s be honest, sales. As we’ve been reminded, even in Christian circles, publishing is a business, after all.
Indies (self-publishers) desire freedom on various levels. Freedom to write and publish whatever moves them. Freedom to retain more of the income from their hard work. The ability to write and publish when they wish rather than waiting for the long process of submitting, waiting for acceptance (am I good enough?) and finally the time allotment for release date and length of time on the shelves. They may not be convinced the publishers actually have their best interests in mind.
Compelling arguments exist on both sides.
My traditionally published author friend, Sherry Kyle, (Delivered with Love, The Heart Stone, The Christian Girl’s Guide to Style and The Girl’s Guide to Your Dream Room) made some valid points in a conversation yesterday.
- Publishers have access to retail connections. Her upcoming book (Watercolor Dreams October 2014) is already listed on Amazon for pre-order and in catalogues.
- An agent deals with all the financial aspects and details of finding avenues for publishing. I thought about the difference between having a real estate agent and selling your home yourself—having been an agent once, I would never sell my house without one. The business, legal and financial dealings are too complicated without the trained knowledge an agent provides.
- While traditional publishers are paying less and expecting more from their authors in the realm of marketing, they at least have marketing plans and connections already set in place.
- In addition, a publisher edits (invaluable) and creates a cover design. Two crucial aspects.
Self-publishing offers advantages as well. Since I’ve recently released my first book (The Miracle of Us: Confessions on an Online Dater) which I self-published through CreateSpace, I’ve learned a little about that option. These are the benefits I see:
- Self-publishers earn more in royalties. Thirty to fifty percent versus five to twenty percent. And we know exactly how many copies have sold every day. No guessing or waiting for statements.
- An author can publish as many books as fast as he/she can write, edit and format them. No limit, no waiting. That builds a momentum of keeping readers reading. How many times have you finished a book by an author you loved only to find you had to wait a year until the next book was available? I know enough authors to know this isn’t always because they aren’t writing books fast enough. I can think of two series I quit reading because I lost interest waiting and went on to find another book to read.
- Readers set the standard of what they will read rather than a publisher choosing what they think will sell.
- Self-published authors are not limited to a brand created for them by a publisher. A couple of articles convinced me of this situation. Both told of well-known authors who sold numerous traditionally published books in particular genres. When they wrote outside that genre, publishers, even though they loved their work, refused to publish their new projects because it didn’t fit their brand. Publishers and agents will say “choose one type of writing and stick with it.” That may make sense from a business perspective, but what if an author feels like writing something else? What if I feel God leading me to delve into fiction, but I’ve been branded as a non-fiction author? Self-publishing allows for variety.
I haven’t decided what I’d like to do with my next, nearly completely book. I always thought I’d submit to an agent and go the traditional route. I’ve spent a few years honing my craft and building a network for that very reason. But, I’m also tempted by these new benefits. I’ve heard great persuasions from both sides. Some authors do both successfully.
In the Civil War, the Union won, keeping the nation together and abolishing slavery.
Although, that victory didn’t necessarily change the hearts of all people. I’d like to think that in the battle of the book, both sides will bring good to the table. In the end, millions of readers have a smorgasbord of brilliant (and sometimes not so brilliant) writing to choose from whether from traditionally published or self-published authors.
What do you think? Traditionalist or Indie? Or…both?