I’m prefacing this post by saying this is my experience only. I’m only educated by a business degree, a communications degree and experience in self-publishing, hiring a hybrid publisher and sorta kinda being a hybrid publisher.
My first book sold around 1000 copies and I didn’t really hit it hard with marketing. My second book will be different as I’ve got a following, and a brand behind me so its not going to be me calling stores and drumming up sales. Book by book, its getting easier. I’m learning more about promotional tools, social media, advertising, distribution and quality.
So I thought I’d note down some thoughts on the whole issue of publishing. Once upon a time, big publishing houses were the ones with all the power. They decided who was good, who wasn’t, who deserved the risk, who deserved the investment and who deserved the shelf space. With the rise of electronic media, online shopping, social platforms and such, they don’t hold as much power anymore. Self-publishing and hybrid publishing are viable options for thousands upon thousands of authors.
So for some, traditional publishers are brilliant and are the way forward. For others, there are a number of different options that suit better.
But for writers who are starting out, the big question is “What is the road forward for me?”
The first question writers need to ask themselves is “Why am I writing?”
If its for fame, then maybe you need to do the hard yards knocking on doors and getting the inevitable knock backs. And they are inevitable. JK Rowling was knocked back several times with Harry Potter and yet she became the first literary billionaire! (Wow. How awkward it must be to realise you were one of the people who rejected that manuscript! Ouch!) If you’re in it for fame, then perhaps traditional publishing is for you. That way, you’ve got someone else’s brand to carry you while you develop your own. Brand awareness is key.
So in that scenario – they’ve got the power.
There are trade-offs for this. You’ll get a lower cut of the profits as there are a higher number of overheads. You’ll get a certain amount of marketing, but you’ll still have to do your own. Distribution will be easier. You won’t be packing your own envelopes. You’ll have to give a degree of creative control over and you’ll certainly have editing standards to live up to.
This isn’t a bad thing. Quality matters oh so very much. More on that later.
If you’re writing for fortune – um, are you sure this is the scene for you? There are millions of writers out there, but only a handful of them have made it mega rich. If so, traditional publishing houses may not be able to attract you with the royalty fees you’ll get, but perhaps you can get yourself to a point where you command a decent advance. You’ll have to be good? Are you good? I mean really good?
In this scenario, who’s got the power? Not really sure!
If you’re doing it to get a message out there (you’ve got a product, a big-idea, a breakthrough or something like that), then how big are your networks? Can you leverage these networks to sell copies? How good is your reputation? Do people trust you? Will they want to buy and read your book?
Let’s say you’ve got a big network to leverage, a strong idea and a good reputation, then you’ve got the power.
You’re still going to have to bring in experts to coach you on stage-craft (how to present your idea/product/breakthrough in a way that makes people want to buy your book), and you’ll need to master online advertising, but self or hybrid publishing could really work for you.
If you’re doing it for the love of the craft, and because you’ve got a story to tell, then you’ve got the power.
You can decide whether to go traditional, self or hybrid publishing. But know this, if you do go the way of self-publishing, you can’t afford to skimp on things like editing, proofreading, and graphic design. Know that if you go the way of hybrid publishing, you’ll be able to buy these services. It will cost you up front and then you’ll get a varying percentage for every copy sold.
In a market absolutely flooded with product, the good stuff stands out. Quality matters. Self-publishing will make you a bigger percentage on each sale, but your sales will be lower especially if your product looks homemade.
Quality matters, above all. Nail quality, learn how to build and leverage networks and you’ll do okay. Who’s got the power in publishing? You decide.