You’ve put all that work into what you think is a stellar manuscript. Maybe you’re smart and you’ve had it critiqued by an experienced writer, and now you’re ready to rumble. It wasn’t that long ago I would’ve told you to get an agent and take off down the traditional road to publication.
My, my, my, how things have changed.
When we went to the author event in Texarkana, I spoke with several writers about their publication methods. The wince-worthy comments were from those who chose full-service vanity publishers. Tate, Xlibris, and West Bow were among those the authors weren’t too happy with. Actually I didn’t meet a single one of them who seemed happy with their choice of vanity presses. They’re looking for alternatives, and I don’t blame them.
Authors with small traditional publishers seemed satisfied for the most part. Royalty percentages varied, as did marketing support. They’d had varying degrees of professional editing–one of the reasons I have my manuscripts edited before I send them in. As long as folks don’t realize that “proofreading” and “editing” are not synonymous, I will always have my work edited before sending it in. BTW: If you’re going the small pubber route, be sure to glance through the book covers. Sometimes you don’t get a choice in cover design, so be sure you like what the publisher typically puts out.
The vanity presses and small traditionals–as well as the self-published authors I talked to, those who did their own formatting, and loaded their works up on CreateSpace, Kindle Direct, etc. by themselves–all prefer Publish on Demand publishing. But I met one lady who didn’t. She stores thousands of copies of her novels and distributes them herself. She says it costs her about $0.60 per book, then she turns around and sells them at $15.00 a pop. She’ll have an initial outlay of $6000 for 10K books as her inventory at the first of the year, then sell the dog out of them throughout the year, until she has virtually none left come December. (I’d love to learn how she does that, but we didn’t have a chance to go into her marketing techniques.)
Of everyone I talked to, those who had learned to do the entire thing themselves seemed the most satisfied. “It’s a lot of work,” they all said, “but I don’t split my royalties with anyone.” After watching the girls work our box set, Much Ado About Love, I’m beginning to see the benefit of going solo. I have a publisher, but the new trend of being a hybrid combines the best of both worlds.
Sometimes I wonder what the benefit of having a publisher is–especially a small one. If you have a good one, like I do, who understands pricing strategies and has a grasp of promotions and advertising, it helps. Having them do the book keeping after distributing your work all through cyberspace also has its advantages. I have to admit, I’m still learning how to keep up with everything. I am highly disorganized in some things, this being one of them, so having someone else deal with it is a bonus for me–well, a bonus I pay for by paying the publisher a percentage, but a bonus just the same.
Frankly, though, it all depends on what you want. If you’ve set goals for yourself, and if having a nationally-known publisher’s emblem on your cover is important to you, seek an agent. There are tons more advantages to landing a contract with a larger house than with a small one, but it’s far more difficult to do.
If you just want to get your stories out there, you have a lot of options now–all of which are valid these days. Go for it and have fun.