It’s a great question, and one that can turn the tension factor up a notch in a room that’s populated by both traditionally-published authors and self-published authors. Even internet chat rooms aren’t immune to the feeling of gee-I-hope-this-goes-okay when the topic comes up.
Inevitably there’s always someone who says that we all have to do what is “right for us as individuals,” or what “fits our own career paths and goals.” I think such phrases were probably bandied about at Hatfield and McCoy family picnics right before the six-shooters came out.
Does this mean I think that’s an incorrect statement? No.
I absolutely and totally think that every author does need to do what is best for them, but I would add that every author needs to be completely and totally aware of what each path holds before they go running down it.
A lot of people go the self-publishing route because it is faster, and they are in total control. In a sense, isn’t this an easier, better choice?
Easier in some senses, yes. There’s the gratification of getting your work “out there” much faster than in the trad-pub world. And – a major selling point for self-pubs – the revenue generated by your sales are yours. Not a publishing house’s. Not an agent’s. Yours. And hey, that’s great.
Yet it’s also harder in some senses. Cover design? Up to you. Copyediting? Pay somebody. And – the big one – Marketing? That’s on you, too. And that’s what trips me up, bigtime. Like I landed on my face and ended up with my two front teeth down in my lower intestine.
Marketing is HARD. I mean hard like learning how to ice skate on your nose-hairs is hard. I’ve been blogging over at Writer, Writer Pants on Fire for over two years. I do book reviews, author interviews, ARC giveaways, query critiques, agent features and offer oh-so-interesting-snippets of my real life. I blog at least five days a week. It’s work of the brain-squeezing type. And I have less than 600 followers (and I love all less-than-600 of you, don’t get me wrong).
I tweet. I have a Facebook author page. I’m a volunteer moderator at AgentQuery Connect. I participate in the group blogs The Lucky 13s, Friday the Thirteeners, The League of Extraordinary Writers, From the Write Angle and Book Pregnant. I have a Pinterest board for NOT A DROP TO DRINK comprised of my own photography. I make vlogs. I do everything any socially-networking minded person can do and still have time to write.
And I’m not a household name by any stretch of the imagination. Granted – I don’t have a product to actually sell at the moment. DRINK won’t be releasing until September 24th.
But I did participate in a group anthology called SPRING FEVERS from the independent publisher The Elephant’s Bookshelf. I can come off as not flattering myself when I say that it’s pretty darn good, as I’m not the only author in the book. I used every avenue mentioned above to help promote SPRING FEVERS, as did my fellow authors in the collection. The e-book is even offered for free on Kindle.
I’m not going to tell you how many downloads we have, but I will say that it breaks my heart and leaves me in awe of people that succeed in self-publishing. Truly in awe.
This is why going the trad-pub route was right for me. I can’t think outside the box when it comes to promotion and marketing. The sheer number of blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and self-published books available makes me want to burrow into a hole and hope for the best as opposed to standing up and proving that I’m different from them in a really new and awesome way.
With the marketing department of a traditional publishing house behind me I don’t have to do that. And that’s good because I can’t do that. It’s not what I’m made for.
I don’t mind signing away the money (and yes, the rights too!) that I gave my house when we went into contract because they’re offering me something I don’t have – a massive built-in following, shelf space in major retailers, an art department to make my cover, and who knows what kind of marketing that I couldn’t finance in a million years of working as a high-school librarian.
And I’m offering them something they don’t have – my book. I look at is as win-win.
But other people cringe at exactly the same thing I welcome with open arms, and that’s why self-publishing exists, and why it’s very popular. It’s also lucrative… for some.
I can’t remember who, but awhile back an agent tweeted that self-publishing is not a guaranteed money-making success anymore than being trad-pubbed automatically means you’re going to be the next Stephen King. The vast majority of trad-pubbed authors also have a day job. I’m willing to bet the same is true for self-pubs.
We’re not all that different. And I really wish all of us could just go ahead and accept that. Some authors are willing to make certain sacrifices, while others would rather sacrifice something else.
And that’s totally cool. We don’t get to tell each other which sacrifices are the right ones.
I see a lot of polite head-butting, a lot of agreeing to disagree. What bothers me is that if we all insist that the grass is greener on our side of the fence, pretty soon the vast amount of bile that’s being spread on both sides is going to kill all the grass, everywhere.