In January, I’ve listed the reasons I’m leaning towards self-publishing. This time, I’ll share something that could make the decision easier for others, whichever way they choose.
This will NOT be a list of (dis)advantages of each route – there’s a lot on that topic on the internet (though I might return to that should I be asked, or provide a link to those who described that well). Instead, I’ll share how your goals and priorities for your story might affect that decision.
Print vs. e-book
If you believe e-books are the future, want to be eco-friendly and save our forests, or have any other reason to prioritize digital books over print, self-publishing might be the better way to go. It usually offers better royalty rate for e-books but print sales are very low.
If you’d prefer to get your books to the bookstores, the traditional route might be the only way to go. Publishers have established contacts and if your book passes all the way to a contract, you should have no issue seeing your books in bookstores. The tradeoff is that your royalty from e-books will likely be lower than that of self-published authors.
While the major genres give you a choice, some genres which have smaller target audience might not be seen viable for traditional publishers due to the low sales potential (keep in mind that they need to print books in advance and any leftovers are costs someone has to pay). Some genres might be seen unworthy a bookstore or stigmatized and thus better sold as an e-book. (Have you seen anyone proudly reading an erotic book in the train? I haven’t. E-reader won’t give that away.) This is a point worth research for your particular genre.
Following from the above, books within a genre usually have some typical length. If you go the traditional route, this is another topic for research – your book might be declined for being too short or too long for genre standards. Again, it has its reasons – longer books are costlier to print and thus cost the customer more. Shorter books are cheaper and while it means lower risk, it also means lower profit. A book that might be too short to hook the reader (and thus buy further books from the author) is a factor.
Hence, if you break these barriers, you might be presented two choices: reworking your story to fit the standard (merging shorter books or splitting longer) or taking the self-publishing route where readers might be more willing to experiment. Not to mention that, unlike a 1000-page printed tome, ebook won’t damage/be damaged your pocket (or whatever you carry it in) regardless of the story’s length.
Professionalism vs. freedom
Self-publishing gives you a lot of freedom – you can write whatever you want and you can handle the process any way you want. You can take your time when you think it’s better for you, as you face only the deadlines you set yourself – and answer to yourself with breaking them. However, all the decisions you make will be on your shoulders. You will be the one to decide how any aspect of the story goes but you’ll be solely responsible for how it is received. There will be no one to blame than yourself, should something not go the way you hoped.
Traditional publishing is a business and thus you might need to sacrifice something to succeed. You might be forced to make edits in your story you might not agree with because the agent will tell you “this element of the story does not work well 90% of the time and publishers won’t risk it again”. On the other hand, your professional approach means you’ll have other things handled professionally – a publisher should have no issue finding a good cover designer and editor (and won’t probably be as pressed for money if they believe your story).
Going the traditional route makes some other things easier – such as audiobooks (massive investment if you are self-published), book signings, bookstore events and other things most one-man-armies (self-published authors) won’t be able to put together. And, if your story makes it all the way to the top (few will get there), traditional publishing might give you better chances for movie/series made based on your stories.
As a self-published author, you’ll have full control over how you interact with your readers. You can choose the price of your book (obviously, you can’t go below some limit on print books) or find the cover designer yourself to make sure the result matches what you’d like it to be. Discussing anything related to the countless aspects with those taking the same journey is a great experience that allows you to be a student and a guide at once – and the different approaches other writers share might be a source of inspiration.
That’s it for this time. I’ll welcome any comments or questions on this matter. What way are you planning to go – and what is the main reason? Feel free to share. And, if you think I’ve forgotten to mention something – tell me as well.