My thoughts after a panel on the benefit of traditional publishing over self-publishing
I attended a session at Ravencon with Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, Michael Ventrella, among others. Kevin and Rebecca have been published by traditional New York publishers for years and Kevin has a large out-of-print backlist which he’s self-published as ebooks. He’s making more money on those backlisted ebooks than he ever did when they were in print. However, he’s a platform, a large audience of readers, who know his “brand” and are fans who want to buy those books for their ereaders.
Michael Ventrella (http://michaelaventrella.com/page/2/) publishes his fiction through an ebook publisher, but would prefer to be published for his future works by a traditional publisher, which has an audience that buys their books based on them being a quality read. Michael feels that 90% of self-published books have taken a short cut, skipping editing, copyediting, and proper polishing that would make them “professional.” Averages sales on Smashwords, an ebook publisher, is two ebooks sold… That’s right just two. Being part of a brand can help an author immensely.
Rebecca asked the following question, what does the author want? Self-publishing authors will have to do all the marketing of their work, too. Is that efficient?
Michael felt that if you just want to be published or you’ve a non-fiction specialty that will attract an audience, self-publishing may be perfect for you.
Now, listening to this debate, I thought about my own experiences and choices to date. My debut novel is published by an Indie small press that starts with publishing as an ebook and expands to print-on-demand, which can lead into print runs based on demand. Small presses can come and go, so you need to look carefully at their business model and history. Marketing is largely in my hands as the author with the support of the publisher, but their resources are limited. They provide the copy editing, cover art, and deal with the business side of the equation just as all traditional publishers do. However, depending on the small press they may or may not offer an advance, which in traditional publishing is getting smaller and smaller every year, unless you are someone like Stephen King.
The industry is changing. I’m personally seeking to build a name for myself through the small presses, but intend to send novels through the submission processes that will be just as frustrating with rejections as those of small presses. Finding the right market for a story, no matter the size (novel or shorter) is the same.
But there are advantages to traditional publishing. Many traditional publishers will not deal with unagented authors, but agent models in the industry are becoming an issue. Authors have to be very careful to find one who isn’t looking claiming rights they aren’t due or, as is happening these days, are becoming publishers (a real conflict of interest).
But to my mind, keeping your options open in the change publishing environment is the smartest thing to be looking at. Well, I let you know how that works out one day, I hope…
Author of Highmage's Plight (available on Amazon)