A question I’m often asked when discussing my novel, The Trouble With Being God, or the book I’m currently working on is: who’s your publisher?” Of course, my answer is that I am my own publisher. Still, it doesn’t mean I never ask myself if I would rather be working with a “traditional” publisher.
So when I pose the question “Do I Want a Publisher?” I’m really asking “Do I want to be published by a traditional publishing house who has multiple clients and an established place in the publishing marketplace?”
My next immediate question, and the question I encourage all authors (or any creator for that matter) is this: “Why would I want a publisher?”
For those who haven’t given it much thought, it’s time to do so. Traditionally authors work with publishers, who they usually get through agents (if they are lucky enough to get representation in the first place) – but what is the purpose of a publisher? What good is the publisher going to do you?
Some Pros of Having a Publisher:
- You instantly appear to have more credibility.
- Most of the layout work will be done for you.
- You can much more easily get into traditional brick and mortar stores.
- Potential help with marketing.
- A potential for up-front payment (although don’t expect more than a few grand if you’re a first-time author).
Some Pros of Being Your Own Publisher:
- Complete creative control.
- Much higher profit margins.
- Avoiding the bureaucracy of working through a larger corporation.
Of course, there are plenty more pros (as well as cons) to both option – and some pros for me may be cons for you. What is important is that you know what you are getting into with either option, and that you choose the one that is right for you.
As for me, I self-published by choice. I didn’t submit my novel to agents or publishers because I knew I was going to be self-publishing to ensure I could create exactly the book I wanted to create. Of course, I still did plenty of editing and rewrites based on feedback from my editors and some early “beta” readers, but other than those changes, the book is free of outside meddling.
In my decision to self-publish, however, I also accepted the fact that the entire burden would be on me, and that most of my sales would be through online retailers. In actuality, I prefer this – which again is why being my own publisher is the right decision for me.
So, back to my original question: Do I Want a Publisher?
The answer, as you’ve likely gathered, is “probably not.” I am positive I could have had The Trouble With Being God published through a smaller publisher (I am fairly certain it’s not the kind of book any of the major houses would have picked up), but frankly they aren’t able to do much that I can’t do on my own.
It’s not a decision to be taken lightly. If you’re planning on publishing on your own, you must be prepared to do it all – including putting in a lot of time and your own money into marketing. Just having a book in print doesn’t mean much if it’s not selling – and it’s not going to sell if a.) it’s not any good, and b.) if no one has heard of it.
There’s a reason The Trouble With Being God is doing well – and it’s not just because of the positive reviews it’s been receiving. It’s because I made a conscious decision to be my own publisher, and to take all the good things that path entails as well as to trudge through the hard places as well.
If a publisher approached me today I would ask them: “Why should I publish with you?” – it’s a question I encourage you all to ask as well. The publishing world is changing, and traditional publishers have many uses – just not many for me (at least not without a sufficiently large check involved).
This is part two in a series on determining if self-publishing is right for you. Click here for part one.