When I began this journey all I wanted to do was publish a book. Not for the money, not for the attention or the tick on my CV. I wanted to do it for the love of writing. But as the dream takes shape, two rather fundamental questions loom. To self-publish or to try the traditional route (i.e. agent = publisher).
There is a bewildering amount of advice out there on both fronts, but nothing can detract from the fact the industry is in a state of flux. As a new author, it’s incredibly difficult to know which route to focus on, not helped by conflicting advice from both sides of the fence.
However, one quote really stands out for me:
“The self-publishing community is focused on the reader. It’s not my agent, publisher or bookstore who is my customer – it’s the reader.” – Hugh Howey at this week’s Frankfurt Book Fair.
For me, this cuts to the core of why I write. I’m under no illusions; I’m not going to get rich from writing no matter which route I choose but depending on who you listen to, the chances of getting noticed are greater if you go the traditional route. Securing an agent is tantamount to a stamp of approval and without an agent the publishers are reluctant to take any new author seriously.
But on the flip side of the traditional publishing coin is the lack of control. Let’s say for the sake of this argument, I secure an agent (an achievement in itself!) from what I’ve read, once I’ve signed a contract, my work is no longer my own. The book I’ve spent years perfecting becomes someone else’s property. I lose control of it and the percentage of royalties I get from each sale is miniscule.
‘But publishers get books into bookstores,’ I hear you cry. Sometimes they do, but in all honesty I can’t remember the last time I bought a book from a bookstore (and I adore books). Why would I pay a premium when I can download it on the Kindle for less? Book stores are in trouble and so are publishers.
Why not cut out the middle men? Why can’t an author write for the reader and sell direct to the reader? What’s so wrong in that?
There’s no doubt that self-publishing still has a stigma attached to it. ‘Oh, you self-published it…’ As though that somehow diminishes the hundreds sometimes thousands of hours spent on a book.
Agents say you should always try traditional publishing, but of course they would, it’s their livelihood we’re talking about. That’s like asking an Estate Agent if you should sell your house.
I feel, and this is just my opinion, that traditional publishing opens doors but it sacrifices control. So what do I do? What would you do?
We live in exciting times. It has never been easier to publish a book. Eighteen years ago the only option was the agent/publisher route and it was so daunting, so alien, that I didn’t look twice back then, deeming it impossible (I was sixteen at the time). Today, the goalposts have changed, publishing has never been so accessible. That doesn’t mean writing a book worth reading has got any easier; that hasn’t changed, but the way the book is presented to the reader has.
I can spend months/years trying to find an agent. Is that time and energy better spent marketing the book?
I believe, in a few years, publishers will need to make changes to survive. Change how they go about finding talented writers, change how they look after those writers and change their marketing methods.
The quote above galvanises how I feel about publishing. Yes, the self-publishing sea is spilling over with author’s and books, competition is fierce, but I never was one to forgo a challenge.
Quote Source: https://www.facebook.com/KindleDirectPublishing?hc_location=stream
Note: These are my opinions only and I am by no means an expert, just a writer trying to find her way.
Image above courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net