As a published author, I have lost track of how many times I have been asked about self-publication. Did I self-publish? What do I think about the process?
As anyone who writes or reads will tell you, the world of publication, like many other industries, is in a state of flux due to technological advances. Publishing platforms, big giants like Amazon, and digital books have all made self-publishing a much more viable option for many more writers than it was in the past. An on-line search will turn up literally thousands of posts, sites, and experts, who will guide you through the process, answer question, and recommend tools. Even writer’s groups, whether face-to-face or virtual, seem to have more of a focus lately on issues related to self-publication than those that focus on traditional publication.
So the burning question is: Just because you can, does that mean you should?
There are many reasons writers chose self-publication, but as a traditionally published author, I would like to share some reasons why I believe the traditional publication route is far superior.
1) Traditional publication routes put you in touch with real experts.
The agents and editors that you will meet as you seek traditional publication are true experts who have been working in the field of publication and have much to offer as far as expertise. Their insights and experiences are invaluable as you build your career as a writer. They have nothing to gain from leading you on and telling you your manuscript is great if it is not. They only earn money if your book sells, so they want it to be the best that it can be. They have already experienced every pitfall out there and can often help new writers avoid mistakes. They know the industry and the market and they have the track record to prove it.
2) Traditional publication routes allow you to focus your energy on writing.
Both the publishers I have contracts with are small presses, who do not have entire departments devoted to publicity and marketing, so even as a traditionally published author, some of those tasks fall to me. And while I do not mind scheduling school visits, contacting bookstores and libraries, and booking author signings, I cannot imagine having to do IT ALL. I do not have to worry about what is in stock; what fonts to use; how many to order per print run; the legalities of copyright, etc. I am able to devote the majority of my time and energy to writing. I will let the editors, publishers, agents and other professionals handle the rest.
3) Traditional publication routes help to ensure quality work.
While the agents and acquisition editors are gatekeepers of sort, they are also there to ensure that only the very best work makes it to publication. That is not true of self-published work. Any person can deem their own work ready and worthy of publication. I can tell you that as a writer, we truly lack perspective on our own work. Every time I finish a piece, I am convinced it is perfect. And every time, after the feedback of my editors and other professionals, the revisions they require always produce a better piece of writing.
In addition to the quality of the writing, the quality of the finished product is ensured as well. A quick surfing of writer’s social media groups, and you can find a plethora of examples of self-published writers who are fighting to have printing errors handled, waiting for promised shipments that have yet to arrive; and other stressful issues that traditionally published writers do not have to handle.
4) Traditional publication costs you NOTHING.
Because self-publishing and vanity presses require that the writer finance the project, the entire process is ripe for writer-rip-offs. Everyone, at each step of the process, is making money off of the writer. That is not to say that there are not ethical and trustworthy people in the self-publishing industry, but just that the writer must truly do their homework, research, and investigate every single person or business they deal with. Things that are extremely time consuming. Additionally, if your book has illustrations, traditional publishers deal with securing, hiring, and paying the illustrator. If you are self-publishing, these kinds of logistical, legal, and financial responsibilities fall to you.
5) Traditional publication gives you a validity that self-publishing may not.
Whether it is warranted or not, traditionally published authors have an authoritativeness that those who are not, may not have. They have been chosen. They have made the cut. They have been drafted. Professionals within the field of publication have deemed their work worthy. That is huge. At least for me. This also seems to matters to many readers, bookstores, teachers, and the general public. At book festivals, conferences, and other events, self-published works are not always given the same consideration that traditionally published works are given. When schools and libraries purchase books, they start with the traditional publication and distribution avenues. This puts, whether warranted or not, traditionally published works at the head of the line.
Almost every self-published author will tell you that their first choice would be traditional publication. That self-publication was their fall-back. So my question is…why settle for Plan B?