Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Publishing choices: traditional or self-pub?

My friend, author Trudy J. Morgan-Cole (historical fiction and inspiration), keeps Hypergraffiti, a vlog (video blog) about writing and literature, and mentioned my recent novel release and my decision to self-publish instead of going the traditional route of writing, editing, submitting my manuscript package to an agent, and finding a publisher with their team to finish the process, print the book, and distribute it.

Here's what Trudy said on the video regarding my book: "Great self-published novel... meticulous research... really interesting story... written a wonderful novel... heavy on primary sources research... delved deeply into that time period... I wish it were traditionally published... it would get into more readers' hands... I know that she had her reasons for choosing that path... Two reasons to like this video: a plug for Christy K Robinson's book and a ringing endorsement of the concept of hiring an editor! [Christy's] was an example of a GOOD self-published book. 50 Shades of Grey was an example of ... the other kind."

Trudy's vlog in favor of traditional publishing follows here:
This is what I wrote to Trudy after viewing the vlog. 
I did quite a bit of research on self/indie and traditional. I learned that traditional publishers are doing 90% less work on your manuscript and finished product than they did 10 years ago. Most of the marketing is up to the author now, and agents expect MSS to be edited before they accept them and shop them to publishers. Publishers are not risking much money, and they're maximizing their profits. Editors have been laid off (fired), and marketing/design departments are hanging in the wind. There's not much of a team left to shepherd your MSS to a profitable book. You're also correct about the time frame. Most authors I know have full-time jobs and benefits, and can afford to wait for a year or more, to have their book released three weeks *after* the Christmas buying season because publishers have bigger fish to fry than you. Oy. Amazon/CreateSpace offer design, editing, and marketing services in part or whole, or the author can put their amateur attempts out there on their own.

Another factor in my decision was that my subject matter is complicated: I'm not doing a religious or evangelical book, but there would be no story if I couldn't explain the conflicting culture, religions, politics, and personal faith of my 17th-century subjects--which traditional publishers don't like or allow in this generic, politically-correct time. What they want is the intrigue and sexcapades of medieval royalty, Tudors, and Regency England. Headless women in jeweled ball gowns for the cover. Traditional publishers jam books into a popular genre or niche and make a quick splash, then return the remainders and own your copyright.

I was also pretty sure that the larger religious publishers (who are merging or going bankrupt) wouldn't want the MSS without significant changes to the real people and real events. All my characters were nonconformists, which is probably what made them heroic figures--and I'm not about to make them conform, 400 years later!

In my case, with tens of thousands of Dyer, Hutchinson, and Winthrop descendants who enjoy genealogy as a hobby, I'll have a steady base market for years. And that's just the descendants. I hope this two-book series will be picked up for reading groups and high school or college reading lists in women's, historical, biographical, colonial, and religious categories. Amazon/CreateSpace offer an expanded distribution program that will allow my books to be sold from many more online and brick-and-mortar stores than Amazon's.

Lastly, I'm a professional editor with years of experience in editing all sorts of publications, including books and magazines, and from my years in public relations, I also know something about marketing. I've worked with great teams of writers and designers, and I've had to work solo and do it all. The decision to self-publish was carefully considered after reading many magazine and newspaper articles and blogs on the subject, and talking with other authors about their experience. 
Trudy wrote in response:  "I sure hope [Mary Dyer Illuminated] does well -- the work you've put into it is amazing and I found the book very engaging! And it's interesting to see your reasons for self-publishing -- you're clearly a writer who has put a lot of thought into the decision. I am still going to post a review on my book blog too -- my reviewing has not yet caught up with my reading for this month!" 

Whichever route you choose for your project, you must have a skilled editor. Your hard work will be shunned by reviewers and first readers if you neglect that important step.  

Why you need an editor, even if you're in a hurry or broke:

Self Publishing by the NumbersInfographic by: Web Site 

This article, shortened URL.

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