Fiction writers, should you aim for traditional publication, small press, or indie publishing?
It’s a tough decision in a situation where publishers aren’t doing very well. You can tell that because they consolidate, sell out, buy each other up, and generally act unstable. There isn’t much money to be had in publishing these days, except in one bright spot. Read on to find out more!
For you, making your choice, you need to realize that some things are the same for all three options. You will be primarily responsible for marketing. And the amount of editing you can expect from a publisher? it’s a lot less than it used to be. You’re best off to hire a professional editor, no matter where you’re hoping to be published.
Traditional publication: These guys are publishing fewer and fewer books every year, so there’s a lot of competition for slots. If your book is chosen, you may get some great editing–or may not. The traditional publishers, using cheap offset printing, have costs and expenses that allow access to brick-and-mortar bookstores. They might hire a publicist and run some ads for you. But their efforts don’t last long. After a few weeks or months, your unsold books are pulled from the bookshelves and destroyed, making way for new releases. Your book becomes hard to find, at least in print. Meanwhile, the ebook edition is still around but usually costs about three times more than anybody wants to pay for an unknown author, so it hardly sells. Traditional publishers, as far as I can see have not figured out that top-quality e-books, properly promoted, gather more reviews and sell better and better as time goes on. Also, bear in mind the advice I’ve heard from agents, again and again: traditional publishers expect to make money on one in ten books they publish. That blockbuster pays for the publication expenses for the other nine. So they’ll launch your book, see if it takes off like a rocket, and not support it if it doesn’t.
Small press: You may or may not get comprehensive editing. Small presses, which use print-on-demand technology rather than cheap offset printing, cannot afford to place your book in bookstores (because they have to pay for the high-priced ones that don’t sell as well as the ones that do). They can make it possible for someone to order your print book from a bookstore or a library, however. Don’t expect them to do much in the way of advertising or hiring publicists. They can’t afford it. (The money they make is when you, the author, order copies from them to re-sell, as well as a percentage of sales.) Some small presses do e-book price marketing, using e-blast services like BookBub or Ereader News Today, but it’s difficult for the publisher to handle all the necessary details in juggling several books for this. You can do it better yourself, which leads me to …
Indie publishing: There are plenty of indie authors who have quit their day jobs to write full time. Yes, you heard me. This is the brightest time in the history of publishing. Never before have authors been able to find their readers so easily and sell to them directly. Most of the middle-man fees drop out, and you reap the profits for your own work.
To publish as an indie, you have to have some capital. There’s nobody else to absorb the cost of producing a wonderful book: great editing, incredible cover, layout. That might be $2,000 to $3,000 for a typical fiction book. Maybe you can get your friends and relations to contribute to a Kickstarter campaign for you. You’ll need money for promotion, too. For example, a typical BookBub campaign costs around $500. Then, of course, you need to find someone to mentor you through the process and allay your fears. There are more and more successful indies around, and I bet you know one, or have one as a friend of a friend. Look around, ask around, and you’ll find someone. For more on how to make it as an indie: http://www.castlegatepress.com/sell-enough-ebooks-to-quit-your-day-job-four-tips-from-a-pro/