One of the hardest questions for many authors is asking themselves which method of publishing is right for them. In today's landscape, it can feel overwhelming with the number of options which exist, with traditional publishing now challenged by some very real competition. But with so many options to choose from, which one is right for you, and which one has the potential to deliver exactly what you're looking for?
What Are the Main Publishing Options Available Today?
You've already asked yourself this very question, right? But which one is right for you and more importantly, are there ones which could potentially hurt you in the long run? Before we delve into each, let's check out the main options you might consider for your book.
Traditional Publishing Big 5
Traditional Publishing Small Press
Each option has definite pros and cons and it is up to you to work through each option to see
which is the better fit. What it comes down to is you and your personal goals. Is this a one-off, or more of a career move? Let's see what each brings to the table for you.
1. Traditional Publishing Big 5
For many, this is where the dream begins, with visions of glamour and prestige, which come shortly after you type the final few words of your manuscript. For many, unfortunately, that's about as far as the dream goes, before the mountain before them becomes far too cumbersome to climb.
The thing is, just a very small percentage of people who finish a book, actually get picked up by an agent, much less sign a contract with one of the Big 5 publishing houses. This doesn't necessarily mean your book isn't up to the standards of those making the decision, but when you consider the sheer volume of inquiries they receive, you quickly begin to understand that it becomes nothing more than a numbers game. And in case you haven't guessed, it may not be everything you had hoped for anyway.
So, what are the pros of having one of the Big 5 pick your book up? Well, firstly, there's a certain sense of pride which follows, quickly joined by an extra level of prestige. It may take you a few weeks or months to make it back down to ground level with the rest of us mortals. Everything you could possibly need for your book to reach the many shelves where hungry readers wait, will be covered by your new best friends. They take care of everything, from editing, design, and eventually getting the finished products into reader's hands. Your role will be to sit back, wave at the crowds and smile.
But with all of this prestige, how can their possibly a downside? Surely, this is where all writers yearn to be, to reach these levels of godliness and bask in the sunshine of glory for the rest of their days. Well, actually, that's a big fat no from me, as well as many others who have followed a different path entirely. You see, your story is about the limit of your input into how the finished product will look (although some do value a certain level of author input). Next is the royalty share, which sadly, is down around 5-15% of whatever your book makes, which is paid either once or twice per year. Plus, there's the contract itself, which may keep you bound for quite a number of years to come. And if that's not enough, there's always the prospect of having to wait one to two years to see your book reach the shelves in the first place.
2. Traditional Publishing Small Press
Books may look much the same from a distance, but when you get up close and personal, you quickly find that not everything is quite so clear cut. The same can be said with how a book came to existence in the first place. Approaching a small press publisher and asking them to take a chance on you might be an easier way forward if you really wish to see someone else turn your manuscript into a work of wonder, a true piece of artwork, yearned for by thousands of hungry readers.
Unlike the Big Press Publishers, Small Press means exactly that, a much smaller team which take the time and effort to make sure your book will be the absolute best version it can be. Why? Because small press publishers don't have the kinds of budgets the bigger houses control. They need to assess their authors a lot more, but when you are selected, the journey can be a wondrous adventure.
With a small press, authors tend to have a lot more input when it comes to creating their books, which in itself adds to the satisfaction. And then there's the fact a small press publisher is not going to sit on your book for a couple of years. Time is money and they'll want your book out in reader's hands as quickly as possible (without compromising quality, of course).
But as with anything, there's also a downside to this option. Firstly, inexperienced authors may be subject to more scams at this level, which is why researching your future partners is imperative. And then there's the fact you give up some of the prestige which only the Big 5 tend to offer. While a small press will offer a certain level of satisfaction, consider whether it's enough for you. Royalties maybe a little higher in percentage, but then given their distribution may be lower, the bottom line may still be less than the other options.
3. Indie Publishing
Also known as Independent Publishing, this is where you take the bull by the horns, dig your heels in, and prepare to work your butt off in order to make things happen. If you thought writing your book was hard, wait until you choose this option. Indie authors are known as the real workhorses of the publishing world, and the truth is, it can take longer to get a book ready after its finished, than it took to write in the first place.
Long days, and even longer nights is what await many indie authors, or Indies. Working tirelessly to get the words down on paper is just the beginning, as every single requirement after the first draft is finished, comes back for the author to take care of. We're talking editing, formatting, designing, searching for the right service providers, dealing with trust issues, avoiding scammers, taking courses, more editing, proofreading, more studying, and then repeat the process several times over. Yes, it's hard work. But is it worth it?
Definitely. For the Indie who fights their way through the work, the rewards can be far greater than any of the other options, including one of the big 5. The fact is, there's no greater sense of achievement than seeing the book you put together, finally reaching reader's hands and finding its audience. The cons for being an Indie definitely include the work load, because let's face it, you are it. Everything comes down to you. If it needs doing, you're the one doing it. Whether that means personally, or finding the right service provider to do it, you will have the maximum input into each and every stage.
But with all this hard work, surely there has to be some positives besides satisfaction. The answer to that is again, a very big yes. Not only do you retain full control over your work, but you get to make all of the decisions yourself, from which cover to use, to the very price you want to offer it to readers for. And then there's the royalties, which you share with absolutely nobody (except for the platforms which host your book). On a site like Amazon, the eBook royalties alone range anywhere from 35-70% (based on the price you set). That's much better than the 5-15% we mentioned before. And the best part? You get paid monthly. Spread your book around to various platforms and you instantly increase your revenue streams. And let's not forget that once your book is available to readers on platforms, it has the potential of selling for many years to come.
The thing is, they call it an author journey for a reason. Right from the moment you decide to put pen to paper (proverbially speaking), the decision about which direction you want to take when the time comes is already brewing. It's an important one, but the good thing is, you can always change your mind. If one doesn't work, there's nothing stopping you from trying another.
Nobody can really tell you which way you should go. While they may have experience with one or more, nobody's journey is ever the same. As many in this industry tend to say, there are many ways up the mountain. You just need to find yours. Personally, the one thing which I have come to love above all else in this industry is this. Authors aren't in competition with one another. Readers will hungrily devour my book as much as yours. All they need is a little time. We all have the same purpose and that is to give our readers an escape from their existence and hopefully help them forget about the troubles of their own reality by bringing them into our imaginations. Even if it's just for an hour or two.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below on which methods you've tried and loved. Until next time, happy writing.