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Published vs Self Published, which is better

Poll closed Mar 31, 2013.
  1. Published - Professional

    21 vote(s)
    52.5%
  2. Self Published

    6 vote(s)
    15.0%
  3. Neither

    13 vote(s)
    32.5%
  1. BlackBird
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    BlackBird Member

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    Self Publishing vs Publishing

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by BlackBird, Dec 31, 2012.

    I am just wondering if anyone would be willing to list pros and cons or their own personal experience would be better.

    I ask as I am very artistic. I have plans of doing sketches for some of the unusual technology in my alien based book however I do not see sketches included in mass published modern books - some of the older books obviously had sketches / drawings included in the margins.

    Is it possible to include sketches in actual published work?

    So again if people could give their thoughts on either that'd be great.
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the advantages of being published traditionally are that money should always flow to, not from the writer...

    and that self-publishing does not make one a 'published author' in the eyes of the literary world, as all self-publishing venues are variations of 'vanity press' in that the writers are willing to pay good money and do all the work necessary to see their work appear in book form and be sold, instead of being paid by a publisher who will do it all for them...

    this applies mostly to fiction, as if one has a major public presence in the field covered by their non-fiction book, as well as a built-in professional sales base, then self-publishing can be a good choice...

    in re your art work, adult fiction very rarely has any... of course it's possible to include it if the book is self-published, but that would raise the cost to the author, as well as making the price of the book to buyers higher than most will want to pay...

    as a new and unknown writer, it's highly unlikely a ms that includes art work will interest either agents or publishers, but you may want to consider making your book a 'graphic novel'...
     
  3. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Which is "better" depends on what the author's goals are. Self-publishing for the wrong reasons ("golden word syndrome", ignorance of how trade publishing works, "shove it to the man", etc) can do the author (and their reputation) more harm than good. Self-publishing for the right reasons (niche book, nonfiction, just want something for family/friends, trade published author with reverted backlist, etc) can work very well.

    Learning how both work and making an informed and realistic decision makes either direction 'better'.
     
  4. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can only speak for myself with respect to publishing, and commercial has always been my intention and where I have found success.

    One can find on this forum and other forums and blogs and elsewhere the pros and cons of self vs. commercial publishing. It is a common and sometimes heated discussion.

    To those common elements of the debate, I will point out here that being commercially published opened doors to me that would otherwise have been far more difficult, if not closed, such as attending SF/Fantasy Conventions as a guest author and events such as the Ohioana Book Festival.

    There is no 100% right or wrong answer with respect to self-publishing vs. commercial, and one can find strong advocates either direction.

    The one avenue I would strongly discourage is subsidy publishing, where an author basically pays a 'publisher' to publish their book (an expensive form of self-publishing, where the author not only pays out of pocket very large sums, but only receives a small fraction of any sales--and those 'publishers' mainly make their living off of selling services to authors and not selling books to readers). And the reputation of those publishers is usually more of a detraction than any positive element when an author is associated with them.

    Whatever a subsidy publisher can do for an author, an author can do (or hire to be done) much more cost effectively and with better quality results on his own through self publishing. What a good commercial publisher does is everything a subsidy publisher does, but at no cost to the author and does a superior job, and the commercial publisher is interested in selling books, because that's where their income is derived and where their focus will be. That said, not all commercial publishers are equal, especially among smaller/start-up publishers, so research well before submitting work to and signing a contract with a publisher. If one doesn't know about contracts (important clauses, contents and wording) with a publisher, having a literary agent or literary attorney help negotiate/review is a very good idea.

    As far as sketches, if they add to the size of the book's file significantly, it will reduce the profit as ebook providers often charge a larger amount for the size of the file downloaded. Print, I cannot say for sure, but I suspect it will add to the cost of producing the book. In both cases, reducing the profit for the publisher (be it commercial or self). Sketches will be irrelevant to an audiobook's contents, and if vital to understanding by the reader/listener, that could be a limiting factor in that format's viability.

    Okay, I went a little off topic of the poll, but figured I'd add my two cents.
     
  5. BlackBird
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    BlackBird Member

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    It's not quite enough to be considered a graphic novel, it is more along the lines of sketches / drawings to show what an alien species would look like - what a space ship would be like. You can only explain so much before someone says - god this alien is too much to believe without seeing, "A picture is worth a thousand words" after all.

    I believe Tolkin did something vaguely similar with the LOTR and Hobbit but it's been a long time since I've looked at that.




    And how does one go about getting a hold of a publisher / agent?
     
  6. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Find their website, look for the guidelines and provide exactly what they request. Some agents will want a query letter only, some a query letter with a chapter or maybe three to first evaluate the potential. Publishers, that accept slush (unsolicited submissions), often request a brief synopsis and the first three chapters, but each publisher may be a bit different.

    Research the agents/publishers before submitting. And while you're waiting for replies, begin writing the next project.

    The first thing, however, is to have ready a completed and polished novel (manuscript) before seeking an agent/publisher, especially with fiction. Nonfiction is a bit different, with proposals/sample chapters and the like. I am not as well versed in that area.
     
  7. Teodor Pravický
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    Teodor Pravický Senior Member

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    I think that publisher will get too high cut from the sales, while you have to be active in sales anyway if you want to promote that book. I don't think anybody will roll up unknown story in the place which makes most of the money.

    I'm self-published, but managed to be in commercial of one ebook company just because I released the ebook for free and they want to attract some new visitors for a free stuff. Well, its a small country, but they have really nice chicks in there!

    I don't want to fight for readers that are used to buy all the stuff which is released by now. They are spoiled by collorful sentences, desires and all that stuff I don't even like in most of the books.

    So I think selfpublishing is good when you want to create your own fanbase and want to make more money in the future - either finally coming to the publisher as some badass or selling the content on sites like Amazon.
     
  8. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's a lot of stigma attached to self-publishing, but that's mostly a hangover from the days when self-publishing meant vanity publishing - paying someone to publish your work for you. That's not true any more - it's far more possible to publish e-books on your own and have them sold via Amazon etc, and print-on-demand technology means you can even self-publish physical books far more easily than you once could.

    But if you do self-publish, remember what the publisher adds. That is, all the business stuff. Marketing. Editing. Marketing. Design. Marketing. If you're going to go it alone and want to actually make any money from it, rather than just being able to say you've got a book out, you'll have to learn to do all that yourself. Especially the marketing.
     
  9. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    No. Vanity publishing is any publishing approach in which only the author measures the quality of the writing. By definition, therefore, self-publishing is vanity publishing.

    Without a disinterested party evaluating the writing quality, the term "vanity press" is not only applicable, but appropriate.

    You are entitled to that opinion, but traditional publishers, and most of the reading public, will probably not agree.
     
  11. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    The real world will disagree.


    On a side note, there a really good reason why most of the general reading public assumes that a self-published book will be garbage. Any guesses as to why?
     
  12. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    Do you actually know that - or are you assuming that the general reading public agrees with you?
     
  13. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    You can go ahead and believe whatever you want to believe.
     
  14. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think any of the nonfiction or academic authors who have self-published as a matter of course over the past few decades would definitely disagree with the idea they were vanity publishers. I think many of the trade published authors who are now self-publishing their backlists would disagree that they are vanity publishers.

    I think there's definitely some elitism at play in comments equating self-publishing and vanity publishing, or, at the very least, a misunderstanding of the definition of vanity publishing - just as those same people persist in using the term 'traditional publishing' instead of 'trade publishing'. If one wants to argue semantics, one might want to understand the terms and their history first.
     
  15. Edward M. Grant
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    Edward M. Grant Contributing Member

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    Or you could look at the Amazon best-seller lists, which were typically 25-50% self-published across the various genres last year.

    Most readers couldn't care less who published their books, they just want a good story at a reasonable price. Writers shouldn't care whether their books are trade published or self-published, and just go for whatever route offers the best opportunity at the time.
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    incorrect. The actual statistic is 25-50% e-published. Not the same thing. The e-published books comprising almost all of this share are e-edittions of traditionally published books.

    Of course, those parasites who profit by exploiting naive writers looking for easy publication do their best to perpetuate this confusion, and are quick to trot out statistics fabricated from whole cloth to make the self-publishing market look like a shining new opportunity. Most of it is a total sham.

    There are legitimate reasons for bypassing the traditional publishing process. Limited run books like textbooks assembled by a University department to support their curriculum would be an example, or family histories for regional get-togethers. But for the writer thinking he or she can break into the business and become a huge hit by self-publishing, it's wishful thinking, encouraged by less-than-scrupulous entrepreneurs with a handful of success stories that are either as fortunate as lottery winners or wholly imaginary. The only ones getting rich are the aforementioned entrepreneurs.

    P. T. Barnum would be laughing his ass off.
     
  17. Edward M. Grant
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    Edward M. Grant Contributing Member

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    I was talking e-book best-sellers, I should have been more clear. That's why I specified Amazon's best-seller list, since they still sell the most e-books.

    Edit: to take SF as one example, you only have to go to #4 on the Kindle best-seller list to find a book that looks self-published, and #9 is definitely self-published (and now has a movie deal and a trade-published print deal).

    The same could be said of writers who think they can break into the business and become a huge hit by trade publishing. A tiny handful win the best-seller lottery, the majority of writers collect a small amount of royalties while most of the money goes to the publisher.
     
  18. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    It should be noted, however, that very few trade published authors are telling new writers they can become a huge hit - the opposite is typically true - whereas there are many, many self-published authors telling writers how easy it is to be a successful self-published author. In fact, there are well known SP gurus who have actually only self-published one or two books - and that includes their book on how to be a successful self-published author. As to most of the money going to the publisher - well, they're the ones spending most of the money and taking the risks.

    I originally voted that neither was better than the other. I still think that. However, it is much, much easier to be misled when going the SP route, which can cost not only money, but the future of one's book.
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Not only that, but with a trade publisher, you aren't hemorrhaging your hard earned bucks to assorted opportunists. At worst, you're buying stamps, envelopes, and printer paper enough to get an annual Christmas card from your office supply store and your post office clerk.
     
  20. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    What really confuses me about the trad publishing/self publishing debate is how vehemently opposed the trad/published supporters are. I have gone the trade route, done the groundwork, had the rejections and have been published. I have also self-published. I have no qualms about trade publishing. It's the way most people would like to go. I don't decry it. I've also self published. I haven't thrown a book together, ignored the editing, the proof reading, I have had several readers go through it and I can say that , because I have respect for the people who may read it, I have examined every word. (I know that doesn't guarantee that I've covered everything). The whole experience has been a learning curve and I have enjoyed it.

    Why then, is it assumed by those who oppose this method of publication (it is a method of publication) that as a self published writer, I am an air head who doesn't give a damn about quality and only cares about making a fortune with a poorly constructed book? Self publishers have been educated too and most of us know how to work out for themselves that there are scammers out there, hovering like vultures for the greedy or vulnerable. Most of us don't expect to make a fortune and realise that those who do will be dissapointed.

    I agree that there are books out there that should never have seen light of day. I've read trade published rubbish too. Self publishing isn't going to go away. It's going strong and the standards are slowly improving.


    I don't care how many people read it, as long as those who do find it enjoyable. Money is not always a motivator. Self published is not always inferior. Tade publishing is not always better.
     
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  21. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    You seem to be assuming the only way of self-publishing is to throw money at some self-proclaimed guru, but you can get your e-book available for the Kindle with no more than a bit of time.

    Sure, you'll need to invest in promotion if you want to get it to a bigger audience, but that's the trade off you get for having a bigger slice of the pie. The trade publishers take their cut for handling the business side - if you do the business side yourself, you assume the risk and get the cash. As long as you go into it with eyes open, there's no harm.
     
  22. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    There is a lot of animosity toward self-publishing from trade published authors. Most of that came thanks to the earlier gurus who started calling trade publishers 'dinosaurs' and making statements that authors who tried to get trade published were fools. That doesn't exactly endear SPs to the rest of the world of authors. However, the world of self-publishing is growing up, maturing, and, while there are still those who go into it with a chip on their shoulder, many more authors are accepting the role of publisher with all seriousness. Personally, until I have those reverted backlist books, I won't consider self-publishing (and possibly not even then). But my only reason for that is because I don't want to be a publisher. I want to be a writer. Period.

    There are a great many businesses and individuals out there ready to take advantage of authors who have not done their homework, who hear those businesses and individuals saying what they want to hear - that it's not their writing or the market but the Evil Greedy Trade Publishers who are keeping their books from seeing the light of day. But not all self-published authors are literary idiots, and certainly the average SP is no more vain than the average trade published author.

    Does self-publishing have to prove itself? Well, yes, because of its very nature. Anyone can self-publish. That's a fact. So authors going that route have a rough road, because they don't have the 'ready-made' proof of being accepted by a publisher. Unless they're already trade published, with a reputation among readers already, they face enormous odds and most likely will never earn the kind of money even moderately successful trade published authors do. And the serious SPs also have to contend with those who just shove their "golden words" out there simply because they can. But I don't think it's fair or right to paint all SPs as self-aggrandizing idiots, any more than it is to say all trade published authors are fools to "give away" their profits.

    A little respect from both sides would certainly benefit all authors - and thus the readers.
     
  23. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    Absolutely agree with all of that. And self publishing does still have a long way to go. I would just like those opposed to be slightly less scathing in their condemnation of those genuine and serious writers who make up a large proportion of those selp publising.
     
  24. Bright Shadow
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    Self publishing will indeed help up and coming writers, but only indirectly. Why? Because when an author becomes established the publishing house is no longer needed as much as in the beginning. Hence, established writers with a firm fan base can self publish newer works and keep all the money, and hence free up space at publishing houses for new authors.

    With ebooks and everybody self publishing, publishing houses are soon going to become more a guarantee of quality than a necessity. I mean, yes, there are plenty of good self published books out there, but there are A LOT of stinkers too. Most published novels by a company have already passed editors, agents etc and they have weeded out the garbage and can assure a certain level of quality...granted, "Twilight" still somehow managed to get published, but you get the general idea.
     
  25. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    I self-publish my own novels, and despite all I've done wrong so far I would not choose the traditional route. Some of my reasoning might need explaining:

    Firstly, what I'm writing wouldn't be touched by the traditional industry at the moment due to its nature - a very long form of SF space opera told over multiple books, dealing with contexts that are frequently not immediately clear and certainly to some extent not easily accessible to general readers. In other words, a challenge to read (even if there weren't the grammar, style, etc, issues in the original editions!)

    Secondly, I want to have more control of the overall feel of the series. Things like cover design, title semantics, etc, all add up to a 'product' or 'brand', and I want to make sure that poor usage of what's currently in fashion with the general trad publishers don't derail the overall direction.

    But, it's a hard route to self-publish if you're going to do it well, and you can't have expectation of return on your investment of time and probably money too. I made mistakes in publishing my first two novels without enough 'disinterested' feedback beforehand, and they aren't good enough so they haven't done any business. The stories themselves are basically fine, but the 'tell' is weak and needs improving. That's one of the reasons I'm here on this forum, to understand where I went wrong and correct those mistakes. Arguably I can only do that because I'm self-publishing as it could never happen in the traditional publishing world, but it shows a degree of weakness on my part as a writer. That we're now in the era of e-publishing helps though, as new print runs are potentially a thing of the past and I get the option of a second chance.

    Also, with self-publishing be prepared to have to put lots of effort in, and to do so mostly alone. It can be a very solitary experience and is not for the fainthearted. If you can get a few people around you to provide support and feedback, especially if they are capable of seeing poor writing and help you fix it and also know something of the publishing industry, then they will be of great benefit. As for me, I have no traditional publishing contacts so it's been a brutally solitary (though not as such lonely) experience.

    If you just want to write, and aren't motivated to deal with the wider aspects of publishing, I'd say go the traditional route. It may take time to find your agent and publisher (be prepared for lots of rejections) and you may make less money on each sale and have less control over the final 'product', but if what you've got has commercial appeal then you'll make more money eventually, and it will allow you the freedom to write without worrying about all the publishing stuff that goes on as well.
     

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