Making the Publishing Choice

At some point, an independent author needs to decide whether to go the traditional publishing route, or try their hand at self-publishing. For me, my initial decision to go with a publisher was an easy one. Getting an “acceptance” letter and signing a contract were always personal goals of mine, as was having a novel in print (more on that soon). Now that those goals are achieved, it may be time to branch out.

I think I’m showing my age, but I always felt that having a publisher lent one an air of credibility. I’m learning that is not always true anymore. I’ve read some great self-published works, and I’ve also read some real duds from reputable publishers. I don’t put them on as high a pedestal anymore. And while we all gripe about some of the grammar in self-published works, I have seen similarly bad mistakes come out of publishing houses too. I’ve also noticed that within my chosen genre, a good portion of the top writers, including those I admire most, use a publisher, so I think it still counts for something.

For an independent author, it’s a tough choice. Publishers take a fair chunk of the royalties, however they do also provide some valuable services in exchange. I readily admit that I am lazy, especially when it comes to administrative stuff. I’d rather spend my time working on my next story. So I happily leave image/ stock photo contracting, formatting, coordinating releases with the major retailers, marketing and updating Goodreads, to my publisher. And don’t underestimate the value of a copy editor; I consider myself to be a decent grammarian and I still am amazed at the mistakes I make. If time is money, then I believe they earn their share.

On the other hand, I’m at my publisher’s mercy when it comes to release date, price and what other titles they are releasing. It can take 6 months to 1 year for a work to get published. And I do have serious concerns about publishers focusing on quantity over quality, and on the slowly increasing list prices. My reputation is linked to that of my publisher, and these things are out of my control.

Believe it or not, something as simple as payment method is also a major consideration, especially for authors outside the US. Many indie publishers want to use PayPal for non-US authors, however PayPal charges exorbitant exchange rates and essentially forces me to convert to Canadian dollars even though I have a US dollar account at a Canadian bank. I’ve just learned that Kindle Direct Publishing does not use PayPal, so that option is looking a little more attractive to me these days. For now though, my publisher is still cutting checks—something for which I am extremely grateful.

I’ve been told that you can make more self-publishing. I suppose that’s true, but it’s also a lot more involved. I admire those that do it. Some days I barely find the time to check email, so I’m in awe of those who dedicate their time to doing everything themselves. I love the idea of one day trying my hand at self-publishing, but I’m not sure that day is here yet.

I’d love to know what you think, as readers and authors (of any genre). Does publisher play any part in your decision to buy or to write? Is the self-publishing revolution taking over? Share your thoughts.

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