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Papaya
02-09-2013, 09:10 AM
I've been working on my first novel for the last two years. Along the way, I've been considering what publishing route I want to take. I am of the mind that both traditional and self publishing are viable if the author is prepared to do the hard work required.

I've researched self versus traditional publishing quite a bit. There is a lot I don't like about how the publishing houses treat authors, even their stars, and it's all the more bleak for debut authors. Once you are established, you will at least be offered a decent deal, and your book will actually be marketed. So there's the money and marketing issue, but an even bigger concern I have is creative, as in, I want creative control.

Publishing houses have a nasty habit of stripping the heart right out of a story. From their point of view, the ideal manuscript is mainstream and will appeal to everyone which is typically a terrible recipe for good art and often makes for a flat, meaningless story. The problem is that as a debut author, it can be near impossible to maintain creative control when the publishing houses are looking for the next Twilight.

Until recently, I had no resources to spend on my book, so traditional publishing would have been the obvious choice. Since I've managed to find work again, things are starting to change, and once I get caught up on a few things, I will actually have some money freed up to spend on my book. So I can hire a professional editor, and so on, if I want to SP. I work as an independent contractor for an online marketing company, and I have also been doing search engine optimization for years, so I have those resources available to me when/if the time comes.

Okay, so that's the background. I guess what I'm wanting to know is, if you were in my shoes, what would you do?

cornflake
02-09-2013, 09:18 AM
I've been working on my first novel for the last two years. Along the way, I've been considering what publishing route I want to take. I am of the mind that both traditional and self publishing are viable if the author is prepared to do the hard work required.

I've researched self versus traditional publishing quite a bit. There is a lot I don't like about how the publishing houses treat authors, even their stars, and it's all the more bleak for debut authors. Once you are established, you will at least be offered a decent deal, and your book will actually be marketed. So there's the money and marketing issue, but an even bigger concern I have is creative, as in, I want creative control.

Publishing houses have a nasty habit of stripping the heart right out of a story. From their point of view, the ideal manuscript is mainstream and will appeal to everyone which is typically a terrible recipe for good art and often makes for a flat, meaningless story. The problem is that as a debut author, it can be near impossible to maintain creative control when the publishing houses are looking for the next Twilight.

Until recently, I had no resources to spend on my book, so traditional publishing would have been the obvious choice. Since I've managed to find work again, things are starting to change, and once I get caught up on a few things, I will actually have some money freed up to spend on my book. So I can hire a professional editor, and so on, if I want to SP. I work as an independent contractor for an online marketing company, and I have also been doing search engine optimization for years, so I have those resources available to me when/if the time comes.

Okay, so that's the background. I guess what I'm wanting to know is, if you were in my shoes, what would you do?

I'm not sure what you're looking for here. It seems obvious from the post what you want to do so... :Shrug:Would I do that? No. What does that have to do with your decisions?

jjdebenedictis
02-09-2013, 09:23 AM
For a start, I'd suggest you talk to some traditionally published authors here on AW about what their experience has been like, because your impressions of traditional publishing seem waaaaaaay off-base to me.

Kerosene
02-09-2013, 09:26 AM
I would self-publish because I would want to have control over my publishing. That I would freely published what I want, when I want, how I want. I would not buy into advertisers, nor social networking (other than a author website, goodreads, maybe a blog). Oh, and count the editor fee as a personal investment. And I would not go into this with even a thought of making a cent.

I would trade publish because I think I have a chance at a larger role.


Methinks you're thinking too much into this and its just a symptom of rushing into the publishing, and all that's going to result is scabs on your hands and knees after you fall.
Take your time. Writing is hard. I don't believe publishing is the end goal.

Kerosene
02-09-2013, 09:34 AM
For a start, I'd suggest you talk to some traditionally published authors here on AW about what their experience has been like, because your impressions of traditional publishing seem waaaaaaay off-base to me.

Oh, I'd have to second that. (Slipped my mind).

Typically, when people use the term "traditional" publishing, they're denouncing trade publish. So maybe, you're researching the wrong term.

L. Y.
02-09-2013, 09:36 AM
I've researched self versus traditional publishing quite a bit.I think the proper term is trade publishing.


There is a lot I don't like about how the publishing houses treat authors, even their stars, and it's all the more bleak for debut authors. Once you are established, you will at least be offered a decent deal, and your book will actually be marketed.
Publishing houses have a nasty habit of stripping the heart right out of a story.I don't think that's a fair generalization.


I guess what I'm wanting to know is, if you were in my shoes, what would you do?I would check out the Self-Publishing and POD (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=47) forum. I've browsed through there on occasion, and from what I've read, self-publishing is a lot of work.

Papaya
02-09-2013, 09:54 AM
I'm still considering what the best thing to do is, and there might be a lot of things I'm overlooking.

I've already talked to the few successful authors that I know, but thought I'd give a shout out to a much larger group.

From what I've heard, trade publishing houses are particularly hard for debut authors. I thought I made that distinction.

I'm new here. Maybe this wasn't the best subject to ask advice on? And I apologize for the offensive terminology as it was not intentional.

I really didn't mean to upset anyone. I would delete the thread, but I don't know how?

cornflake
02-09-2013, 10:04 AM
I'm still considering what the best thing to do is, and there might be a lot of things I'm overlooking.

I've already talked to the few successful authors that I know, but thought I'd give a shout out to a much larger group.

From what I've heard, trade publishing houses are particularly hard for debut authors. I thought I made that distinction.

I'm new here. Maybe this wasn't the best subject to ask advice on? And I apologize for the offensive terminology as it was not intentional.

I really didn't mean to upset anyone. I would delete the thread, but I don't know how?

I don't think you upset anyone. This thread has happened before; I haven't been on AW all that long and I've seen it a number of times.

It can just come off a tad confrontational, and perhaps read to some people as 'trade publishing is all these things (several of which it actually isn't), and self-publishing is all these things (several of which it actually isn't), so obviously, self is the way to go if someone x, y, z, RIGHT!?'

Then sometimes people explain why the things are not the things and the OP argues that they are and yada yada sis boom bah. Hence, whatever you'd like to do, feel free to do.

If you have specific questions, feel free to ask them. People will answer to the best of their ability/knowledge. Posting a thread that seems to say 'well this is obviously best, aren't I correct?' isn't really likely to garner much but what you've gotten here, however you may have meant it.

Kerosene
02-09-2013, 10:10 AM
You upsettedededed everyone!!! Hurry and deletededed it!

(You can't)



Really, no one is upset.

Traditional publishing is used in position of self-publishing. Just use the term trade publishing.


I've never heard that trade publishers are tougher on debut authors, more like its harder to get with a trade publisher because of the debut author's quality of writing; its more like a heavier filter. But its still hard for returning authors to get published.

Good writing will not be overlooked. If you write a good story, with good writing; the trade publisher will be grabbing for you.


I still uphold my position. Self-publishing if you want the freedom, but don't hope for greatness. Trade publishing for everything else, but you might want to work much harder.

I forgot to mention: Write the best story you can. Bring it to perfection. Post some in the SYW section. Get beat to hell. Revise. SYW. Revise. Then, write a query, throw it in QLH. Beat to hell. Revise. Repeat 10X times. Then, start querying agents and looking into trade publishers that can pick you up. After 2-3 years of this without being picked up, then think of self-publishing, or revising the story and throwing it back out there.

Yes, writing and publishing takes time. Some people see value in self-publishing because you can get it out right at that moment. But, sometimes, the quality can lack because of the rushing. Some can argue that trade publishing filters out the "bad" writing, but I've have yet to see total evidence of that.

Your choice.

L. Y.
02-09-2013, 10:24 AM
I don't think you upset anyone.

Really, no one is upset.
Thirding what cornflake and WillSauger said.

Kerosene
02-09-2013, 10:27 AM
Thirding what cornflake and WillSauger said.

What L. Y. said.

*Claws at eyes*
That hideous typo stuck in the confines of a quotation box!
I really need to stop posting before my beddy-bye time.

L. Y.
02-09-2013, 10:29 AM
Fixed it for you. :)

Putputt
02-09-2013, 10:35 AM
I would check out the Self-Publishing and POD (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=47) forum. I've browsed through there on occasion, and from what I've read, self-publishing is a lot of work.

Yur, seconding this. I'm hoping to go down the trade pubbing route, but I still lurk around the Self-Pub forum because there's so much information there. There are quite a few members who have self-pubbed successfully (imo) and they often share tips on what to invest in etc. It's just generally a great place, and it'll give you a little glimpse into what you can expect from self-pubbing.

Papaya
02-09-2013, 12:19 PM
I'm glad I didn't upset anyone. Thanks to the three of you for letting me know. :)


@cornflake Thank you for taking the time to explain. Now I understand what happened.


@WillSauger Yup, I tend to run at the first sign of confrontation. But I guess that's stating the obvious.

I really appreciate your advice. I do want to post in SYW, but I've only just started working on my novel again after a couple months of ignoring it completely. The same week I started working on my novel again, I started a new job. So now I've got to spend a lot of the time I used to spend writing my novel researching and writing web pages. I did this same job four years ago, but I don't remember it being this boring. Anyway, the point is that I've yet to make a lot of progress. Okay, my goal for next week is to finish reading and/or revising chaper 1 and post it by the end of the week.

As for the rest of your advice, you make a very compelling argument, and I think you've convinced me not to automatically assume I do not belong in the trade publishing world because if I'm honest with myself that's part of my hesitation.

Old Hack
02-09-2013, 12:57 PM
Papaya, you've not upset anyone; but you have got a few things wrong. I'm going to point those things out and while I don't intend to upset you, it might come across as brusque: please forgive me if that's the case.


I've been working on my first novel for the last two years. Along the way, I've been considering what publishing route I want to take. I am of the mind that both traditional and self publishing are viable if the author is prepared to do the hard work required.

Agreed.


I've researched self versus traditional publishing quite a bit.

Your use of "traditional publishing", instead of the correct term of "trade publishing", makes me suspect you've done most of your research in places where people aren't too well-informed about the business; and I bet that's skewed what you've learned.


There is a lot I don't like about how the publishing houses treat authors, even their stars, and it's all the more bleak for debut authors. Once you are established, you will at least be offered a decent deal, and your book will actually be marketed.

Debut authors are offered decent deals just as much as established authors are; and all books published are marketed.

It's not true that some books receive no marketing at all: if that were the case, why would publishers have marketing departments? And why would publishers spend money in advances and editing and design for a book and then not spend any time or effort in marketing and promoting the book? It would be a ridiculous way to do business.

One of the reasons this myth has grown, I think, is that much of the marketing publishers do is pointed at the book trade, and not at the general public. So unless you work in the book trade you don't see that marketing, although you do see the result of it, which is books on the shelves and in promotions, reviews and suchlike.


So there's the money and marketing issue, but an even bigger concern I have is creative, as in, I want creative control.

Much depends on what you mean by "creative control".

If you mean that you want the final say on how your book is edited, don't worry: you have it, if you've done your preparation right. Before you sign a contract you should make sure that the editor you sign with shares your vision for the book, so that she doesn't take it in a direction you're uncomfortable with; and if you still disagree with her on any editing point at all, then as author you have the final say. It's your name on the cover, after all.

If by "creative control" you mean you want to be in charge of the look of your book--the jacket design and the interior design--then that's a stickier point. You might be able to get some sort of approval or involvement written into your contract, but unless you're a big seller or have lots of experience in such areas then you're not likely to get it. Pubilshers know what sells books, and they have more expertise in this area than you: but if they offer you a cover you absolutely despise you can let them know why you dislike it so, and how you think it could be improved, and they'll pay attention.


Publishing houses have a nasty habit of stripping the heart right out of a story.

No, they absolutely don't. Not good publishers, anyway.

Think about it.

A publisher spends a lot of time and money sifting through submissions, and only acquires the books that it likes the most. Why would it then "strip the heart right out" of that book?


From their point of view, the ideal manuscript is mainstream and will appeal to everyone which is typically a terrible recipe for good art and often makes for a flat, meaningless story.

You're on the verge of insulting all of the writers who have published through trade publishers here.

You're also on the verge of insulting readers, which is a big deal because readers drive publishing. Their money funds the entire business, so of course publishers consider what readers want--in other words, what readers will buy--and publish accordingly.

If "flat, meaningless" stories are what readers want, that's what publishers will buy.

Publishers aren't looking for "good art", they're looking for solidly commercial books. Because if the books they publish don't sell, they won't make money and they'll go out of business.

That doesn't mean that they never publish "good art", it means that they'll only publish it when they see a solid market for it.


The problem is that as a debut author, it can be near impossible to maintain creative control when the publishing houses are looking for the next Twilight.

"Creative control" isn't an issue, as I've already explained; debut authors get signed all the time; and while you might not like the Twilight series millions of readers do, and have been happy to put their money down on that counter as a result. Twilight has brought a huge amount of money into publishing, and has recruited a whole new tranche of readers, which can only be good for writers.

And if you really think that publishers are only looking for the next Twilight, then how do you explain the continuing success of publishers which don't publish in that genre, and which continue to publish new books with great success?


Until recently, I had no resources to spend on my book, so traditional publishing would have been the obvious choice. Since I've managed to find work again, things are starting to change, and once I get caught up on a few things, I will actually have some money freed up to spend on my book. So I can hire a professional editor, and so on, if I want to SP.

If you really want to self-publish, that's great: go right ahead. It can be an inspiring, liberating and wonderful way to find your readers, and I've seen many writers achieve great success this way. But if you have decided to take this route because of the reasons you've outlined here, think again, because much of your reasoning is flawed.


I work as an independent contractor for an online marketing company, and I have also been doing search engine optimization for years, so I have those resources available to me when/if the time comes.

SEO doesn't sell books. It really doesn't. There's a sticky thread in our Book Promotion room which discusses effective book promotion, which you might find helpful.


Okay, so that's the background. I guess what I'm wanting to know is, if you were in my shoes, what would you do?

In your shoes I'd do a lot more research before making a move in either direction. You might like to read Carole Blake's book From Pitch To Publication (in the interests of full disclosure I'll admit Carole is a friend of mine: but I thought highly of the book before I met her), which will give you a good idea of the work that goes on behind the scenes in trade publishing. And spend time here, asking questions and interracting with writers who have been published, and with people who've worked in publishing, and who can tell you of their first-hand experiences instead of repeating the unfounded myths you seem to have found elsewhere.

Good luck!

Old Hack
02-09-2013, 01:06 PM
I spotted this after I'd posted my mega-post above, but had to respond to it.


I think you've convinced me not to automatically assume I do not belong in the trade publishing world because if I'm honest with myself that's part of my hesitation.

If you've written a good, strong book and you would like it to be published by someone else then you do belong.

Don't expect getting published to be easy; and don't assume you will definitely get an agent or a publishing contract. Not everyone does. But that doesn't mean that it's not worth trying, nor that you're not allowed to try.

Mr. Anonymous
02-09-2013, 01:13 PM
As Old Hack pointed out, you're operating on a lot of mistaken assumptions.

I'm a debut author.

I was offered what I think anyone would consider a "decent deal."

The editing I was required to do--overall--resulted in a stronger novel that would better appeal to its target audience. Yes, there is of course a sense of needing to placate your editor/agent, and yes, you may not always agree 100% with everything they say. But ultimately, you have the final say regarding what goes into your book.

Publishing houses have a nasty habit of stripping the heart right out of a story.

Where are you getting this from???

Stacia Kane
02-09-2013, 05:20 PM
That has not remotely been my experience with trade publishers. Not at all. My books are mine; every word in them is mine, exactly the way I wanted them to be. No one ever tried to tell me what I could or could not do in them, and certainly no one "stripped the heart right out" of them.

My editors made suggestions to make them stronger--to make the story I wanted to tell stronger. Their suggestions didn't change the story at all.

My books are not heartless. And they're nothing like TWILIGHT.

Marian Perera
02-09-2013, 05:47 PM
Publishing houses have a nasty habit of stripping the heart right out of a story.

The only thing my editor stripped right out of my story was a surfeit of semi-colons. And that made it a much smoother read.

Mr Flibble
02-09-2013, 05:48 PM
That has not remotely been my experience with trade publishers. Not at all. My books are mine; every word in them is mine, exactly the way I wanted them to be. No one ever tried to tell me what I could or could not do in them, and certainly no one "stripped the heart right out" of them.

Yup - editors suggest, I implement how best I think (not always the way they've suggested, but hopefully solving the problem they have highlighted). At least one of my edit letters has a para where my editor assures me that it's up to me, as it is, after all, my book. However, almost all her suggestions ranged from sensible to 'How the hell did I not see that?! *foreheadslap*' By changing those, I generally make the other points redundant

As for marketing - I'm a debut author this month, with a Big Whatevernumberwe'reatnow publisher. My book was specially packaged to send out to reviewers (several commented on it, and tweeted piccies etc) and I've seen marketing all over the place. It's quite weird actually, going to say an online mag you often browse and seeing your name and cover on it! (Broadsword Babe on these forums just discovered her new cover, for her second book, on the back of 2000AD. I has a jealous :D) The pub has arranged signings (Forbidden Planet for my launch signing! Woo! *cough*), interviews, help with conventions etc etc. Because they want to book to do well as much as I do.

So I can't say that my experience jibes with the OP's 'research' in the slightest. Will that change, depending on how well/badly my book does? Perhaps so. But then, the pubs are there to make money. And then again, my publisher has been nothing but helpful/friendly/professional/awesome tbh.

ETA: this isn't to say there's anything wrong with self publishing, not at all. Just that Trade publishing isn't what the OP seems to think (or not in all cases)

Tepelus
02-09-2013, 06:35 PM
sis boom bah.

Describe the sound made when a sheep explodes.

Jamesaritchie
02-09-2013, 06:36 PM
Where do new writers get the idea that tarditional publisher take away creative control? They do not. Rejecting crap is not the same thing as wanting creative control.

cornflake
02-09-2013, 06:38 PM
Describe the sound made when a sheep explodes.

Thank you, Carnac.

Tepelus
02-09-2013, 06:39 PM
Thank you, Carnac.

:thankyou:

BethS
02-09-2013, 07:05 PM
Papaya, I am not published myself (except for an anthology story) but I have many friends who are. And I think you have an inaccurate view of trade publishing. Not one of my friends had the heart stripped out of their novels. All of them were happy with their editors and felt like the editor understood and loved the story as much as they did. The worst experience any one of them had was when a major bookstore chain (well, the major bookstore chain in the US) refused to stock his debut novel because they didn't like the cover.

So his sales were not great on that first novel, at least the hardcover edition. But his publisher stuck with him, put a new cover on the paperback, which the bookstore chain did like, and gave him a contract for more books in the series.

If I were in your shoes, I'd polish up that book and when it's ready, start submitting to agents. Self-publishing looks very seductive right now because of the much-publicized success of a handful of authors who managed to get noticed. The vast, vast majority of self-publishing sales are dismal. It tends to work well only for certain niche books and for that miniscule percentage of writers who are struck by lightning.

If your manuscript is good enough to make it big in self-publishing, then it's definitely good enough to catch the notice of a trade publisher, who will pay you advances and royalties for your novel, rather than you putting your hard-earned money into trying to get the world to read it.

bearilou
02-09-2013, 07:39 PM
Don't expect getting published to be easy; and don't assume you will definitely get an agent or a publishing contract. Not everyone does. But that doesn't mean that it's not worth trying, nor that you're not allowed to try.

Very true. And along side that is don't expect self-publishing to be any easier, either. I'll echo advice so far about checking out Self-Publishing and POD (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=47) and read what many self-publishers talk about. Talk to a few of them (us!). Get a sense of what it's like at this level. We have several successful self-published authors that hang out there. Talk to them.

Joe Konrath may have a lot of good things to say but don't lose sight of the fact that he is high profile, he's been trade published before, he's being trade published now (by Amazon) and has a lot invested in his platform of self-publishing. Meaning, he's not on the level of starting at ground zero where a lot of us are.


Okay, so that's the background. I guess what I'm wanting to know is, if you were in my shoes, what would you do?

This will sound snarky but it does tie into what OH said. Lay off reading the rahrahrah self-publishing is GREAT gurus who are building their platform on rahrahrah self-publishing is GREAT and talk to those who are a little closer to planet Earth and know from first hand experience that it's not an 'all you gotta do is' endeavor.

And definitely talk to the great trade published authors we have around here as well. They offer a balance of opinions, too.

James D. Macdonald
02-09-2013, 07:47 PM
I guess what I'm wanting to know is, if you were in my shoes, what would you do?

Finish the book. Then we can talk about the best way to publish it.

kaitie
02-10-2013, 08:44 PM
When I first started writing my first book, I had a lot of the same concerns you did. I heard they like to make authors change titles. How could I ever change my perfect title (it was awful, btw, and I even knew that at the time, but I was attached)!? What if they wanted me to edit something? It would ruin my perfect story that's told the way I want it because it's my art and no one else should change my art. I know exactly what the cover should look like. What if they don't make it look the way I want?

That was a long time ago now, but quite a few things have changed. One, I found out a lot of things I thought were myths. And two, I realized that there are darn good reasons publishers do the things they do. Third, I realized that my books aren't perfect (far from it), and can really use the help.

The marketing myth has already been addressed, as have a couple of others, I think, so I'm going to focus on my last two points.

I'd always heard stories of title changes and covers being different from what the author expected and so on and thought it meant authors were being abused. We didn't matter in the scheme of things, we were just lowly cogs, and so on.

What I didn't take into account is that publishers have professionals with an awful lot of experience, and I'm just an author who knows how to write books. Covers are designed by people with knowledge about what sells. Covers have to convey the story, the genre, the tone of the book in a way that will be recognizable and attractive to readers. If my book looks like a sci-fi novel and it's really an urban fantasy, for instance, I'm not going to get the urban fantasy fans, and the sci-fi readers who do pick it up probably won't buy it when they realize it's not sci-fi.

I might think I know what would look cool, but when it comes down to it, I don't really know what would sell. The people publishers put on this do. Are they right 100% of the time? No. Sometimes they make a dud. No one is ever going to be 100% perfect all the time. The thing is, the chances of a professional with experience and knowledge to know how to construct a great cover that will appeal to the readers I want to attract is going to make much fewer mistakes than someone like me (who knows nothing of any of these things would).

Might that mean that I'd end up with a cover that wasn't what I imagined? Could be. But is it also likely to be a better cover than what I had in mind for it's intended purpose (enticing readers)? Yes.

The same applies to titles, btw. Some titles we think of just honestly aren't very good, or they convey the wrong idea, or there's already another book with a similar title, and so on.

Then there's the third realization, and I think the most important. My writing isn't perfect. I'm not an artist who sits back at my desk putting out words that are gorgeous and amazing and every one in it's place. My books have flaws. My writing has flaws. If an editor can help me find those flaws and improve it, then darn straight I want to work with a great editor. Being too close to your work can make you unable to see the problems, but when someone else points it out to you, it's often a case of "You're so right!" I'll take all the help I can get.

When I first started, I thought of my work as my baby. My soul was in there, tucked between the pages. It wasn't just that it was great as was. I felt that any criticism was criticism of my soul, my heart that I had poured into it.

I was wrong. I realized it after several more books. Yes, a part of me goes into them, but it's my time and my effort, not my heart. Sure, I influence, and I adore my characters and my stories and I fall in love with each and every one, but it's not my baby. It's my work, something that I've put so much time into that I want it to be the best it can be.

I think realizing that made it a lot easier for me to handle the idea that the publisher might do things differently than what I had in mind. The publisher is working to help you put out the best product possible, with the best editing, cover, design, and so on. They're in it to sell.

And honestly, no author is perfect and we can all use the help of professionals who do know more about what they're doing than we do. Even if I ever self-published, I'd spend a ton of money on getting all these points right by having professionals handle it. The only difference is that with commercial publishing I wouldn't have to pay it up front. You're also almost guaranteed to sell more books with a commercial publisher and all those things (bookstore placement helps a lot) than self-publishing. It's not a guarantee, but it's more likely.

You can hop over to our self-publishing forum and read the threads there. A lot of people give details about their experiences and sales and so on. It's a great way to know what to expect from people who are doing it.

Cyia
02-10-2013, 09:19 PM
Hi Papaya - Welcome to the Cooler, where the world can often feel less cool and more like a hotseat ;)

I guarantee you haven't upset anyone, but the posters who have been here a while have heard questions both similar and identical to yours on more than one occasion, and sometimes that leads to an unintentionally over-strong answer (or at least one that's perceived that way) from frustration.

I'd like to go through your points, as I'm in the position of someone who has freshly gone through the process with a commercial publishing house as a debut author. (My book isn't even on shelves for a few more months.) Hopefully that perspective can quash some of your nerves.


I've been working on my first novel for the last two years. Along the way, I've been considering what publishing route I want to take. <-- It's always good to be prepared. I am of the mind that both traditional and self publishing are viable if the author is prepared to do the hard work required. Yep, but it's often easier to self-publish if you've got an established fanbase from publishing commercially. The average profit margin for a single self-published novel put out by an unknown is very, very low.

I've researched self versus traditional publishing quite a bit. There is a lot I don't like about how the publishing houses treat authors, even their stars, and it's all the more bleak for debut authors. No it's not. Really, it's not. Debut authors often get better deals than your average mid-list, established writer. There's no sales record for publishers to look at, so they can be willing to take a bigger gamble. Once you are established, you will at least be offered a decent deal, and your book will actually be marketed. Like I said, I'm a debut author. My deal was in the "major" category, and it was that way from the first offer. There's absolutely NO truth to the idea that unknown writers don't get decent offers. The offer is based on the perceived profit margin, not the author. (But it definitely pays to have an agent do all the dealmaking for you.) Also, there's NO truth to the idea that a new author gets no marketing. My book has been sent to reviewers as well as having ARCs available at conventions, etc. The ARCs are high quality and even have "effects" on the cover, which is unusual, but really cool. There was a marketing plan in place from the moment that first offer was made, and it was sent along with the offer. So there's the money and marketing issue, but an even bigger concern I have is creative, as in, I want creative control. You still have creative control with a commercial publisher, but it's now more "creative input" as you aren't the only one with a stake in the final product. Publishers pay you, and they want to make sure they have the best shot at making that money back with a nice profit on top of it.

Publishing houses have a nasty habit of stripping the heart right out of a story. Not the heart, but you might lose some extraneous material. It's the heart of the story that will attract the publisher's interest in the first place. From their point of view, the ideal manuscript is mainstream and will appeal to everyone which is typically a terrible recipe for good art and often makes for a flat, meaningless story. Also not true. From their point of view, they know that three novels due out within a month of yours have similar elements or endings, so it might be best if you take advantage of that knowledge to make yours stand out a bit more. The same goes for covers and titles. When my publisher was trying to work out a title for ARCLIGHT, the percentage for books being published with "light" or "dark" in the title was like 80%. They wanted something more unique -- as the writer, you don't know that kind of stuff. You don't want to end up with a title identical to one being published the same week - especially if the other book is part of a best-selling series. And ultimately kept the title I'd started with, anyway. The problem is that as a debut author, it can be near impossible to maintain creative control when the publishing houses are looking for the next Twilight. Twilight's old new, as is the Hunger Games. No legit publishing house is looking for either anymore.

Until recently, I had no resources to spend on my book, so traditional publishing would have been the obvious choice. Since I've managed to find work again, things are starting to change, and once I get caught up on a few things, I will actually have some money freed up to spend on my book. So I can hire a professional editor, and so on, if I want to SP. I work as an independent contractor for an online marketing company, and I have also been doing search engine optimization for years, so I have those resources available to me when/if the time comes.

Good ideas, but you still need to figure out your profit margin. It's usually tiny for self-pubs, and if you're doing the ground work of making your book the best it can be, that margin is going to shrink at first - not widen. Until and unless your book catches on, can you be relatively certain that your investment will yield a profit at all? (Not a dig, just an honest question. If you believe you can turn a profit, and have the resources to make self-publishing work, then it's possible. I lack the skills to do most of what's necessary to build a self-publishing career from scratch; people who possess them amaze me.)

Okay, so that's the background. I guess what I'm wanting to know is, if you were in my shoes, what would you do?

Finish the book, then do a comprehensive evaluation based on the project as a whole. If you're at all interested in the agent/publisher route, then try it first. Self-publishing is still a viable option if you want to take it later.

The biggest plus, to me, with the commercial route, is that you get some of your money up front. With self-publishing, there's a time gap where the only flow of money is out of your pocket. That's a risk only you can decide to take or not.


I'm still considering what the best thing to do is, and there might be a lot of things I'm overlooking.

Asking questions is the best way to start - you're doing fine.

I've already talked to the few successful authors that I know, but thought I'd give a shout out to a much larger group.

Then you're in the right place.

From what I've heard, trade publishing houses are particularly hard for debut authors. I thought I made that distinction.

You made the distinction, but the assumption is flawed.

I'm new here. Maybe this wasn't the best subject to ask advice on? And I apologize for the offensive terminology as it was not intentional.

Again, you're fine. We use "trade" here to make the lines between self-publishing and commercial publishing clear. "Traditional" was a term coined by a scam press for use in their advertisements, and while it's gained popularity even in informed circles, it's not encouraged here - again, to keep the lines clearly drawn. The same goes for "indie." Around here, indie doesn't meant self-published, it means published through a commercial or academic independent publisher.

I really didn't mean to upset anyone. I would delete the thread, but I don't know how?

Only mods can delete threads, and they won't unless it's spam (or by request in Share Your Work).

No one's upset - honestly. I hope you stick around.

:)

victoriastrauss
02-10-2013, 09:43 PM
I've researched self versus traditional publishing quite a bit. There is a lot I don't like about how the publishing houses treat authors, even their stars, and it's all the more bleak for debut authors. Once you are established, you will at least be offered a decent deal, and your book will actually be marketed.
An exciting debut author can get a lot more marketing and attention than an established author whose sales are flat or falling. The exciting debut is an unknown quantity--which means he or she could become successful. The established author with flat sales is a known quantity--and not in a good way.

Large and midsize traditional publishers market _all_ their books. The common impression that they don't is the result of the fact that so much important marketing is invisible to the consumer, done long before the actual publication date. Catalogs, sales reps, trade reviews, print advertising, book fair presence, wide distribution--all of these are standard, and arguably more important to the success of a book than interviews and signings set up post-publication.

Publishing houses have a nasty habit of stripping the heart right out of a story. From their point of view, the ideal manuscript is mainstream and will appeal to everyone which is typically a terrible recipe for good art and often makes for a flat, meaningless story. The problem is that as a debut author, it can be near impossible to maintain creative control when the publishing houses are looking for the next Twilight.This makes no logical sense. If all the publisher wants is a characterless mainstream story, why not just buy one? Why buy a book that's not like that and then go to all the work and trouble of stripping it?

Over the course of eight published books, I've worked with good editors and bad--but even the bad one never "stripped" my story; she was just indifferent and didn't offer me much help or insight. With the good editors I've worked with, it's been a highly fruitful partnership, in which we work together not to change or de-nature the book, but to make it better. I've never been forced to make changes I didn't agree with. Nor have any of my books ever been edited for me (apart from copy editing, which catches mechanical and continuity errors). Always, the editor makes suggestions, and it's up to me to implement them--or, as quite often happens, to explain why I don't think they're a good idea.

Okay, so that's the background. I guess what I'm wanting to know is, if you were in my shoes, what would you do?As others have suggested, I think it would make sense to do more research on the various publishing options available to you, especially traditional publishing, where you seem to have a number of misconceptions. Just as important, as you're researching, beware hype and be on your guard for bias. Publishing is in the midst of a huge upheaval, and there is much evangelizing on both sides of the issue--both by old-school holdouts who view traditional publishing as "real" publishing and self-publishing as a realm of idiots and failures, and self-publishing enthusiasts who believe self-publishing is the One True Path and are eager to dance on traditional publishing's grave.

- Victoria

Zaffiro
02-11-2013, 03:23 AM
Just another voice chiming in to say this doesn't match my experience of trade publishing at all. When you say publishing houses 'have a nasty habit of stripping the heart right out of a story', could you give some examples of times when this has been done?

I think everyone worries, when they're starting out, that their baby is so special and unique that no one out there in the big alien publishing world will appreciate it properly. I definitely did. My first book (published in the late 2000's, Big Six) has one particular element that doesn't fit with genre convention at all, and I was terrified that an editor would try and get rid of it. None of them ever even suggested it. They made the book tighter, leaner, more cohesive, more polished, generally better - but they never suggested changing that wildly non-mainstream facet.

Again, this was when I was a debut author: I had zero clout with anyone. The editors didn't try to get rid of that element because they agreed with me that, although it was risky, it made the book better. Also, the publishers marketed the holy bejasus out of the thing.

And I like to think it isn't a 'flat, meaningless story'.

Polenth
02-11-2013, 03:28 AM
If an agent doesn't like your book, they won't offer representation. If an editor doesn't like your book, they won't buy it. You'll hear the occasional horror story in reverse, but it's not that common, because it doesn't make sense. It's a huge waste of time and money to work on a book and ask for the whole thing to be changed. It makes a whole lot more sense to only buy books that are already mostly there.

So the biggest worry with trade publishing is whether your book has a change of selling, rather than whether you'll be asked to add sparklie vampires after the sale. If the agents and editors wanted sparklie vampires, they wouldn't have wanted your book in the first place.

Which isn't to say you don't get more control self-publishing, because you do. Everything will be down to you, including hiring editors and sorting the cover. But it's not a choice between complete freedom and no freedom.

buz
02-11-2013, 03:38 AM
Publishing houses have a nasty habit of stripping the heart right out of a story. From their point of view, the ideal manuscript is mainstream and will appeal to everyone which is typically a terrible recipe for good art and often makes for a flat, meaningless story.

But...but...all my favorite books were published by publishing houses. :)

And many of them definitely do not appeal to everyone...;)

Fuchsia Groan
02-11-2013, 07:32 AM
Just as a reader, I can't buy the idea that publishers strip the heart out of a story. There are plenty of bland, samey books, yes, but there are also so many quirky, out there, leap of faith books that a publisher decided to take a chance on.

Now, if you made the same generalization about big-budget Hollywood movies and the experience of screenwriters, I think it would have more weight. As someone who's forced to see too many movies, I know how rare originality is. But that's because a movie, especially an effects-heavy one, costs more to produce than a book. With a huge investment on the line, you want to make sure you hit the key demos, even if that means screwing up the story, miscasting the lead, and scrubbing out any hint of originality. Too many cooks, etc.

I've read a lot of bad, bland books, but I don't think editorial meddling made them bad or bland. It's more likely that editors overlooked their flaws because they were marketable, or that I'm just not their target audience. Every interesting or original book renews my faith in publishing, and there are plenty.

JustSarah
02-11-2013, 11:05 AM
I think the only reason I would want to self publish, is just so I can have a say on what goes on my cover.

But as far as agents, even if someone's writing is good they might go for years without getting acceptance. This is something I often have to tell myself, or would have to tell myself (In the present tense) if I got a rejection. Sometimes there just is not a *emphasis present market for it. And there may never be, but you never know unless you submit it.

Sirion
02-11-2013, 12:08 PM
Publishing houses have a nasty habit of stripping the heart right out of a story.

I don't think this is the case.


Your use of "traditional publishing", instead of the correct term of "trade publishing", makes me suspect you've done most of your research in places where people aren't too well-informed about the business; and I bet that's skewed what you've learned.

Couldn't have said it better.

Papaya
02-11-2013, 12:20 PM
I just want to say what an amazing group of people you all are. Thank you for taking the time out of your lives to help me understand the ways I've been misguided.

I think I've had my head filled with a lot of well intentioned but ignorant people. And WillSauger was right, I've been rushing to finish my book for the last two years due to extraneous circumstances, but I've finally put an end to that. The pressure is off. I guess I'm still catching up with the fact that I can now take all the time I need to not only finish but also explore my options.

I am very grateful for everyone's help. It's wonderful to have found a group of creative comrades because I've been starved for that in my life for a long time now.

Sirion
02-11-2013, 12:23 PM
I am very grateful for everyone's help. It's wonderful to have found a group of creative comrades because I've been starved for that in my life for a long time now.

AW really is the best writer's forum on the internet.

I hope you enjoy your stay here. :)

Torgo
02-11-2013, 02:32 PM
Large and midsize traditional publishers market _all_ their books. The common impression that they don't is the result of the fact that so much important marketing is invisible to the consumer

Just to chip in on this: there can be a bit of a terminological issue around this, and for years I didn't really have a useful working definition for 'marketing'.

Where I work currently, we have a marketing department and a publicity department. The essential difference between the two is that marketing activity is anything we have to pay for, and publicity is free (apart from the time put into it by our publicists.) So advertising is marketing, and interviews etc are publicity.

Marketing budgets are allocated on acquisition, and usually are linked to the advance in some way - bigger acquisitions get bigger marketing spends. The reason I bring this up is that below a certain level, there's no budget at all and thus no marketing. Everything done to push the book has to be done for free by the publicity department.

There is a grain of truth, then, in the 'some books aren't marketed' thing, at least if you take our definition. Some books don't have money spent on them for ads, trailers, swag etc. But every book is publicised and sold in to retailers and talked up as much as possible online (essentially, all the stuff that people suggest self-published authors ought to do for their books.)

Spell-it-out
02-11-2013, 02:59 PM
Very true. And along side that is don't expect self-publishing to be any easier, either. I'll echo advice so far about checking out Self-Publishing and POD (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=47) and read what many self-publishers talk about. Talk to a few of them (us!). Get a sense of what it's like at this level. We have several successful self-published authors that hang out there. Talk to them.

Joe Konrath may have a lot of good things to say but don't lose sight of the fact that he is high profile, he's been trade published before, he's being trade published now (by Amazon) and has a lot invested in his platform of self-publishing. Meaning, he's not on the level of starting at ground zero where a lot of us are.



This will sound snarky but it does tie into what OH said. Lay off reading the rahrahrah self-publishing is GREAT gurus who are building their platform on rahrahrah self-publishing is GREAT and talk to those who are a little closer to planet Earth and know from first hand experience that it's not an 'all you gotta do is' endeavor.

And definitely talk to the great trade published authors we have around here as well. They offer a balance of opinions, too.

All the advice you need IMO. Take your time, research both avenues, speak/chat to both sides of the fence.

shaldna
02-11-2013, 04:39 PM
I've researched self versus traditional publishing quite a bit. There is a lot I don't like about how the publishing houses treat authors, even their stars, and it's all the more bleak for debut authors. Once you are established, you will at least be offered a decent deal, and your book will actually be marketed. So there's the money and marketing issue, but an even bigger concern I have is creative, as in, I want creative control.

This has been addressed by others already, but I would just like to add that this has not been my experience at all. My publishers are great, we work well together and I certainly don't feel like I've been mistreated, even when I was a debut author.



Publishing houses have a nasty habit of stripping the heart right out of a story. From their point of view, the ideal manuscript is mainstream and will appeal to everyone which is typically a terrible recipe for good art and often makes for a flat, meaningless story.

With all due respect, this is wrong.

Publishers want the book to be the best book it can be. Why would they buy something only to change everything about it? In my experiences the changes made/requested have only been to improve the book - after all, it's not just the writer, but the publishers reputation on the line as well. There are standards to maintain, and, at the end of the day there are profit and loss spreadsheets to be considered too.

Now, there are certain books that are formulaic and these have a pretty steady readership. The publishers know what they want and the readers know what they are getting. But they are books written for a particular market. There are millions of other books out there that don't fit into those boxes.

Publishers actually don't try to make books appeal to everyone because that just doesn't work in any business. Sure, there are some books which seem to do well in multiple demographics, but for the most part publishers are well aware of their target audience - there's no point in marketing a grizzly crime novel to a demographic that only reads category romances.



The problem is that as a debut author, it can be near impossible to maintain creative control when the publishing houses are looking for the next Twilight.

I'm not sure quite how much creative control you want, but look at it this way - the publisher wants the book to be the best it can be, so if that means changing the title, or making changes to the text or story then this is something you need to consider and discuss with them. They aren't trying to make your book bad. Likewise with the cover - I see a lot of authors getting uppity about not getting input or say over the cover, but unless they are artists and skilled in cover art they should, for the most part, trust the professionals. At the end of the day, my publisher knows a lot more than I do.



Okay, so that's the background. I guess what I'm wanting to know is, if you were in my shoes, what would you do?

I've done both. Both have their positive and negative aspects.

The thing to consider with SP is that it's hard work. It's not just the writing of the book, but the time spent editing, formatting, tweaking, tweaking, tweaking, art, marketing and promotion. This adds up to hours and hours per week. Now, if you have the time and can afford to take the financial hit of hiring good folks to help then SP may work well for you.





I think I've had my head filled with a lot of well intentioned but ignorant people.

There's a lot of militant pro-SP folk out there who don't know as much as they think they do about how publishing works, and equally there are a lot of folk out there who spend all their time trying to convince authors of the evils of trade publishing. They spout misinformation, exagerate figures and manipulate facts to suit their agenda. This is why so many people think you'll make millions the SP route with virtually no work because publishers are all evil and are stealing your profits.

It usualyl comes as a shock to folk how much work goes into a book.

Whatever you chose, research carefully and decide what's best for you.

Stacia Kane
02-11-2013, 05:01 PM
What I didn't take into account is that publishers have professionals with an awful lot of experience, and I'm just an author who knows how to write books. Covers are designed by people with knowledge about what sells. Covers have to convey the story, the genre, the tone of the book in a way that will be recognizable and attractive to readers. If my book looks like a sci-fi novel and it's really an urban fantasy, for instance, I'm not going to get the urban fantasy fans, and the sci-fi readers who do pick it up probably won't buy it when they realize it's not sci-fi.

I might think I know what would look cool, but when it comes down to it, I don't really know what would sell. The people publishers put on this do. Are they right 100% of the time? No. Sometimes they make a dud. No one is ever going to be 100% perfect all the time. The thing is, the chances of a professional with experience and knowledge to know how to construct a great cover that will appeal to the readers I want to attract is going to make much fewer mistakes than someone like me (who knows nothing of any of these things would).

Might that mean that I'd end up with a cover that wasn't what I imagined? Could be. But is it also likely to be a better cover than what I had in mind for it's intended purpose (enticing readers)? Yes.




They aren't trying to make your book bad. Likewise with the cover - I see a lot of authors getting uppity about not getting input or say over the cover, but unless they are artists and skilled in cover art they should, for the most part, trust the professionals. At the end of the day, my publisher knows a lot more than I do.




Yes, this. The writing aspects have already been discussed quite a bit in this thread, but as far as cover art...See that cover there to the left, my avatar? I don't like it.

I get compliments on it all the time from readers.

In fact, I haven't really liked any of the (US) covers on that particular series (except the fourth one, which I liked a lot). Readers love them. I've had so many people say the covers are what made them pick up the books, or attracted them to the books. I personally don't get it. But readers do, and that's what matters; the professionals at Del Rey designed a cover that they, with their years of experience, thought would attract readers. And they were right.


Conversely, I designed a new cover for my little self-published sex-writing guide, BE A SEX-WRITING STRUMPET. I thought, and still think, that it's a cute little cover. Quite a few readers have mentioned in reviews they they think it's pretty lame.

http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y153/sidgirl/th_strumpetcovernewsmall.jpg (http://s5.beta.photobucket.com/user/sidgirl/media/strumpetcovernewsmall.jpg.html)

I'm not a visual artist. I don't have years of experience in what makes a cover sellable, or what attracts readers to a cover, or what they want or look for. Publishers do.

The purpose of cover art is to make readers look at the book, not to make the author happy.

Kitty27
02-11-2013, 05:12 PM
I have heard good and bad stories from different authors.

As a writer of multicultural fiction,whitewashed covers are a HUGE concern for me and unfortunately,this continues to happen. I feel if they do this to a cover,no doubt the same thing will go down with the story. I cannot tolerate either option whatsoever. I don't mind a good editing but when it comes to cultural references being stripped and a cover from the depths of HELL NO,I just can't deal. I have heard this story too many times from different authors at different houses for my liking.


But I cannot judge all by the actions of some. I am sure there are publishers that won't do any such thing. I'm just rather skeptical right now. I used to be against self publishing. Not out of any sneering writer than thou attitude,but mainly because I was extremely lazy and the amount of work these authors put in boggled my mind. But the payoff of complete creative control more than made up for the work. At least it does for me.

Traditional publishing is not the devil incarnate and self publishing is not a cure all. I really think it depends on the temperament and needs of the author. What works for one is intolerable for another. But many pro self publishing writers take on a tinge of fanaticism. It's best to do your research and most importantly,talk to writers who are actually traditionally published. I'd rather listen to people who know what they are talking about,than someone pressed and raging against the machine.

Marian Perera
02-11-2013, 05:25 PM
See that cover there to the left, my avatar? I don't like it.

I felt the same way. About the cover for my first book, that is, not yours. :) I had a vision of what the ideal cover would be, one where everyone was fully clothed and the heroine looked like Vivian Leigh in Gone with the Wind.

On the other hand, I did ask for a cover that was "subtle, but hot", and I got that, even if the hero and heroine had to have their shirts off to achieve it. And although Vivian Leigh didn't fit into the color scheme the artist picked, I got compliments on that too.

Moral of the story? Our visions for covers are dear to our hearts, and very often that's where those visions should stay.


Conversely, I designed a new cover for my little self-published sex-writing guide, BE A SEX-WRITING STRUMPET. I thought, and still think, that it's a cute little cover. Quite a few readers have mentioned in reviews they they think it's pretty lame.

Covers aside, I've lost count of the number of times I've consulted this book. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to write steamy scenes.

Old Hack
02-11-2013, 09:05 PM
Marketing budgets are allocated on acquisition, and usually are linked to the advance in some way - bigger acquisitions get bigger marketing spends. The reason I bring this up is that below a certain level, there's no budget at all and thus no marketing. Everything done to push the book has to be done for free by the publicity department.

Do your sales teams also not sell the book into bookshops, Torgo? Because I'd argue that getting the book in front of its readers in that way is part of marketing the book, even if the work isn't done by your marketing department.

Also, don't think we didn't notice that you didn't refer to the issue of you mean and nasty publishers ripping the hearts out of all the books you publish. You can try to ignore that, but we know what you're like.



As a writer of multicultural fiction,whitewashed covers are a HUGE concern for me and unfortunately,this continues to happen. I feel if they do this to a cover,no doubt the same thing will go down with the story. I cannot tolerate either option whatsoever. I don't mind a good editing but when it comes to cultural references being stripped and a cover from the depths of HELL NO,I just can't deal.

This is something that in your place, I'd talk to my agent about, and ask that an appropriate clause was added to my contract with the publisher. You'd be unlikely to be given approval of your cover, but it wouldn't strike me as unreasonable for your contract to stipulate that any models or illustrations used on the cover of your book were of an appropriate colour, race or gender. I can't see publishers fighting you on this point.

victoriastrauss
02-11-2013, 09:38 PM
This is something that in your place, I'd talk to my agent about, and ask that an appropriate clause was added to my contract with the publisher. You'd be unlikely to be given approval of your cover, but it wouldn't strike me as unreasonable for your contract to stipulate that any models or illustrations used on the cover of your book were of an appropriate colour, race or gender. I can't see publishers fighting you on this point.
My agent writes a cover consult into all my contracts, so that I get to see the preliminary sketches and mockups. So if there's an issue I can raise it at that time--as opposed to kicking up a fuss once the art has been completed, when it's a lot more expensive to change course.

- Victoria

Torgo
02-11-2013, 10:03 PM
Do your sales teams also not sell the book into bookshops, Torgo? Because I'd argue that getting the book in front of its readers in that way is part of marketing the book, even if the work isn't done by your marketing department.

Well, that's why I say there is a grain of truth, but it's about terminology. The sales team certainly sell it in to retailers, and that is marketing in a sense; they may even spend money to get retailers to promote it, although only for a few titles. I think the myth of no marketing comes up because a lot of books don't get any of the Marketing department's time or budget, although there's a lot of small-m marketing done by the Publicity and Sales team for 'free'.


Also, don't think we didn't notice that you didn't refer to the issue of you mean and nasty publishers ripping the hearts out of all the books you publish. You can try to ignore that, but we know what you're like.

Damn. Stay away from my stash of delicious book-hearts! They're all mine!

Papaya
02-11-2013, 11:11 PM
Hmmm, more good food for thought. For me, not having to deal with the cover is at least partially a plus, but the tendency to whitewash covers is the behavior I am afraid of. I wish our differences were celebrated rather than suppressed. It would make for a much more interesting and compassionate world.

In my case, the thing I'm concerned about is that the underlying theme of my story is not mainstream. I've intentionally written it against a (hopefully) entertaining fantasy backdrop so that more people will be open to the message, but when the Lorax becomes too radical, I have to wonder about the entertainment industry as a whole. The message of my book is about the balance of nature and not being greedy, not slaughtering animals for personal gain. My personal feelings about the plight of animals and the general state of our modern world bleed through into my fictional one. The reason I write is because I would go crazy with sorrow over all the suffering otherwise. I'm sure there are many of you who can relate.

I apologize for implying that trade published books have no heart because I know that isn't true. In addition to being misguided, my original post was way too generalized.

dangerousbill
02-11-2013, 11:38 PM
I've been working on my first novel for the last two years. Along the way, I've been considering what publishing route I want to take. I am of the mind that both traditional and self publishing are viable if the author is prepared to do the hard work required.


I won't try to push you either way. Self publishing is a lot of work and promotion and distribution can be frustrating. Traditional publishing is getting in bed with megacorporations that may eat you alive. There is also the middle road of small, established publishers, many of whom are decent people and will give you results somewhere between the two extremes.

My first recommendation is to read widely on both options first, and not just here at AW.

My second recommendation is to stay strictly away from 'self-publishing' companies whose business model is to extract greater and greater sums of money from you for services that may or may not help you sell your book. Don't let your eagerness to 'be published' distract you from the deadly business of selecting among your options.

Torgo
02-11-2013, 11:44 PM
Hmmm, more good food for thought. For me, not having to deal with the cover is at least partially a plus, but the tendency to whitewash covers is the behavior I am afraid of. I wish our differences were celebrated rather than suppressed. It would make for a much more interesting and compassionate world.

Absolutely. Whitewashing is still something that needs to be guarded against but - as far as I can tell - it's the exception rather than the rule. A few high-profile incidents going viral have really helped get the word out that you can do yourself more harm than good (quite apart from being wrong on many other levels.)


In my case, the thing I'm concerned about is that the underlying theme of my story is not mainstream. I've intentionally written it against a (hopefully) entertaining fantasy backdrop so that more people will be open to the message, but when the Lorax becomes too radical, I have to wonder about the entertainment industry as a whole. The message of my book is about the balance of nature and not being greedy, not slaughtering animals for personal gain. My personal feelings about the plight of animals and the general state of our modern world bleed through into my fictional one. The reason I write is because I would go crazy with sorrow over all the suffering otherwise. I'm sure there are many of you who can relate.


I guess it depends how you're intending to treat it. If you write a full-blown allegorical fantasy, where the reader is always aware that you're making philosophical points, then I think you have a fairly niche market for the book. On the other hand, if you are writing an exciting fantasy story that just happens to have an underlying message, then the mainstream appeal of the book is much more about your qualities as a storyteller.

I could certainly see a situation where you submit a book to a publisher and they say, "we like it, but please could we soft-pedal the message a bit." What I want to stress about that is that what they'd really be objecting to is not the message itself, but any tendency it might have to bog the story down. It would be a technical point, not one about agreeing with you or minimizing the importance of the message. In fact, if you can write a book that is a page-turning read but which also has plenty of material for op-ed writers, that's great. (It never hurt Twilight or Fifty Shades to have people debate and analyse their politics.)


I apologize for implying that trade published books have no heart because I know that isn't true. In addition to being misguided, my original post was way too generalized.

Please don't worry about it, and do stick around. I think I learn at least one new thing every day here.

Papaya
02-12-2013, 01:55 AM
Absolutely. Whitewashing is still something that needs to be guarded against but - as far as I can tell - it's the exception rather than the rule. A few high-profile incidents going viral have really helped get the word out that you can do yourself more harm than good (quite apart from being wrong on many other levels.)

I guess it depends how you're intending to treat it. If you write a full-blown allegorical fantasy, where the reader is always aware that you're making philosophical points, then I think you have a fairly niche market for the book. On the other hand, if you are writing an exciting fantasy story that just happens to have an underlying message, then the mainstream appeal of the book is much more about your qualities as a storyteller.

I could certainly see a situation where you submit a book to a publisher and they say, "we like it, but please could we soft-pedal the message a bit." What I want to stress about that is that what they'd really be objecting to is not the message itself, but any tendency it might have to bog the story down. It would be a technical point, not one about agreeing with you or minimizing the importance of the message. In fact, if you can write a book that is a page-turning read but which also has plenty of material for op-ed writers, that's great. (It never hurt Twilight or Fifty Shades to have people debate and analyse their politics.)

Please don't worry about it, and do stick around. I think I learn at least one new thing every day here.

Thank you, Torgo. I do plan to stick around. As you say, AW is a very valuable resource, and I'm happy to be here learning and growing.

The message is mainly just woven into the world I created without anything being said directly about it. It does come up a couple times in conversations between the characters, but those are instances where it is an important part of the characterization and plot. I made a point not to be preachy, and in the second draft, I stripped out any personal tangents that had slipped through. The way the story reads, I think potential readers can choose to ignore the deeper message if they want to, which is fine with me. I'm not trying to beat anyone over the head with my message, but I do want to put it out there for those who are open to it.

Perks
02-12-2013, 02:20 AM
... and it's all the more bleak for debut authors. Once you are established, you will at least be offered a decent deal, and your book will actually be marketed. So there's the money and marketing issue, but an even bigger concern I have is creative, as in, I want creative control.

Publishing houses have a nasty habit of stripping the heart right out of a story. From their point of view, the ideal manuscript is mainstream and will appeal to everyone which is typically a terrible recipe for good art and often makes for a flat, meaningless story. The problem is that as a debut author, it can be near impossible to maintain creative control when the publishing houses are looking for the next Twilight.



I'm just one person with one book, but I have to say none of this has been my experience. In fact, my book launches tomorrow from Simon & Schuster's Gallery Books

1) I'm a debut author and I received a very decent deal.

2) They've busted their tails on an aggressive marketing & promotional plan. They have been utterly professional (while still managing to be fun) and treated my book as a priority project.

3) Creative and editorial suggestions were just that - suggestions. To a one, after points were discussed, the editorial changes were improvements. To be fair, I had a near-miss with another Big 6 house and their pre-offer revision suggestions were very much against what I wanted to do. But everything about that situation was wrong and I had not yet learned the most important lesson - namely that a little communication can stave off a lot of heartburn.

4) From titling to cover art, my editorial team had no wish to make me miserable. If I had hated the package they were putting together I wouldn't have been a good advocate for my own work.

As it is, I've loved working with this team and can only hope to get another chance to ride again.

Certainly self-publish is that is where you'll get the most satisfaction, but just know that your stated gripes with trade publishing is by no means the standard of treatment.

Zaffiro
02-12-2013, 04:09 AM
In my case, the thing I'm concerned about is that the underlying theme of my story is not mainstream. I've intentionally written it against a (hopefully) entertaining fantasy backdrop so that more people will be open to the message, but when the Lorax becomes too radical, I have to wonder about the entertainment industry as a whole. The message of my book is about the balance of nature and not being greedy, not slaughtering animals for personal gain.

Honestly, this is nowhere near as radical a theme as you seem to be afraid it is. Ever read Barbara Kingsolver? The balance of nature, and the idea that we're only a part of that balance and shouldn't be acting like we have the right to destroy as we choose, are right at the heart of most of her work. And she's pretty mainstream (in the best of ways).

There are a lot of people out there who are passionate about these things. That means it's not actually a huge daring risk for a publisher to take on a book dealing with these themes: there's plenty of audience.

Also, there's no such thing as 'the entertainment industry as a whole'. A big Hollywood TV producer is nothing like a small indie film company is nothing like a publishing house.

Papaya
02-12-2013, 04:31 AM
Honestly, this is nowhere near as radical a theme as you seem to be afraid it is. Ever read Barbara Kingsolver? The balance of nature, and the idea that we're only a part of that balance and shouldn't be acting like we have the right to destroy as we choose, are right at the heart of most of her work. And she's pretty mainstream (in the best of ways).

There are a lot of people out there who are passionate about these things. That means it's not actually a huge daring risk for a publisher to take on a book dealing with these themes: there's plenty of audience.

Also, there's no such thing as 'the entertainment industry as a whole'. A big Hollywood TV producer is nothing like a small indie film company is nothing like a publishing house.
I read The Poisonwood Bible. It was a brutal read. I'm glad she's out there raising awareness, but I personally can't take that kind of heavy handed messaging. Although there are some similarities, I have a very different approach and a different message. An example of the "radical" elements that concern me: every human in my world is a vegetarian, and hunting is considered barbaric.

Off topic, do you read the tarot as well?

djf881
02-12-2013, 04:34 AM
Publishing houses have a nasty habit of stripping the heart right out of a story. From their point of view, the ideal manuscript is mainstream and will appeal to everyone which is typically a terrible recipe for good art and often makes for a flat, meaningless story. The problem is that as a debut author, it can be near impossible to maintain creative control when the publishing houses are looking for the next Twilight.


Who told you this? It's absolutely false. Publishing houses right now are looking for extremely polished manuscripts that can be published with very little substantive editing, especially from debut authors.

If an editor feels your manuscript needs a lot of work, they're going to reject it and find a submission that does not.

Where you do get editorial notes, they're likely to broadly identify a problem -- the first third of the book moves slowly, or a certain secondary character needs to be better defined -- and then leave you to figure out a solution. Nobody is interested in rewriting your book.

Also, before you sign a contract with a publisher, you will have an opportunity to talk to them and make sure their vision for the project doesn't deviate too far from yours.

Becky Black
02-12-2013, 03:36 PM
So far in five books my publisher hasn't ripped the heart out of any of them. Even when they ended up with quite extensive changes they were still the stories I wanted to tell. My editor just helped me tell them better.

When they make the offer they give me a broad idea of what changes they are going to ask for during editing, so if I see something at that point that is going to fundamentally change what I want to say in the story then I don't have to sign the contract. And they've never then sprung anything big on me later that they didn't include at that stage before I signed.

During the editing there have been points when the editor maybe seems not to get what I'm trying to say in a scene, and is suggesting changes I don't agree with. In that case it's usually because I haven't successfully conveyed what I'm trying to say. So I tell the editor what it is I'm going for and then we figure out the way to get it across. Working together, not against each other. Cooperation, not a fight.

Some writers have this odd attitude to editors. They think editors are the enemy who must be fought at every turn for the very soul of your story. But you and the editors working on your book are a team. Once you sign the contract it's their book too. They want it to be good and successful, just like you do. They want to help you make it that way.

shaldna
02-12-2013, 04:18 PM
See that cover there to the left, my avatar? I don't like it.

I get compliments on it all the time from readers.

In fact, I haven't really liked any of the (US) covers on that particular series (except the fourth one, which I liked a lot). Readers love them. I've had so many people say the covers are what made them pick up the books, or attracted them to the books. I personally don't get it. But readers do, and that's what matters; the professionals at Del Rey designed a cover that they, with their years of experience, thought would attract readers. And they were right.



I think the only reason I would want to self publish, is just so I can have a say on what goes on my cover.

I just wanted to address these points by saying that authors aren't always the best people to have a say on their covers. Unless they are artists and, and this is important, have the ability to stand back and look at the book objectivly, considering the marketability of the image that is going to be produced. Contrary to popular saying, people do judge books by their covers - covers are the fist thing a potential reader sees.

And cover art can be a massive conflict point when authors DO get a say. For most of the last year my husband (he';s a publisher) has been engaged in a back and forth with one of his authors over a cover. The cover that the artist produced was amazing, really captured the book and genre while at the same time being unique enough that it stood out. The author hated it. But because he is a fairly high profile guy (an actor) he gets a say, as per his contract.

It's been an ongoing source of stress for all concerned and has delayed the books release by a year.

bearilou
02-12-2013, 04:25 PM
Papaya, I know it may feel like you're taking a beating over this but I wanted to thank you for bringing it up.

I think it's important to hear, especially for new writers, that it's okay to ask the publisher, early in the relationship (I suppose, prior to signing any contracts) what exactly is expected in the edits and to make the decision to institute those changes or not based on how you feel it might change your work. Are you comfortable changing the ending at editorial behest? Sure it might very well be the best thing for the book but it still comes down to your comfort levels. If you're not comfortable with a rewrite that leaves a previous deader-than-dead character in a less-than-certain state, then you should probably be thinking long and hard about whether to sign.

In the end, it's your book. The editors, as mentioned already, really want what's best for your book, too, but it comes down to what it is you're willing to do as well.

Perks
02-12-2013, 05:23 PM
Papaya, I know it may feel like you're taking a beating over this but I wanted to thank you for bringing it up.

Absolutely! Definitely don't feel pummeled. It's not you.

Self-publishing may very well be the thing you'd like to try -- that many of us may give a whirl. But what you've heard about trade publishing is not the default (or even common) experience.

shadowwalker
02-12-2013, 05:43 PM
Unless they are artists and, and this is important, have the ability to stand back and look at the book objectivly, considering the marketability of the image that is going to be produced.

Bolding mine, just because so many authors don't get it, and their self-chosen covers prove it.

quicklime
02-12-2013, 06:10 PM
Bolding mine, just because so many authors don't get it, and their self-chosen covers prove it.


bolding your bolding, because it is painfully true.


There are some folks who do very well with their cover design. There are MANY who remind me of the old addage that a man who represents himself in court has a fool for a client--there's folks who are TRAINED to market these things, and there's folks who are intimately tied to the work but not at all experienced with what sells....which would you trust? I'm quite fond of my manhood, but I certainly didn't do my own vasectomy, just because of that fondness--there's experts out there, and some things are better done by, well, EXPERTS.

Cyia
02-12-2013, 07:20 PM
And even with those who can make decent to beautiful covers, they're still lacking the inside information that the marketing department has. Maybe the author can create a devastatingly gorgeous cover for their novel, but if they're using the same stock art as its base, or the same basic composition as three other covers in the same genre that are all hitting shelves the same month, that's a problem. The marketing dept. has knowledge by virtue of being a department with access to at least their own house's full list. The author doesn't have that. Two cover concepts I would have considered perfect for my novel came out as covers for other novels in the same category, which would have made using something similar to either a bad idea when the goal of the cover is to stand out from the crowd (in a good way).

The author also doesn't know how the book buyers from major and independent bookstores feel about the cover. One of the few things that can force an immediate change in cover art is for someone with major buying clout to look at the art and ask "Are you insane? This won't sell."

Zaffiro
02-13-2013, 03:28 AM
I read The Poisonwood Bible. It was a brutal read. I'm glad she's out there raising awareness, but I personally can't take that kind of heavy handed messaging. Although there are some similarities, I have a very different approach and a different message. An example of the "radical" elements that concern me: every human in my world is a vegetarian, and hunting is considered barbaric.

Off topic, do you read the tarot as well?

I was actually thinking more of Prodigal Summer, which focuses on ecological balance and our place within it. And I picked Kingsolver precisely because, yeah, her themes are right there in your face - and still no one's gutting them out of the books, and she hits the bestseller lists every time.

Vegetarianism and considering hunting barbaric...seriously, those aren't particularly dangerous or radical territory at all. Specially if, as you say, they're done subtly rather than sledgehammered home. They're not going to be a barrier to trade publishing, if that's what you decide to aim for. Some agents and/or editors will be turned off because those themes don't gel with their personal tastes, but that holds for every theme and topic anyone's ever written about.

Off topic: I think the Tarot is fascinating, but I don't know enough to read it. Do you do it?

Papaya
02-13-2013, 05:43 AM
I was actually thinking more of Prodigal Summer, which focuses on ecological balance and our place within it. And I picked Kingsolver precisely because, yeah, her themes are right there in your face - and still no one's gutting them out of the books, and she hits the bestseller lists every time.

Vegetarianism and considering hunting barbaric...seriously, those aren't particularly dangerous or radical territory at all. Specially if, as you say, they're done subtly rather than sledgehammered home. They're not going to be a barrier to trade publishing, if that's what you decide to aim for. Some agents and/or editors will be turned off because those themes don't gel with their personal tastes, but that holds for every theme and topic anyone's ever written about.

Off topic: I think the Tarot is fascinating, but I don't know enough to read it. Do you do it?
Well, that's great news! Living in a redneck county is obvioulsy skewing my perception of how these ideas will be received.

I read The Poinsonwood Bible years ago, and I haven't been able to bring myself to read another Kingsolver book since, but I've been curious about Prodigal Summer for a while now. I'll read it one of these days...I think. I can handle a lot more on paper than I can on screen, but it still has a huge impact on me, so I have to be careful. Being hyper sensitive can really suck sometimes.

Off topic: I've been reading tarot for 17 years now, since I was 15. I recognized The Star on your avatar. :)

RedWombat
02-13-2013, 10:51 PM
I'm currently editing my thirteenth book, and it's the first one where I've ever had an editor veer in a direction I didn't think was right for the book.

So I agonized for three days--we've done ten books together!--and finally screwed up my courage, called her, and said "This is horribly awkward because we've worked together for ages and you're always right and this is the first time I have to tell you I think you're wrong!"

Far from blacklisting me forever from trade publishing, she burst out laughing and said "Oh honey, we get told we're wrong all the time. It's okay! We'll work it out!"

...and we did. No heart stripping at any point. Didn't even take a potato peeler to my liver.

Soooo, yeah.

James D. Macdonald
02-13-2013, 10:54 PM
Self-publishing gives the author the greatest amount of work for the smallest available reward.

quicklime
02-13-2013, 10:58 PM
Self-publishing gives the author the greatest amount of work for the smallest available reward.


god, I think I may steal that line

Papaya
02-13-2013, 11:20 PM
Papaya, I know it may feel like you're taking a beating over this but I wanted to thank you for bringing it up.

I think it's important to hear, especially for new writers, that it's okay to ask the publisher, early in the relationship (I suppose, prior to signing any contracts) what exactly is expected in the edits and to make the decision to institute those changes or not based on how you feel it might change your work. Are you comfortable changing the ending at editorial behest? Sure it might very well be the best thing for the book but it still comes down to your comfort levels. If you're not comfortable with a rewrite that leaves a previous deader-than-dead character in a less-than-certain state, then you should probably be thinking long and hard about whether to sign.

In the end, it's your book. The editors, as mentioned already, really want what's best for your book, too, but it comes down to what it is you're willing to do as well.


Absolutely! Definitely don't feel pummeled. It's not you.

Self-publishing may very well be the thing you'd like to try -- that many of us may give a whirl. But what you've heard about trade publishing is not the default (or even common) experience.
Thanks to you both for saying that. I am so glad it went from me alienating everyone, due to misguided notions and over generalizations, to this being a useful thread. I have already learned a lot from all of you, and grown as an individual. That was the point of joining this forum to begin with.

Finis
02-13-2013, 11:56 PM
When I first started, I thought of my work as my baby. My soul was in there, tucked between the pages. It wasn't just that it was great as was. I felt that any criticism was criticism of my soul, my heart that I had poured into it.

I was wrong. I realized it after several more books. Yes, a part of me goes into them, but it's my time and my effort, not my heart. Sure, I influence, and I adore my characters and my stories and I fall in love with each and every one, but it's not my baby. It's my work, something that I've put so much time into that I want it to be the best it can be.



I'm not published (yet) but I've written several complete manuscripts. I think I've finally come to realize this. It's really important writers who want to be working writers have this epiphany, so I'm quoting you so it's out there twice.

NeuroFizz
02-14-2013, 12:33 AM
The fears expressed in the OP regarding trade publishing seem to me to be straight party-line propaganda of the self-publishing pundits. I can say that I have had absolutely wonderful and professional interactions with the editors, cover artists, and other members of the publishing teams for all of my stories. In each case, the suggestions made by the editors were forwarded for my comment and approval, and all were aimed at improving the stories, certainly not gutting them. In the few cases where I did object to the suggested changes (forwarded with my reasons), the editors agreed without incident or argument.

My interactions with my publishing teams have been true and beneficial collaborations.

Perks
02-14-2013, 12:44 AM
Thanks to you both for saying that. I am so glad it went from me alienating everyone, due to misguided notions and over generalizations, to this being a useful thread. I have already learned a lot from all of you, and grown as an individual. That was the point of joining this forum to begin with.What a gracious, lovely person you are. Glad there's info for you here.

Zaffiro
02-14-2013, 01:15 AM
Well, that's great news! Living in a redneck county is obvioulsy skewing my perception of how these ideas will be received.

I read The Poinsonwood Bible years ago, and I haven't been able to bring myself to read another Kingsolver book since, but I've been curious about Prodigal Summer for a while now. I'll read it one of these days...I think. I can handle a lot more on paper than I can on screen, but it still has a huge impact on me, so I have to be careful. Being hyper sensitive can really suck sometimes.

Off topic: I've been reading tarot for 17 years now, since I was 15. I recognized The Star on your avatar. :)

I swear, Prodigal Summer doesn't blow your head up the way Poisonwood Bible does. Nowhere near it. It's not exactly subtle on the message front, and because of that it's far from my favourite of hers, but it might be worth your while giving it a go.

Jess Haines
02-15-2013, 12:51 AM
I'm baffled by the comment about "stripping the heart right out" considering my experience. Maybe some editors have been brutal to their authors, but not a single one I have worked with. Most of the ones I met at conferences, speak to online, etc, are very lovely people who seem to know their stuff and--despite occasional moments of tough love--are usually very forthright about when and why something needs to change.

Good luck, whatever path you choose for publication.

Papaya
02-15-2013, 01:48 AM
I swear, Prodigal Summer doesn't blow your head up the way Poisonwood Bible does. Nowhere near it. It's not exactly subtle on the message front, and because of that it's far from my favourite of hers, but it might be worth your while giving it a go.
In that case, I'll add it to my book list. Thanks for letting me know.


I'm baffled by the comment about "stripping the heart right out" considering my experience. Maybe some editors have been brutal to their authors, but not a single one I have worked with. Most of the ones I met at conferences, speak to online, etc, are very lovely people who seem to know their stuff and--despite occasional moments of tough love--are usually very forthright about when and why something needs to change.

Good luck, whatever path you choose for publication.
I started this thread, and I don't want to be rude to anyone offering feedback, so I'm curious when is it appropriate for me to stop commenting on things we've already been over?

Thanks much for the luck, Jess!


What a gracious, lovely person you are. Glad there's info for you here.
Thanks, Perks! There's tons of wonderful info here, just not enough time to make use of it all.

James D. Macdonald
02-15-2013, 02:57 AM
You're never required to respond to comments.

Once a discussion has run its course (and it moves over to fish jokes), move on to other conversations.