Traditional vs. Self Publishing: How Much Does the Debate Matter?

by Jami Gold on March 29, 2011

in Writing Stuff

Sports car

How many times in the past week have we heard “Traditional NY publishing is dead.  Barry Eisler has proved it.”  Or “NY publishing isn’t dead.  Amanda Hocking has proved it.”

So which is it?  Or does it not matter?

If you haven’t heard about the debate, the gist of it is that Barry Eisler turned down a half-million dollar contract with a NY publisher to pursue self-publishing (his reasoning here) while Amanda Hocking turned her self-publishing success into a two-million dollar contract (her announcement here).  One chose to leave NY and one chose to join it.

Interestingly, they’ve both been simultaneously supported and attacked for their choices.  Some think Barry is an idiot and some think Amanda sold out.

But I think it all comes down to the reader.  We all want to get our stories into the hands of the reader, so the smart thing to do is to choose whichever method we think will best accomplish that goal.

Traditional NY publishers aren’t soul-sucking bad guys and self-publishing isn’t a religion.  They are both just vehicles authors use to get their story out.

So there’s no right or wrong answer.  The method that works best for one story might not work for another.  The approach one author has won’t work for all authors.  Circumstances are always in flux and our answer might change.

Right now, NY publishers have the edge in print availability, as Nathan Bransford pointed out.   So authors who are more concerned about availability than money might choose that route.  Or authors who think most of their sales will be through print might go with the NY publishers.

But soon, as Mike Shatzkin mentioned, some bookseller or wholesaler will likely step into that opportunity and find a way to offer print books for wide distribution.  The pros and cons of this decision will change day-by-day, book-by-book, and author-by-author.

I read a self-published book by Susan Bischoff last week that could stand toe-to-toe with traditionally published books (and if you’ve read my blog before, you know I’m a nitpicky perfectionist, so that’s saying something about how professional her book is).  The vehicle she used to get that ebook into my hands wasn’t important.  Only the story and characters were important.  And I think most readers would say the same thing.

The one thing we should not do is attack each other for our choices.  Everyone must decide what makes the most sense for them.  Let’s celebrate that valid choices now exist and not deify or demonize people for whatever they decide.

As a reader, do you pay attention to the publisher before buying a book?  Or do you go off the cover, reviews, blurb, and recommendations?  How much do you think the vehicle for getting a book into a reader’s hands matters?

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65 Comments below - Time to Add your own.

Laura Pauling March 29, 2011 at 5:39 am

I think this matter is in the minds of writers right now. What amazed me about Nathan’s post was his conclusion. That if you’re writing a midlist book that you’ll do better profit wise by self publishing. That’s huge.

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Jami Gold March 29, 2011 at 8:54 am

Hi Laura,

Yes, and I’d already come to a similar conclusion about mid-list series authors. Mid-list authors are in danger of their contract being canceled before their series completes. So authors with series in mind might want to think about what would happen to their series if that was the case. Would it leave their series in limbo? Would they be able to continue it on their own? What about those first stories going out-of-print? Many interesting questions. Thanks for the comment!

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Patrick Ross March 29, 2011 at 5:45 am

I support the idea of self-publishing. I recently had a guest post by a self-published author on my blog, and I conducted a video interview of a self-published author last year.

That said, as a reader I’ll confess a certain bias to works released by a publisher. It’s a gatekeeper, yes, but a gatekeeper whose reputation is on the line with every work it publishes. I suspect I’m not alone among lovers of books regarding that bias.

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Jami Gold March 29, 2011 at 8:59 am

Hi Patrick,

In many ways, I agree with you. Many people (including me) have a bias toward thinking that traditionally published works will be better because of that gatekeeper aspect.

However, I think when it comes to actually purchasing a book (especially from recommendations), we won’t double check who the publisher is first. If the cover looks professional, the story sounds really good, and the recommendation came from someone we trust, we’d probably buy it without ever checking – at least I know I wouldn’t. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Susan Bischoff March 29, 2011 at 5:56 am

Thanks, Jami!

I’m looking up at your tags and realizing that I forgot to tag the post I just wrote. Grrr.

I actually talked about some of the same stuff today, quite by coincidence, having come to it from something else entirely. Eventually, we’re just going to get tired of talking about it and find something else to fight out. As it stands now, I think the bulk of readers couldn’t care less who published the damn book.

The thing of it is, when you don’t care about something, you DON’T CARE enough to mention that you don’t care. So the only comments we see are from people who actually do. So they seem like a lot of people, squeaky wheel or some such metaphor, but they’re really not. (Which is what my post was sort of more about today, how skewed ways of seeing numbers make us crazy.)

Yeah, I get comments from aspiring authors who say: I loved your book and it’s so awesome that you’re indie! You totally inspire me as I’m working on releasing my first book. (And those are awesome, btw. :has dorky grin:) But I also get a lot of comments from people who don’t mention my means of publication, because…wait for it…they don’t care!

If it matters, it’s because we’re continuing to make it matter every time we choose to engage.

Nice post, Jami. I like the comparison of Hocking with Eisler.

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Jami Gold March 29, 2011 at 9:03 am

Hi Susan,

Thanks for stopping by! I think you’re absolutely right. The vast majority of those leaving pro/con comments will always be those who care. And most of those will be other authors because we’re the ones paying attention to this stuff. 🙂 I’d bet those comments are extremely rare from “just plain readers” who don’t pay attention to the publishing industry at all. Thanks for the comment!

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Shellie Sakai March 29, 2011 at 6:50 am

I agree. I look for books because I like what I read or the author not the publisher. I could care less how the book got published. And now that I have a choice of ebook or traditional, I care even less. And as a writer I want my book to reach as many people as possible. So it will come down to how I can get my book in the hands of more people. I understand Amanda’s decision and also Barry’s. It was a hard one for both of them to make, but, they are thinking of the readers first.

Thanks Jami for another great blog! Susan, off to buy your book now. Can’t wait to read it! 😀

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Jami Gold March 29, 2011 at 9:04 am

Hi Shellie,

Yes! To me, it’s all about the choice. I love that authors have multiple choices now, and all of them are completely valid in their own way. Thanks for the comment!

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Murphy March 29, 2011 at 7:13 am

Hi Jami!

Great comparisons. I happen to agree with you. It does come down to what makes sense to the individual writer and what works best for them.

Murphy

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Jami Gold March 29, 2011 at 9:07 am

Hi Murphy,

Exactly. And for some stories the publisher will always matter. One of the few times that readers do pay attention to the publisher are with category romances. Those readers know what they’re going to be getting in a Harlequin Intrigue vs. a Harlequin Blaze and they often choose stories based on the imprint and not the author. Those authors would have no reason to go the self-published route because the Harlequin brand is what will get their story into the hands of the most readers. Thanks for the comment!

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Imani Wisdom March 29, 2011 at 7:19 am

Great comparison! I’m a new to the literary world and your piece has helped shed light on the two.

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Jami Gold March 29, 2011 at 9:09 am

Hi Imani,

Thanks – and anyone who would like more information about self publishing can check out the blogs of some self-published authors, like Susan Bischoff, Kait Nolan, or Zoe Winters. They’ve all talked about their experience, their reasoning, and their choices. Thanks for the comment!

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Lili Tufel March 29, 2011 at 7:32 am

Hi Jami,
I love your blog 🙂
My brother in-law is a Grammy nominated music engineer and my sister was actually one of the people who talked me into going Indie. My sister has compared the music industry to the publishing industry many times. I’m not going to tell anyone which side to take but we can definitely learn from many examples in the music industry.

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Jami Gold March 29, 2011 at 9:10 am

Hi Lili,

Yes, I’ve heard that music industry comparison a bit. Maybe you should do a blog post on that. 😉 Thanks for the comment!

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Sonia M. March 29, 2011 at 8:02 am

I still lean towards traditional publishing as my first choice but I love that self-publishing is becoming a viable option. There are definite benefits to both models.

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Jami Gold March 29, 2011 at 9:16 am

Hi Sonia,

Yes, I think that Amanda Hocking deal has lent a real feel of “this is a viable choice” to self publishing, and I think that’s great. Thanks for the comment!

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Lisa Gail Green March 29, 2011 at 9:40 am

I really enjoyed this post because you hit the nail on the head. Both sides have valid points and we shouldn’t demonize each other for our choices, but be supportive instead. Well done!

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Jami Gold March 29, 2011 at 9:56 am

Hi Lisa,

Thanks! Yes, I can see even with my own stories that some might be better served by traditional publishing and some might be better served by self publishing. And that line will probably move several more times before I’m ready to publish them. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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M.E. Anders March 29, 2011 at 10:13 am

As a reader, I could care less about the publisher. I read the blurbs, comments, and reviews to weigh the benefit of both buying and reading the book.

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Jami Gold March 29, 2011 at 10:25 am

Hi M.E.,

Exactly. And excerpts mean a lot with self-published works too. Anyone who is on the fence after reading reviews and blurbs might check out the first chapter before purchasing. That’s a good way for a self-published author to “prove” they’re just as professional and skilled as the traditional authors (or it can prove the opposite, as the case may be). Thanks for the comment!

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Kerry Meacham March 29, 2011 at 10:33 am

We would all like 6-7 figure contracts, but the chances of that happening are about as likely as being struck by lightning or winning the lottery. Oh, that reminds me I need to buy one for tomorrow night’s Powerball. I digress. However, it’s the dream and will continue to be until there are enough examples of megastars going self pub.

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Jami Gold March 29, 2011 at 10:37 am

Hi Kerry,

Well sure, I wouldn’t mind the money. 🙂 But it’s precisely because that’s so unlikely that most of us need to weigh the other factors more with our decisions. Thanks for the comment!

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Orlando Ramos March 29, 2011 at 11:35 am

I am new to your blog, just found it today. I love the review you have posted. I agree with your view, that it is only a matter of choice. When I go to the supermarket, I see the name brands selling for ridiculous prices, and the no name products for much less. What I don’t see are the name brands going out of business. I only see more options for the consumer. I feel it’s the same with the self publishing and traditional publisher; more options. Options, is what makes our country great.

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Jami Gold March 29, 2011 at 11:43 am

Hi Orlando,

Oh, great comparison to supermarket brands! Yes, it should all be about the reader and not about “this way is right and that way is wrong.” Thanks for the comment!

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Jill Kemerer March 29, 2011 at 1:01 pm

You and I have the same thing on our mind today. I agree with your assessment. I’m tired of people bashing traditional publishing, but I’m thrilled to see everyday writers find success with self-publishing. I just want a good book!

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Jami Gold March 29, 2011 at 1:08 pm

Hi Jill,

Exactly. We always say that writing success is not a zero-sum game for authors (just because one author is successful doesn’t mean you can’t be too), and I think it’s that way for publishing vehicles as well (just because self-publishers are finding success doesn’t mean traditional publishing can’t be successful too). Thanks for the comment!

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Andrew Mocete March 29, 2011 at 1:27 pm

I wrote a post about this a couple weeks ago called The Battle of Who Could Care less because really, unless you’re in the writing/publishing community, you don’t even know this battle is going on.

Sure, it’s interesting for us, but readers want entertainment at a reasonable price. How it got to them is not even on their mind. Eventually there will be so much good coming from both spectrums, the distinction will be totally gone.

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Jami Gold March 29, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Hi Andrew,

I think you’re right, especially as the print aspect becomes easily do-able from the self-publishing side of things too. The reader might see books as flowing from two different sources, like B&N and Amazon, but with little impact as to whether or not to proceed with the purchase and read. I know I’ve probably purchased self-published books from Amazon without realizing it because I never scroll down to the publisher details. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Kait Nolan March 29, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Yes absolutely! I really think the best part of self publishing is that, on many levels, it puts power back into the authors’ hands. A power that they never really had before, actually, since publishers held the keys to distribution. With that no longer an issue, and with the ability of ALL stories to get into the hands of the public, I think we stand to wind up with a richer pool of available work (even as the dregs increase and sink to the bottom) as the readers get a bigger say in what becomes popular and gets the bigger push.

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Jami Gold March 29, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Hi Kait,

[T]he readers get a bigger say in what becomes popular…” Yes, so true. The readers’ choices are no longer be dictated by the traditional publishers. This really is a win for the reader. Thanks for the comment!

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Jamie DeBree March 29, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Great post, Jami. Enough with the attacks indeed – this is a great time to be a writer, and there’s just no need for all the conflict (off the page, anyway). 😉

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Jami Gold March 29, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Hi Jamie,

LOL! Yes, let’s leave the conflict on the page. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Gene Lempp March 30, 2011 at 1:01 am

Insightful post Jami 🙂

I think this matters far more to a writer than to a reader. I know I’ve never bought a book based on the publisher medium. I’ve bought them based on the title, subject matter, author name, friend recommendation and blurb/page one scan, but never notice the publisher, in general, until halfway through the book (if ever).

One advantage NY Trads have appears to be in the editing process (and of course print distribution), however with POD services the print distribution for a book can be as broad as ebook distribution. Really it comes down to editing. If you self publish you will have to go it on your own or hire a review editor.

Hot topic in our world right now, but you are so right that the “new way” is not a religion, makes me think of Saturn cars for some reason, and that writing, in the end, is a business and these choices should be approached by careful choice to attain what is best for both the writer and the need of the readers that support them.

Great topic choice, thanks Jami!

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Jami Gold March 30, 2011 at 7:57 am

Hi Gene,

LOL! at the Saturn cars comparison.

Great point about the editing process. I didn’t mention issue that because some publishers are better at editing than others and self-publishers can always pay someone to help edit. However, the chances of encountering a good editor, who knows what they’re doing, is probably higher with the traditional publishers than picking one on your own. Maybe we need gatekeepers to know who the good freelance editors are? 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Gene Lempp March 30, 2011 at 4:37 pm

A “Better Editors Bureau”, like exists for renters, landlords, business of all nature…what a “novel” concept 🙂

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Jami Gold March 30, 2011 at 4:38 pm

LOL! Exactly. 🙂

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Suzanne Johnson March 30, 2011 at 6:28 am

Great topic, Jami! I’ll add one thing to your statement “Right now, NY publishers have the edge in print availability, as Nathan Bransford pointed out. So authors who are more concerned about availability than money might choose that route. ”

Unless your self-pub work sells very, very well, you will likely get more in advance from a NY publisher than you’ll ever make from your self-pub book, even if your NY book doesn’t sell through and start earning extra royalties. The Big Six publishers still offer decent advances. To me, along with the distribution issue, that gives them an edge. Of course you give up a lot of control and things move at a snail’s pace so there’s a big tradeoff.

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Jami Gold March 30, 2011 at 8:01 am

Hi Suzanne,

Yes, good point! However, (and maybe this isn’t as widespread as I’ve heard) don’t some contracts require the author to pay back unearned portions? I know I’ve heard of some, but if that’s still the rare exception, then you’re absolutely right that advances should be a big part of the money/business decision. Thanks for the comment!

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Jami's Tech Guy March 30, 2011 at 9:39 am

Great post Jami!

I see the great Self vs. Traditional publishing debate as one of those oft frustrating intra-profession arguments / holy wars.

Being in tech, I hear them all the time. People always ask me which Operation System I prefer, hoping that I’ll choose the one that they like best and justify their own preference. My answer usually blows their mind.

When it comes to Windows, Mac, or Linux I answer “None, they all stink but in different ways.” Because it is true, each has it’s own advantages and disadvantages. Operating systems are tools. The real goal is to accomplish the task that one sets out to do. Choose the tool that will help you perform the task or in the worst case, the one that will least impede your progress.

Self-publishing vs Traditional is similar. Pick the method that will help you accomplish your goals. Yes, your heart may tug in one direction or the other but your goals require you to sometimes be an agnostic in those religious wars.

-TG
@jaytechdad

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Jami Gold March 30, 2011 at 10:24 am

Hi Tech Guy,

Yes, that’s a great comparison to the great computer operating system debate! And you’re absolutely right, it comes down to which method will help you reach your goals. One author might have a goal to be “the” premier self-published author, so they would choose that method regardless of other money or availability issues. Thanks for the comment!

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Terry Odell March 30, 2011 at 10:20 am

Until I was published, I never noticed (or cared) who published a book. I’ve been with both digital and print publishers, and have seen phenomenal changes in the past few years. I’ve always said it’s about choices. I’ve gone indie with my backlist, and am seriously considering putting up a few original works as well, for many of the reasons mentioned by others — timing, doesn’t fit a print publisher’s mold. I recently returned from Left Coast Crime, and there were 2 panels on publishing: one filled with the industry professionals, and another made up of authors who’ve gone the indie route. Both had very interesting things to say.

Terry
Terry’s Place
Romance with a Twist–of Mystery

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Jami Gold March 30, 2011 at 10:28 am

Hi Terry,

Yes, it’s us authors who notice these things. 🙂 And as you said, both methods have valid reasons for going that route. I’m more interested in listening to those who say, “I chose this because it made sense to me for these reasons,” than to those who say, “I chose this because this is the best/only way, so you should choose it too.” Thanks for the comment!

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Erin March 30, 2011 at 10:38 am

This is an important topic right now, especially with Eisler and Konrath telling us we’d all be a lot better off if traditional publishing just accepted its fate, blackened its windows and went into early retirement. I wrote about this very topic the other day on my blog, For the Love of Bookshops. While I think self-publishing is a perfectly viable (and often lucrative) option for some authors (especially those writing for genres like thriller, romance and YA), it disturbs me to think that some people would be happy to see traditional publishing done away with since literary fiction and literary criticism still depend on traditional it. Without traditional publishing, I worry that high-quality writers of literature would have few outlets for getting their work into readers hand. Perhaps this should change and will change in the near future. But for now, authors of literary fiction can’t rely on self-publishing, not like authors of other genres. We need our literary fiction, folks, and so, for now, we need traditional publishing.

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Jami Gold March 30, 2011 at 10:53 am

Hi Erin,

Very interesting point about how non-genre stories might have a harder time in the self-publishing world. This might be related to the fact that Amazon can categorize by genre all day long (I think I’ve seen someone say they were in the Top 10 YA Paranormal Horror Fantasy Vampire fiction), but if something can’t easily be broken into smaller/more manageable chunks, it’s more likely to get lost in the avalanche of available books. Thanks for the insightful comment!

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Tom Honea March 30, 2011 at 11:02 am

jami …
i can’t imagine that a writer who has the choice will go the self-publication route. … we are writers: not publicist or distributors or bankers. we want to do what we do best and what we enjoy. however … some of us, new writers especially, have to look at this choice from an “almost no option” point of view.
.
i have come to put (most) agents into two catagories: those who are young, who are still building a solid client base. they don’t relate to my writing: literary fiction. … and … those agents who understand what i write. they are older, established. they don’t need another new client, especially a rookie.
most of the writers who self-publish are not turning out quality stuff. they are never going to get an agent or publisher. … then, there are new writers who have really good stuff, but who haven’t gotten that magic phone call yet.
they … we, i put myself in that group … at some point are going to have to make the decision: am i going to continue pushing against that 900 pound marshmellow ( traditional publishing ) , or am i going to self-publish; hit the road … become my own banker and distributor and salesman.
wish us luck, either way.

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Jami Gold March 30, 2011 at 11:20 am

Hi Tom,

I understand your point. If we really love writing, why would we take on so much other work that negatively affects our writing time?

However, I can think of several reasons why I would choose to self publish – and those reasons don’t have anything to do with money or availability. On some level, it comes down to control. What if we were offered a contract from a traditional NY publisher, but they wanted us to change the essence of our story? What if the contract clauses were too onerous? What if it just wasn’t a very good contract – one that wouldn’t meet our goals?

Then we’d face a choice: take the NY option because then we wouldn’t have to do all that publicist/business stuff (which we’d really have to do more than we think we would anyway), or keep looking for a different NY publisher to offer us a better deal, or go the self-publishing route. If you ask me, choosing to keep looking for a different publisher would be a scarier step than self publishing. That would be a choice to throw away the “known” bad situation for the unknown situation that I still wouldn’t be in control of (and might end up with an even worse situation). At least if I was turning down a bad contract to go with self publishing, I’d be getting some control out of the decision.

In other words, everything could go our way as far as getting an agent, publisher, contract, and still not be what we want. Some would take that option anyway, and I’d worry that the choice was made out of fear, rather than by what was best for them, their story, and their career.

Wow, sorry, that comment was longer than I meant it to be. Thanks for making me think! 🙂

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PW Creighton March 30, 2011 at 3:54 pm

That is the best post I’ve seen yet on the subject. I think the problem lies in the how each have been portrayed for years. Unpublished authors see traditional publishing as almost unattainable and publishers/published authors have always looked down on self-publishing. It’s difficult to change perceptions that have been ingrained for what seems like forever. I do think Bob Mayer is right based on what happened with Amanda Hocking. The future filter for publishers will be self-publishing. If you’re a success then you already pass muster.

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Jami Gold March 30, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Hi PW,

Thanks! 🙂 Yes, that’s a great breakdown of how each “camp” has been portrayed, and those perceptions have really turned this into a us-vs.-them situation. But I think the future will show more authors straddling these lines. I know of several traditionally published authors who are self publishing short stories or novellas that don’t fit into their usual brand, or that their publisher isn’t interested in. Rather than letting those stories sit, they’re expanding their backlist. Very smart, I think, and that’s just part of what we’ll see as far as the blurring between the camps. So bashing the other side won’t mean a whole lot very soon. Thanks for the comment!

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Carla Krae March 30, 2011 at 6:57 pm

This exactly. I’m tired of us-vs-them talk. It’s about what’s best for *this* book and *this* author. I see the options as diversification, just like I’d do for an investment portfolio. If a book can get an agent, great. If another would be hot at an e-pub, fabulous. Self-publishing electronically opened up a whole new option for books that don’t fit – the author no longer has to spend thousands to create copies of it. I’ll be the first to say format and edit and package the absolute best you can, but the control can be comforting…..and you’ve lost nothing but time by letting the e-book be on Amazon or PubIt or Smashwords.

So yeah, I wish name-calling didn’t come into these discussions.

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Jami Gold March 30, 2011 at 6:58 pm

Hi Carla,

*high five* Exactly. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Elle Strauss April 4, 2011 at 8:42 am

Very well said! It’s terrific that we as writers have more options and opportunities than ever before.

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Jami Gold April 4, 2011 at 8:45 am

Hi Elle,

Yes, knowing that options exist can help us understand our choices and make smarter decisions. Thanks for the comment!

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Roni Loren April 4, 2011 at 11:18 am

Lol, we do think alike. (Promise I didn’t hijack your post!)

To answer you question–yes, I do look whether a book is self-pubbed are not and yes, it does make a difference to me. I am sure there are absolutely breathtakingly fabulous self-pubbed books out there. I have no doubt. But there are many more really awful ones. I have very limited reading time, I want my books vetted by a publisher.

It doesn’t have to be a Big 6 print publisher. I love ebooks. For instance, if I want steamy erotic romance, I know I’m pleased 99% of the time if I buy ebooks from Ellora’s Cave. I don’t want to waste my reading time and/or money wading through the bad self-pubbed stuff to find the gems. Yes, I know you can download a sample. But that takes TIME. Finding a good book to read should not be “work”.

My opinion may change as all the industry shifts, but as of right now, the only way I’d buy a self-pubbed book is if I knew the person or if they were previously a traditionally pubbed author whose re-issuing their backlist.

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Jami Gold April 4, 2011 at 11:34 am

Hi Roni,

No worries. 🙂 This topic has been on the mind of many authors.

And you’re right that I don’t have time to go “looking” for any books, much less random self-published ones. 🙂 Every book I’ve read lately has been because I know the author or have heard a recommendation for it. So with that introduction to the book, I don’t pay attention to whether it’s self published or not because it’s one that I feel like I already “know” about. Thanks for the comment!

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Anna-Maria Crum April 4, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Interesting discussion. I never pay attention to the publisher. I buy based on the author or the blurb about the book. Generally I’ll also read the first page or two and buy based on that. That’s one plus about bookstores – you can easily browse a category or genre. I’m not sure how possible that is with ebooks. As a writer I think you get validation through a NY publisher – someone besides your family, friends, and critique group thinks you have a story worth publishing. But it’s so hard to find an editor to take a chance on you that I’ve been thinking about trying self-publishing. An editor at Tor recommended that I do that as a way to get started. It may be the way of the future that people self-publish first and build a following before NY will be interested in you.

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Jami Gold April 4, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Hi Anna-Maria,

Yes, that “prove yourself first” is a definite possibility, but I hope it doesn’t come to that. Each change to the NY publishing model seems to leave more writers behind. So many who can write a book can’t do the marketing (from query letter to publicity). Just because a self-published novel wasn’t selling well wouldn’t mean that it wasn’t any good. *sigh* Thanks for the comment!

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Roxanne Skelly April 6, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Just came across this through a reference from another blog. This subject is something I’ve been rather curious about, as I’m working on revising my first project, a commercial genre (urban fantasy) novel, and I’m not looking forward to spending 10 years receiving 100’s of rejection letters, with the weekly thought of “I should just give up and take up knitting.”

Most authors I’ve talked to described just that as their experience dealing with traditional publishing. Yuck.

The ‘brand’ of a publishing house is appealing…at least to me, but nobody I know looks at it. An advance from a publishing house would also be nice, but as they say, “Don’t quit your day job.” And of course it’d be nice to get that little reference to my book in the back of another best-selling authors book, but the likelihood of that happening for a new author such as myself is slim.

Either way, I’d have to do all the footwork to promote my and myself. I’d need to educate myself as to what sells and what doesn’t. Frankly, I’d have to do most of the stuff that it takes to sell the darn thing, so pretty much all I get from the publishing house is a brand, from what I can tell.

From what I can tell, to potentially achieve any success in traditional or self-publishing, you need to do the following:
* Think carefully about what success means. Very few
* Network with bloggers and popular authors, with the hope of having them recommend your book.
* Go to cons, etc. to promote your book directly to readers and other professionals.
* Knock on the doors of local bookstores. Many are more than willing to promote and sell the work of local authors.
* Set a reasonable price-point for e-books (publishers simply don’t seem to be getting this. Seriously, paying the same price for an e-book as for a paper book?)
* Convince all of your friends to buy best selling authors along with
your books from Amazon (to get that magic ‘people also bought’ link)
* Use your social network/word-of-mouth network to promote your book.

For self-publishing, add:
* Get damn good editing.
* Get damn good cover art.
* Shop around for printing/distribution.

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Jami Gold April 6, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Hi Roxanne,

Yes, there’s a lot to think about. Thanks for adding to the list – I think my head hurts now. 🙂 But you’re right about all those issues, and the pros and cons seem to be changing every day, or at least every week. Thank you so much for the great informative comment!

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Serena August 2, 2012 at 8:34 pm

“As a reader, do you pay attention to the publisher before buying a book? Or do you go off the cover, reviews, blurb, and recommendations? ”

I definitely do the latter, esp. recommendations, and don’t really care about the publisher. Almost all the books I read are either literary classics, extremely popular books like The Hunger Games, those written by well known authors, authors I’ve heard of from conferences and seminars, or books written by my friends. Actually, the vast majority of my preferred books are literary classics; I love reading stuff by dead people, lol.

So for me, knowledge of the author and the assurance that they’re decent writers, or that they write things that I’m interested in, are very important in deciding what to read.

Now I rarely ever randomly browse shelves and judge solely by their back cover anymore. That’s what I used to do when I was a kid. Sad, but true.

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Jami Gold August 2, 2012 at 9:23 pm

Hi Serena,

Yes, when I come across a book’s “buy” page, I usually check out the blurb to see if the premise is interesting to me, and then I check the reviews. But I’m so rarely at a brick-and-mortar store, that simple browsing isn’t something I do much anymore. As you said, sad but true. *sigh* Thanks for the comment!

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