Guest Post by Elana Johnson
Elana’s work includes the young adult dystopian romance series Possession, Surrender, Abandon, and Regret, published by Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster). Her popular ebook, From the Query to the Call, is also available, as well as a young adult dystopian short story in thePossession world, Resist.
Elana also writes inspirational western romances under the pen name Liz Isaacson. Check out all 5 books in the Amazon #1 Bestselling Three Rivers Ranch Romance series, and get ready for the rest of the series by the end of 2016.
She runs a personal blog on publishing and is a founding author of the QueryTracker blog, a regular contributor to The League of Extraordinary Writers, and a co-organizer of WriteOnCon. Liz contributes to Thinking Through Our Fingers. She is a member ofSCBWI and RWA.
The methods and avenues for publishing these days are many and varied. They even differ inside of each of the “big umbrellas,” as any author will tell you. So if you’re an aspiring author, how do you know which path is right for you?
Let’s examine a few of the biggest paths to publication.
- Traditional publishing, by a big, New York publisher: In this model of publishing, your book is handled by people at a large publishing house, usually out of New York City. They do everything from editing to marketing, to sending books to trade reviewers, to creating cover art, to pricing, to advertising, to deciding when/if your book will be offered at a reduced price for sales.In this model of publishing, you’ll need to plan on querying a literary agent, which means you need to write a query letter.
Traditional publishing pays advances (usually) for books, and I think for certain genres, big traditional publishing is the way to go. Inside of traditional publishing, the advances vary from very small to very large. The marketing you get varies from none to a lot. Authors have to be prepared to give up complete control over the artistic direction of their cover and all power over their pricing.
Sometimes the advances and marketing prowess of these big publishers is worth giving away those controls. Some authors might not want to relinquish their power to market, sell, and package their books according to what their vision is.
There’s been talk of how self-published authors make more than traditional authors. I think there’s some truth to that—but only in specific genres, or as isolated cases in other areas.
If you want money up front and are willing to give over some control (and write a query letter and query agents), traditional publishing might be the way for you to go.
- Traditional publishing, by a small (regional or local) press: The small press has many of the same processes of the big publisher. You have an editor who acquires your book, but the main difference here is that authors can usually pitch/query their books on their own, without the need for a literary agent. You still have to have that pesky query letter though.
Your small publisher will edit your book, make your cover, and publish your book. Many small presses are doing digital-first or digital-only models these days. Some submit to the trade reviewers. But again, the author has little to no say over their cover or their pricing. And most small presses don’t offer advances.
Honestly, at this point in the publishing landscape, I wouldn’t sign with a small press unless I’d done my homework and then done it again. Stories from Month9, Elora’s Cave, Spencer Hill Press, and Samhain (They’ve been having problems since 2014, now they’re shut down, – but are they?) are enough to steer this author to a different path.
- Hybrid authorship: A hybrid author has some traditionally published books and some self-published books. The hybrid author is usually agented (thus the need for a query letter and the query process), but also writes in a genre that s/he thinks will do well enough.
This type of author might be adventurous, wanting to explore different publishing models. A hybrid author is usually a fast writer, being able to produce several novels a year to keep up with the demand of their publisher and their self-publishing schedule. Hybrid authors usually write in more than one genre and may use a pen name to keep those lines clear. Hybrid authors generally want to be paid more than once or twice a year and don’t want to rely on getting the next deal to keep money coming in from their writing.
Hybrid authors like having a measure of control, and being able to write what they want and produce it how they want satisfies that itch.
- Self-publishing: Self-publishers write, edit, produce, cover, release, and market all their own books. There are several pros to this path of publishing: Authors can write what they want, when they want. They can publish as often as they want. They have complete creative control of how the final product looks—on the inside and the outside. They can run ads and control pricing according to their desires.
But with those pros come some cons. Self-publishers are responsible for editing their own work. This usually comes at a cost. There’s developmental edits, line edits, and proofreading, all with their own pricetag. Self-publishers need to procure their own cover art. This can also require a cost if the self-publisher can’t make an attractive cover on their own.
The self-publisher must format and produce their own books, in digital, print, or audio formats. Again, this can become pricey if the author doesn’t want to do this themselves.
The marketing required to get the book into the right hands of the right readers can take a lot of time, a lot of money, and a lot of time and money. J So while the self-publisher retains control, all of that control over the editing, the cover, the production, the price, and the marketing takes time. And that could be time the author could be using to write another book.
If you’re looking into self-publishing, I recommend Susan Kaye Quinn’s Indie Author Survival Guide. She’ll step you through what to do.
Of course, there are other ways to publish. These are just the main ones I chose to highlight today. So think about your writing style, your personality, and your time and monetary means.
Which publishing path is right for you?