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Making a Decision

January 10, 2011

I find myself at a crossroads.  Down one road lies traditional publishing.  Down the other lies self publishing.  And I am stuck firmly in the middle, unable to make a decision.

Which road would be better to follow?  This is what I have trouble deciding on.  The publishing world is in such a state of change that perhaps either direction will become irrelevant.  Perhaps there will be some kind of merger between the two, or some other changes that would make one road more palatable than the other.  I can’t foresee such things.

On the one hand, self publishing offers full control.  I can sell online and sell my books through Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Scribbd, mostly at the price I choose, and I retain much more of the profit from each sale.  In terms of just money matters, self publishing makes far more sense (unless you’ve got a terrible book on your hands–but then, if you do, no one would pick it up in traditional publishing anyway, so you could still potentially make money off bad work as well).

On the other, self published authors tend to come with the stigma that they couldn’t hack it with a real publisher and their work is sub par.  And for some, this is likely the truth.  There are many writers out there, and we can’t all be Tolkiens or J. K. Rowlings.  But there are some god writers as well who maybe get overlooked by publishers in favor of someone better.  There will always be someone better–a truth universally acknowledged.  However, the stigma remains that self published writers are hacks who couldn’t make it to a real publisher and there is something inherently flawed in their work.

I truly wish that stigma would go away.  There are some authors whose work is good yet they get overlooked because it’s not “good enough” or it’s the “wrong time” or there’s “no market”, according to the publishers.  In the next few years, I can see the stigma fading into less of an issue as the digital world moves to embrace self published content even more.  E-readers should help facilitate that shift.  At least, this is my hope.

As for traditional publishing, sure it has its own set of problems, but there are advantages.  You have access to people who know the business of publishing an actual book.  (Most) Editors know what they’re talking about, and know the craft of writing.  There is some relinquishment of control, sure, in that the author doesn’t get to decide the title or cover art most of the time, and the editors will ask for changes to be made.  If the changes are such that you strenuously object to them, you have the option of getting out of the contract and returning the advance.  A little extreme, yes, but there is the option if you feel the changes compromise the integrity of your story.   But traditional publishing means your book will end up in actual stores, and receive better promotional materials than self publishing offers.

I’ve been through this argument over and over in my own head.  I have two manuscripts finished and done, though the second one needs more editing before I send it out to anyone.  I am ready for my books to be published. I just can’t decide which direction would be better to take.  I still have faith that I could succeed eventually if I continue to submit to traditional publishers…but at the same time, self publishing has a certain allure to it that I find intriguing.

Has anyone else struggled with this question?  If so, what did you ultimately decide and why?

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