This post, by Moonrat, originally appeared on Editorial Ass on 8/4/10. Though it’s over a year old, it’s still pretty on-point.
The other day, I received a sad email from a reader who has decided to go the route of self-publishing. This person wanted to know why I–and others in New York publishing–had so little respect for people who chose to self-publish.
When I got this note, I realized we had some clearing up to do. I haven’t talked about self-publishing much here lately, so perhaps that is the origin of the confusion, but I personally have nothing against people who self-publish, nor against the self-pub industry. In fact–if you can keep a secret–I freelanced for a large self-pub company for a long time, helping authors polish their books, etc. I know a lot about who chooses to self-publish, why, and what advantages and disadvantages they have. I also know the huge amount of work they undertake. But certainly I respect their choice, and respect the people who make that choice.
But publication is a choice–if you’re in the throes of the submission process, this is sometimes hard to remember, but do remember you always, always have a choice whether or not you publish. You also have a choice how you’re going to publish, and what kind of publication to pursue.
So I’ve compiled this list of the pros and cons of each of several publishing options (and trust me, each has pros AND cons). I have worked, as you now know, at big companies, small companies, and self-pub companies, and thusly declare myself a creature without bias (or pretty darn close). Of course, every publication experience is different. These are just generalizations culled from the best and the worst of my observations.
I have, rather snobbishly, lined up these options in the order of what (mostly) everyone starts out hoping for, then what they hope to settle for, etc. But I hope this pro/con list illuminates that all such distinctions are relative.
BIG HOUSE PUBLICATION
*Huge, powerful sales force. I put this first because it’s perhaps the most important quality of a big house, whether consumers realize it or not. The reason most bestsellers come from big houses is because big houses have the most comprehensive and powerful sales teams, which have the best marketing sponsorship and thereby the biggest laydowns (first printings) and sell-ins (stocking numbers in national chains). So by default, they also have the best track records for numbers of copies sold–book buyers tend to buy what they see in stores. So chicken-egg-chicken etc. If you want your book to be a bestseller, your best bet is the big house route.
*Money, money, money. The big houses are giant corporate cash cows, often with private company or bajillionaire overlords (::cough Rupert Murdoch cough cough::). This means a lot of things:
*The possibility of a substantial advance (although these aren’t universal, so don’t get your hopes too far up).
*More personnel, so more people working on publicity, marketing, production, etc, with all the benefits that come from crack specialist teams.
*These personnel are usually paid more than their indie counterparts, which means (in theory) they may be the top of their game.
*Bigger possibilities for publicity and marketing budgets.