This post, by Kathryn Rusch, originally appeared on her site on 6/13/12.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the differences between traditional publishing and indie publishing this week. Almost every day, some writer writes to me and asks if they should go traditional or indie on some new project.
Sometimes the writer has just finished his first novel, and wants to know what to do with it—go the traditional route or publish it himself.
Sometimes the writer is a long-time professional who has noticed indie publishing and wants to give it a go.
And sometimes the writer has done a little indie publishing and a lot of traditional publishing, and wants to know which is best for the current project.
Usually I can’t help them. It truly is a personal choice. For the most part, contract terms and confusing royalty statements make long-term earnings in traditional publishing dicey at best. But indie publishing has its own drawbacks, including a bit of financial outlay up front to make certain the book is the best it can be.
(Hire a copy editor, folks. Really. And a line editor. Or two truly anal friends who care nothing about plot and everything about commas and repetition. An editor or super reader would be nice to help you on the plot side. It would be nice if you managed a professional cover and interior design. And as a reader, I’d really like it if you have a print-on-demand version.)
I have no idea what another writer’s circumstances are. I don’t know if she has the time to upload her works on Kindle or if she barely scratches out enough time to write 1,000 words per day. All of those things matter.
But, for a minute, let’s forget the contract terms, the financial realities, the business decisions, and pretend all books are equal.
If we do that, if we get rid of the individual decisions, and look only at the way the two publishing systems work, we can see the differences in very stark terms.
Here’s what you’re choosing between:
Hurry up and wait
Wait and hurry up
The industry has bifurcated. The two parts of book publishing are so drastically different in their approaches that they can barely talk to each other. Mostly, they fail to realize that they don’t even use the same language. As a result, they measure success differently because they measure everything differently. I’ve talked about this before, primarily in a post called “Bestseller Lists and Other Thoughts.”
First, let’s look at what the different attitudes are, and then let’s examine what those attitudes mean for writers.