A few weeks ago, I was talking with my best friend about self-publishing a book vs publishing a book with a publisher. My best friend has never worked with a publisher or tried to publish a book on her own, but she still had a lot of questions about both topics. It dawned on me that I didn't know a fair amount of the answers. I've only ever published with a publisher, so it got me thinking that it would be interesting to find out the answers and to compare self-publishing a book to publishing a book with a publisher.
I compiled a list of questions and asked three publishers, three authors who have published with publishers, and five self-published authors to answer my questions. Everyone was so sweet and responded. It was very interesting to see the different responses that I got.
I put everyone's answers together and ended up creating three blog posts. Today, I'm posting the answers from the authors who have used publishers, tomorrow I will post the answers from the self-published authors, and on Friday, I'll post the answers from the publishers.
Please note that the opinions and statements listed in these posts are solely by the person and not a reflection of me or my blog.
I want to take a moment to say thank you to the lovely Maddie Taylor, the witty Renee Rose, and the fiery Breanna Hayse for answering these questions. Without you three, this blog post never would have happened. Now, let's start.
To begin with, what do you think the biggest difference is between working with a publisher vs. self-publishing a book?
Renee: With a publisher, you have a team behind you, who hopefully brings in more expertise than you have alone. With self-publishing you have complete control and responsibility for the final output.
Breanna: There are multiple differences, besides the obvious (income) and absolute freedom to do what you want (which can work either for you or against you). For me, I need to be able to focus on what I do best- write. Things like cover art, editing, submission, etc distracts me from my work so having a publisher to take care of the administrative issues works well.
What are the pros and cons of publishing a book with a publisher?
Maddie: I am a writer, so I like to write. With a publisher, that’s a pro. I can create then turn my finished product over for polishing.
Renee: The pros of publishing with a publisher are professional book cover design and editing, their marketing and the weight of their name (if they have a strong hold in your niche). The cons are that you share your royalties, don’t have complete control and sometimes need to compromise on things.
Cons- monetary loss, sense of competition with others in the same genre, dates of release.
What is your least favorite part about publishing a book with a publisher?
Maddie: No control over how fast a book gets published. As the song says, the waiting is the hardest part. After submission, you wait to hear a response, then you wait for it to be read, wait for comments. After you make your edits, then you wait for another response, wait for a contract, a cover and a release date. Phew! That’s a lot of waiting. If I self-published, I would be in charge of that process, but when would I write?
Renee: Sometimes the lack of control, or difference of opinion on things is annoying.
Just think Breanna and Maddie, when you two are waiting for your edits on one book, you start writing another story! I'm waiting on a few sequels for a couple of each of your stories! :-)
Self-publishing has a bad reputation for poor quality stories and particularly poor editing. Do you think that there is any truth to that? Do you think that there is any way to fix it?
Maddie: As a reader, I have read some really bad self-published books—technically, I mean, with bad editing and production. On the other hand, I have read some excellent self-published books as well. Since there are a lot of independent authors out there, I think their commitment to a well-polished finished products varies widely.
As an author, I would never dare go it alone. I would end up contracting for many of the functions of a publisher anyway (editing, cover art, formatting) and have to pay for that myself. Again, when would I write?
Renee: I do think authors who self-pub should pay for a professional copyedit and book cover design or they run the risk of looking amateur.
What advice do you have for someone interested in entering the e-publishing world, but wasn't sure which publisher to choose?
Maddie: Word of mouth from other author’s is valuable, but I’m afraid the only way to find out for sure is to test the water’s yourself. Visit their websites and compare, does one have bookstore, another have a newsletter, do they have a presence at conferences or on social media. Things like that, also read some of their books and find out for yourself the quality they are putting out there.
Renee: Look for one who is knowledgeable about your niche. I have published with a company that isn’t, and they priced my books out of the range of what sells in my niche.
Renee that sounds horrible! I couldn't even imagine trying to publish a book with a publisher who didn't know much about my niche.
Do you ever think that some authors in our genre (spanking, age play, medical play, etc) would be better suited to self-publish their work instead of go through a publishing company?
Renee: Um… no I don’t think certain authors are more suited, I think it’s a personal choice for each author and sometimes it may be a personal choice for them from book to book--one book may work better with a certain publisher, and one may be an easy self-pub.
It seems like that a book published through a professional publisher jumps into one or more of Amazon's top 100 list, but a self-published book rarely does. Why do you think that happens?
Maddie: I think professional publishers have ARC programs which help “kick start” at books release and might be the reason it seems like professional books go to the top more quickly. This is an assumption on my part. I’d love to see some statistical comparisons, however.
Renee: There is some conjecture that as part of the Amazon algorithm that determines how often your book gets recommended, the publisher’s average book ranking factors in. I don’t know whether this is true or not, but it does appear to be true. Another explanation for this could be that if a particular publisher has had more “hits” than others, and they always purchase their own books, the new books always get recommended with the older, successful books, and it perpetuates their success.
Breanna I think you might be on to something! I bet that only the Amazon executives know exactly what makes up their algorithm and they just enjoy everyone trying to figure out what goes in to it.
On average, what is the general time frame from submitting the story to finding out it'll be published, to getting the first set of edits to finishing the edits, to getting the book copy read and the contract signed, to having the book up for sale on Amazon?
Maddie: It varies depending on the length of the book and the amount of corrections needed. My experience for an established author is 2-3 months.
Renee: It varies widely. I’ve had a publisher take six months (I wasn’t thrilled) and I’ve had my book up in two weeks. I’ve learned to discuss release date up front so we’re working on the same page.
Word of advice to new authors- be reasonable in the time allowed to edit, but if you are given a date to either review, edit, release- hold the publisher to it. You are not ‘stuck’ there until you sign that contract. Too many good authors have discontinued writing after bad experiences with careless or disinterested publishers. Vanity publishing companies (those who publish because you pay them or produce extensive low quality books of the exact same product) are notorious for this thoughtless behavior, as are ones who treat publishing as a ‘part-time’ business. This is about YOU, the author. This involves (hopefully) a livelihood for you. Please don’t allow yourselves to be a causality- either by extensive and unnecessary delays, or rude and/or inconsiderate treatment. The publishers exist because of you. It’s a tough world- but I’ve learned a valuable lesson. If they (the publisher) doesn’t make you believe that you have value or import to them- then you probably don’t. :(
Gosh Renee, it sounds like you have not had the best luck with some of your publishers! That stinks that you had to go through that long period of waiting for your book to come out! But, I bet that the wait was worth it because your books are always so amazing! :-)
Maddie and Breanna, both of your books are amazing too! ;-)
Would you ever consider self-publishing?
Maddie: I have and it seems like a lot of work. Again, when would I write? Do you see a theme here?
Renee: Absolutely. I take each book as it comes, deciding which publisher I think would work best for that book, and going from there.
Self-published authors get to keep the majority of the profits that their stories make. Does it ever bother you that we have to split our profits with our publishers?
Maddie: I don’t mind if I get my money’s worth. Good editing and stunning covers are invaluable.
Renee: No, I think a team effort should share the rewards.
I think I am most bothered when I feel like I am taken for granted. Let’s face it, I’ve put out a lot of books and they have all been successful. But I had one experience that truly soured me- and that was when I was told that the company I was with at the time would not market me out of fear of making the ‘other authors jealous’. To know that my profits were going into that pocket bothered me immensely because it was an issue of integrity. I expect a publisher to market me- it is in the contract that they will do so and is one primary reason that I use a publisher. That is also why they receive half my profits- even if I am no longer with them. That experience taught me a lesson in self-reliance, needless to say.
Renee, I think that you're so right. Publishing a book is a HUGE team effort! The publishers do a lot for our stories too from creating an appealing cover, to editing, to marketing the book. I think they put in almost if not the same amount of work as we do in to our stories.
One of the benefits of having a publisher is that they can help us market our books to readers. Do you think that authors who self-publish their stories lose readers because they don't have access to some of the marketing outlets that a published author does through their publisher? Is there anything more that you would like your publisher to do to help you market your books? Yes or no and why?
Maddie: I see authors working social media big time and that helps tremendously, FB posts, blog hops, release parties, and tweets all connect us with our readers and that is so important. We have to do a lot of promoting ourselves. A newsletter is beneficial on the publisher’s behalf to reach out to many more potential readers than the author may not have access to.
Renee: Some authors who self-pub may not have built up their own fan base yet. I guess I would suggest starting with a publisher and then moving to self-publishing for that reason.
I think we always want our publishers to do more to market our books. I’ve had publishers get me some really great opportunities, like articles in romance magazines, or paid ads or promotions. I really appreciate this kind of support.
I still pursue outside and self-marketing because the efforts being made on the publishing side are limited- especially when dealing with smaller publishing companies. Extending the reader base, hiring professional publicists and advertisers, purchasing ‘headliners’ on kindle pages for authors who have made the highest sales in their publishing history, and being more selective of the types of books being accepted and distributed are just a few things that could be entertained. The market is saturated now because anyone can publish anything, and it has hurt those who have worked their way up the ranks and who work hard to represent themselves honestly. That is a huge complaint in the writing community- and many authors believe that more effort and energy needs to be spent on producing quality, not just quantity, and finding ways to distribute quality to resources who are looking for such.
The cost of hard cover books are also extensive- but these are the pieces that are stocked on shelves. People still buy books and I would like to see some effort being made by the publishers to supply authors with printed books to offer for sale at hands-on stores.
Thank you all again so much for taking the time to answer these questions!
Come back tomorrow to hear the self-published authors answers to their questions!
Have a great day!