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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Publishing: Your Options and the Pros and Cons

I don't think I've done a post like this before and it occurred to me that many of my readers and folks out in the blogosphere might like a post that looks into the various options for publishing and whether they are worth it. So, for this post I'm going to put together a short list of the various publishing options and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Here goes:
  • Standard Publishing (Big Press)
    • Pros
      • Bigger print runs.
      • More potential exposure (big presses may or may not put money into advertising your work).
      • Editing services provided.
      • Automatic "respect."
      • Large advance (w/ royalties also earned).
    • Cons
      • Hard to break into this side of the industry. Even good manuscripts get rejected.
      • Run on a profit platform where selling many copies of one book (or many copies of multiple books) is the standard. This means books are bought based on their profitability, with content taking a close second. This doesn't mean crappy books are picked up, it just means that if a book is too niche, big presses are unlikely to take them.
      • Long wait times for submissions. Long wait times for publication. Sometimes weeks, but most of the time months or even over a year.
      • No simultaneous submissions to most big presses. One place at a time.
  • Niche Publishing/Standard Small Publishing (Small Press)
    • Pros
      • Greater attention paid to individual books.
      • Variety; there are an enormous amount of them.
      • Most pay with royalties.
      • Much more receptive to short story collections than big presses.
    • Cons
      • Fewer titles published each year than big presses.
      • Because they are often niche markets, they are limited in what they take.
      • Low advance or no advance.
      • Smaller print runs.
      • Depending on the publisher, there may be low distribution (Amazon and some bookstores, but not necessarily places like Borders).
      • Rare instances of unprofessional behavior and publishers caving due to economic pressure (and I mean rare).
  • Print-on-Demand (POD) Publishing (Small Press)
    • Pros
      • Your title never goes out of print. Books printed as needed.
      • They pay in royalties.
      • Other pros are roughly the same as for standard small presses.
    • Cons
      • Low distribution. Many chain stores will not take these books.
      • Low advance or no advance.
      • Low print runs if any (print runs are made obsolete by POD technology).
      • Can be difficult to tell the difference between legitimate POD presses and ones simply trying to take advantage of you.
      • Other cons roughly the same as for standard small presses.
  • Print-on Demand (POD) Publishing (Self Publishing; Lulu, etc.)
    • Pros
      • Low cost to the author to get a novel printed (sometimes nothing).
      • Titles are printed a needed.
      • Complete creative control, with some exceptions where ISBN #s come into play.
      • Pays in royalties.
    • Cons
      • You have to market your work on your own.
      • Usually costs extra to distribute via major websites such as Amazon.
      • Books usually cost significantly more than those published by small or big presses. Some free POD methods exist (such as via Lulu), but those tend to be limited. Most companies charge a large fee for printing packages.
      • Selling books is, for most, nearly impossible. You have to really have something worth the money.
      • You are stuck in a sea of other people who think they are great writers when, in reality, they aren't. This makes getting people to view your novel difficult at best.
      • Sometimes distribution doesn't work properly. When something goes wrong, you have to take care of it. There is no company to perform those tasks for you.
      • Many POD self-publishing companies intentionally take advantage of writers by promising them things that aren't actually provided, etc. If you get into POD self-publishing, be aware of what you're actually getting.
      • Editing services almost always cost extra. Other professional services (formatting, etc.) almost always cost extra as well. Those companies that claim to provide these services for free are usually lying.
      • POD self-publishing companies can be difficult at best, even when they are good companies.
      • Getting your novel in stores is practically limited to what independent bookstores are willing to take the risk.
      • Self-publishing comes with a stigma that is often justified by the overwhelming amount of garbage printed on a regular basis and thrust on the public.
  • Standard Self-publishing (Note: Many self-publishing houses are switching to a POD format these days)
    • Pros
      • Complete creative control, with some exceptions where ISBN #s come into play.
      • Pays in royalties (technically).
    • Cons
      • Basically all the same as POD self-publishing (minus the bits related directly to POD printing).
      • Many of these companies will intentionally misrepresent what they do and con you out of your money. Know what you are getting into before you cough up the big bucks.
      • Almost always costs an exorbitant amount of money for a publishing package.
      • You have to print the quantity you want. No POD. The cost for the books you print comes out of your pocket.
  • Podcast Novels (Podiobooks, Podnovels, Author-distributed Audiobooks)
    • Pros
      • Free (technically).
      • Complete creative control. You can essentially do whatever you want.
      • An enormous community for support.
      • Audio format makes it easier on the listener/reader as they can take the book wherever they go.
    • Cons
      • Can cost a bit of money to get set up (mics, etc.), but generally getting started is low cost.
      • Limited audience (and sometimes a picky audience). It's hard to break into the field and do well now that podcasting has grown.
      • Has unfortunately been stuck with the stigma surrounding self-publishing, though to a lesser degree.
      • All marketing, etc. is the responsibility of the author.
  • Self-published eBooks (downloadable books in various formats)
    • Pros
      • Basically the same pros as self-published work (creative control, etc.).
      • Can be good marketing tools for blogs, when done properly.
    • Cons
      • Basically the same cons as self-published work.
      • Can be hard to sell since it is an electronic only format; a lot of people still won't read electronic stuff (this is the same with most electronic formats, though).
      • Fiction is especially hard to sell in this format primarily because eBooks have and continue to be the domain of erotica (more so in the non-self-published arena). If you're not writing erotica, this can be a difficult market to get into. Non-fiction is dominated by topics related to marketing, business, and blogging, making subjects outside of these domains difficult to get attention in.
      • Lends itself well to being in both print and electronic formats with companies like Lulu, which is great for marketing yourself to both markets.
  • Online Novels (Blovels, Wovels, Web Novels, Blog Novels, and other names)
    • Pros
      • Basically the same pros as podcasts.
    • Cons
      • Basically the same cons as podcasts.
      • You can run into the problem of failing to grab readers who don't like to read on a computer screen.
Well, there you go. This list is somewhat of a work in progress. If you have a suggestion on what to add, feel free to let me know. Let me know your horror stories, or tell me what flaws or cons I should add or edit!

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  1. Anonymous7:35 AM

    Good article, very thorough & clear. Just want to point out a couple typos in the first paragraph, so people don't get turned away--"I've one a post" & "they're" for "their. I just happened to notice. Thanks for taking the time to put this info together.

  2. Wow, now those were some stupid typos. Thanks for the corrections!

  3. Good points! (hey, it's a blog, a few typos don't bother me at all).
    I'm a first time POD self-publisher. It has had moments of agony, which I journal about (, but overall, it was the best path for me. Being able to repurpose/repackage parts of my book is a huge benefit. I like having total control.

  4. Thanks.

    Agreed, there are a lot of good things about self-publishing, but it's also good to know the cons of every venture...