Seven years ago when I began this writing journey my vision of how a book would go from my imagination to a manuscript to the readers’ hands seemed like a pretty well-worn path. The whole author —-> agent —-> publisher direction was the only avenue I understood.

Enter digital books and small presses and publishers who read manuscripts without having them submitted by an agent. Suddenly the publishing world opened up and more authors were jumping up and down over signing their first contract. Many (including Romance Writers of America) were appalled by the lack of advances. They felt authors weren’t making good business decsions or worse yet, that they were treating their writing career as a “hobby”. But the truth is, with a higher royalty rate, authors (including me) were pleased with their contracts.

Then along came a respectable way to self-publish (called indie-publishing by some) and the world exploded for authors. There were authors talking about leaving their jobs to write full time and others talking about making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Not just the NYT and USA bestselling, big name authors, but authors new to the publishing world (EL James anyone?) and exploding onto the scene.

Now, before I go any further, I need to explain that I’m one of those people who wants to have all the information I can gather before making a decision. I received 4 contract offers on the first book I published. I actually went through their author lists and emailed to ask several questions about their publisher. From the author’s responses (or lack thereof) I was able to make an informed decsion and signed a contract that fit me. This blog post is really just me sharing some current information. I would not presume to make any judgments about other author’s choices for publication nor am I trying to steer people away from traditional publishing. I’m just throwing out some food for thought.

As far as traditional publishing, there may not be a better time to have your manuscript read. Recently, I’ve seen several publishers putting out calls for submissions. I suspect it may be due to the fact that slush piles aren’t quite as high with all the authors self-publishing. And if you choose that avenue, just go in with your eyes open. Not all traditional publishers are created equal. Ann Voss Peterson gives a great run down of her Harlequin vs self publishing experience. And Courtney Milan also gives a great accounting of her Harlequin and self-published book royalties and expenses. It’s easy enough to find out information about other publishers by simply asking around.

Maybe the disadvantages of traditional publishing outweigh the advantages for you. And you’re wondering .. Why wouldn’t I self publish? The answers are as individual and varied as authors. I’m not going to go into the pros and cons of traditional vs self-publishing. Kristine Kathryn Rusch has done a great job in THIS POST blogging about the differences between the two publishing options. (It’s really a wonderful post and totally worth reading if you have a manuscript and you’re sitting on the fence trying to decide what you want to do with it.)

So why did I choose to go the self-publishing route? For one, I had books whose rights reverted back to me after their contract expired at my first publisher. I didn’t think they fit at my other publisher and frankly, I didn’t have any solid reason not to try. As it turned out, self-publishing has been the financial boon I hadn’t quite achieved with my publishers. Yes, I’m still submitting and publishing traditionally, but I’m also choosing to spread my business across the self-publishing venue. With my last royalty statement from my publisher it’s become apparent that sales of my Tilling Passions Series has prompted sales of other books. Readers around the world are finding my books and that’s a very cool thing. But mostly it makes me happy because, for the first time in my career, my ledger is running in the black and I’m only 6 months into 2012!

I’m not shy in encouraging authors to give self-publishing a try. I know it made my knees quake before I actually ventured into the waters. But now that I’m there I’ve got to tell you, the swimming is easy and the water is refreshing. Am I saying I won’t pursue a NY contract? I’m not sure. Right now I don’t seem to have the patience to sit and write that novel that would fit the NY market. With everything going on in my life, my muse doesn’t seem to want to settle down. But with all the changes in publishing, I’m willing to stay flexible enough to take my career in the direction that works best for me.

What about you? Are you comfortable where you’re sitting right now? Are you looking to make changes or is status quo working for you? You know me, I’m curious about stuff like that.


21 Responses to Which Way to the Book?

  • As you and I both know, Nina, there are drawbacks to every path. One may be easier to reach, but rugged and thornier, while one may appear smoother, though harder to reach. Having tried both, I long for a third path: the one where I have magical powers to accomplish everything I can dream of while using Hermione’s Time Turner to help me squeeze every last second of productivity out of a day 🙂

    Wouldn’t give up indie right now. The freedom after decades of feeling not-quite-fast/good/clever/hip-enough is headier than any recreational drug.

    • Kelly – Oh, I like that third path, Kelly!! And I have to agree with the indie path. It’s really working for me right now. Here’s wishing you continued success on that path.

  • I’m with Kelly, the magical path sounds good to me. Meanwhile, I plan to stay on course and try to achieve both the indie and traditional publishing. I find neither easy, but it does feel good to have control of what I write!


    • Diane – As everyone keeps saying, there are pros and cons to both paths to publication. It really is finding the one that works best for each individual author’s expectations and goals.

  • I’m jumping on the bandwagon. I agree with both Kelly and Diane. I think that there is a place for all and as authors we need to decide just where to place our work to the best advantage. I would also note that those who are anxious to jump on the “indie-publishing” bandwagon should really understand that the results are not always what you hear from others. There was a sort of comforting wall that is errected with traditional publishers that keeps you from agnonizing over the sales statistics until you receive the royalty check much later.

    • Teagan – So very true. I know how I thought getting an agent guaranteed a huge advance and that publishing a book made you all kinds of money. Yeah, well, I’ve discovered (as many know) that that isn’t the case. The same is true of self-publishing.

      Though I do believe there are certain things an author can do to maximize sales in both venues. There certainly is less obsessing about daily numbers when your book is with a publisher.

  • My, “IMMORTAL RELATIONS” story hit me like a 50,000 ton express train, when I found proof my late father had a tryst while he was a young man, stationed overseas. It just HAD to come out! It was like I was “channeling” the book, I didn’t have time for some stuffy old publisher’s, “It’s never been done like this!” So, it had to be Indie, even at that I had a fight on my hands with CS, they wanted me to use totally inappropriate cover art from a file, so I had an artist friend do the cover, and there were other issues with them as well, which I won’t go into. If your book is a make-over of the same ol’ stuff go through the safe “Publishing House,” they’ll love it. But if you have a totally new take on your topic, creativity, etc. then Indie is where to go IMHO. I’m channeling book #2 of the series, as fast as my fingers can keep up with “the voices in my head!” LOL

    • GD – I think many authors are finding success with books that didn’t “fit” NY. And one of the downsides of self-pubbing is discovering all the headaches publishers have known for awhile. Formatting and uploading is not always easy, but it can be done.

      Best of luck with both of your books.

  • Very thoughtful and helpful post, Nina. For those of us on the brink of making a decision about which way to go, the more information we have, the better.
    After 10 years with a NY publisher, the whole concept of being in control of my own career is heady! I’m on the edge, but teetering toward the Indy side. I’m not a fast writer, so keeping a foot in both camps isn’t a logical decision since I couldn’t do justice to either avenue. But I should be safe from the obsessive checking on numbers, etc, since I don’t even read my reviews. I already know that stuff drives me crazy.

    • Gail – I’m a slow writer as well. (Mostly due to my lack of discipline.) Definitely the authors doing uber well with self-publishing have been able to put out several books only months apart, either because they write fast or they have a backlist they can re-release. Despite that, I’m finding success with my self-published books.

      Best of luck with your decision. Whichever way you go I hope it works out well for you.

  • I’ve been thinking about the self publishing route for later on in my career when I have more time to devote to writing. I haven’t gone entirely traditional since my publisher is eBook only, but I guess not brave enough to venture out on my own yet. I know how annoyed I am when I buy a book only to find numerous editing mistakes and POV head hopping making me think the editing had been little to none. I’ve actually returned several books I couldn’t even read because the editing annoyed me so much, but maybe that was just me. So I think if you have a good editor you can work with or you have experience with knowing how to edit your books then the self publishing route can work out really well. Just my .02. . ..

    • Connie – You aren’t the only reader feeling that way. It is true that the self-pubbed books out there that are full of typos and glaring writing errors really make a bad name for well written, formatted and professionally presented books. I believe readers are becoming savvy about book buying and using the samples offered to make a decision before buying.

      And if your publisher is working for you and you’re happy with your relationship with them then there is no reason to make a change at this point.

  • Thanks Nina for a great blog. You’re right – swimming in the self publishing stream is easier and harder. It’s rare you’re going to be a quick sale and make thousands so I like to view it as a slow and steady swim. Write books, get them up and work on developing your fan base. I think it’s harder for YA Indie authors compared to YA traditional authors but I’m in this for the long haul.

    • Renee – I wish you continued success in your self-publishing. And as everyone says … it can be marathon. Not many writers make it big right out of the starting gate. Of course I have the patience of a kid on Christmas morning so I would like to be one of those jumping up and down screaming about how much money I was making.

      But *sigh* sadly, I’m going the slow and steady path to my millions. 😉

  • You’re wonderful to share your experiences with us. I’m glad you’re in the black. Sounds good. I’m going to venture in shortly, but I hear there is a large learning curve and I have to sit my butt in the chair to learn it. That and stay off FB.



    • Michelle – All the sparkly that is the internet definitely keeps me from being as productive as I should be. And there is a learning curve, but with so many who have gone before you there are also many who will help along the way.

      Come on in … the water is quite lovely.

  • Totally cool, Nina! In the black! I like it!

  • Nina, blogging takes time away from your writing, but you are so good at it!! Great topics, interesting links and always something intelligent to say.
    I’m straddling the fence with some reissues by my publisher and some reissues I am going to put up myself –even my publisher (NAL/Penguin) agrees that it is all still a big experiment at this point! Haven’t decided which route for the new wip yet –I have to finish it first, anyway! Some basic steps are still the same, LOL.

    • Gail – LOL! Yes, regardless of which route you choose to publish, getting to the finished product is definitely always the same.

      And thank you for the compliment on my blog. It is something I definitely enjoy doing and the fact that people are enjoying it makes it even more satisfying.

      Good luck with decisions about your books. Though it’s nice to have options, it can be a confusing place to be as well.

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