Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Why you might need to go the traditional publishing route

In a recent post, I wrote about why it used to be necessary for writers to go around cap in hand looking for a publisher and why that paradigm has changed. There’s now absolutely nothing between you and seeing your book in print but you.

But for some reason, independently published books don’t have quite the cachet books from the Big Six have. It’s up to you as an author to decide whether the prestige of having your book published by a “name” is worth the 60% of your royalties. With a traditional publisher you might only get 10% of the book price in royalties, where with Kindle Direct Publishing, for example, you can take 70%. This might seem like a no-brainer until you consider that there are some very real services that publishing companies provide that you will be responsible for on your own if you self-publish. When you self-publish, you are responsible for the editing, the book cover design, the layout, and everything else.

One of biggest criticisms I hear of small-press books is the quality of the editing. This is often a very valid criticism. Many self-published books are full of mistakes. I’ve read a few that are all but unreadable, they were do badly written.

For everyone who doesn’t know the difference between you’re and your, there’s someone like me who can spot an amateur editing job from a block away. And it’s people like me who read.

And something that would-be authors would do well to remember is that the book’s manuscript is only one component. All books, even e-books, have a cover and some degree of interior layout. The cover is the first thing that attracts people to your book. It has to compete with thousands of other books among a dwindling audience, and very few talented writers are also talented artists. There’s a certain elusive difference between a book that’s been professionally designed and an amateur job, and it goes way beyond mechanics like margins and gutters. Take typography, for example. I know the very mention of the word fonts probably makes you go glassy eyed with boredom. This is not a good sign--it means you probably need to leave the typesetting to a professional. if you don’t know the difference between sans serif and serif fonts and the basic design principles for when to use them, you are not ready to self-publish. That goes double if you are still using Comic Sans anywhere in anything intended for public consumption.

The key thing to understand, is that you will pay for an editor, a cover designer, proofreader, and a layout artist, whether it comes out of your pocket or out of your royalties. If you are not willing or able to invest the time and money to find professionals to help you put your book together, you might be better off seeking a traditional publisher.

1 comment:

  1. Lack of editing is a huge issue. One of the biggest bestsellers of the year - Fifty Shades of Grey - never passed by an editor. (And if it did, shame on that editor.)