The path to publishing that’s right for you should be a personal decision and not one made lightly or without a good bit of research. After all, you’ve put an unaccountable number of hours into writing that book, and let's not forget the hours spent studying, practicing and honing the art of writing. So, if you haven’t already begun studying up on everything else that goes with it, now’s the time. And as to your path to publishing, I suggest you start researching, if you haven't already, so you can make an informed decision as to which route is best for you.
Now, I’m no expert when it comes to the ins and outs of the publishing world, and I certainly don’t claim to be. My goal with this article is to give you a head start on that research, and I’m going to start by breaking down the pros and cons of both Traditional Publishing and Independent Publishing as best I can.
You can aspire to land a contract with one of the almighty “Big 5 Traditional” publishers or one of the smaller yet still prestigious and reputable publishing houses out there, (of which there are many) also considered to be traditional publishers.
You can choose to take the independent publishing route. Both those choices have advantages and disadvantages, and each comes with its own set of challenges and rewards.
Neither of those choices should be considered beneath the other, nor should any be thought of as settling. Each should be seriously considered, mulled over, and thoroughly researched before you decide which is right for you.
Now, of the Big-5, each has a vast number of imprints. For example, Penguin Random House has over 200, and Harper Collins over 120. However, very few of these imprints will accept unsolicited submittals, meaning submittals that do not come directly through a literary agent. This leaves you, the author, with a relatively tiny window of opportunity to garner a contract with a Big-5 publisher unless you can first secure a literary agent to represent you.
Of the smaller publishing houses, this still applies to the vast majority. However, a select few will accept both solicited and unsolicited works, which means you have a slightly bigger window of opportunity with those publishers as you can skip securing a literary agent if you choose to. And here’s where I want to caution you: BEWARE OF VANITY PRESSES!
A vanity press is basically a scam disguised as a publishing house because you pay them instead of them paying you. You pay them to do for you what you could have either done yourself or sub-contracted others to do for you and most likely for a substantially lower fee.
In exchange, what you get is the ability to say you were published through So-And-So Publishing House, so your vanity is appeased (that's where they get their name) and you can then proudly display their publishing house logo on your book. But let’s not forget that by going through a vanity press, you’ve also likely given up some royalties and much more for this minimal, and I must say inconsequential benefit.
So, if you are ever wondering if that publisher who just offered you a contract is a vanity press, the answer is right in front of you. Are they asking you for money for editing, art, a book cover, print copies, or anything at all? If so, there’s your answer.
What I’m saying here is if you’re thinking of even considering one of the vanity presses, be sure you understand what you’re getting for your money, and more importantly, what you are giving up.
Another thing to consider before going this route is that many authors today are creating their own publishing house with logo and all. And if they can do it, so can you. So if it’s solely your vanity that has you looking at one of the many vanity presses out there, you might want to reconsider.
Okay, so now that we have that out of the way, let’s start by discussing the pros and cons of choosing traditional publishing.
The most notable pro is, of course, the prestige. The visibility and reach that traditional publishers can provide may also help authors develop their careers quicker. Some perks of a traditional writing career include the opportunity to win world-renowned book awards, obtain starred reviews, and appear on many bestseller lists.
And speaking of visibility, there’s marketing. In today’s publishing world, it’s rare (although no longer impossible) for indie authors to see their books shelved in chain brick-and-mortar bookstores or to negotiate international book deals. And while all authors must play an active role in marketing their books, those who publish traditionally may (but not always) have the benefit of working with their publisher’s marketing department to expand their book’s reach. And the better their book sells, the more ongoing marketing support they’ll receive.
Another pro is having a literary agent as part of your team to sell you and your book for you. Your literary agent assists you in getting your book into marketable condition, then does all of the leg work by soliciting your book to those many publishing houses. Your agent will also assist you in negotiating your contract and making sure you get paid. For all of this work, a literary agent typically gets a 15% commission on all of your profits.