Some prose about the cons of publishing

By on November 17th, 2009
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Publishers are not charities. Publishing is a business. Yes, we all here (and by “we” I mean “me”) are artsy-fartsy artist types who don’t like to dirty our hands with commerce. But even anarchist-primitivists like John Zerzan had to print books, or no one would read them.

If an author writes a book in the woods that never gets published, does anyone hear it scream?

Everyone wants a big-name publisher. Here’s why:

1) Prestige
2) Little work beyond the writing
3) Could lead to a career of subsequent books being published
4) Prestige

What about a mid- to small-size publisher? They do take care of design, printing and distribution. Might be less likely to lead to a career, but it can help. Not as much prestige, but again, you can say, “I’m a published author” over cocktail weenies.

Cons of finding a publisher:

1) #2 above is not completely accurate. Believe it or not, publishers do NOT necessarily do a great job, or even a good job, at promoting your book. You will have to do a lot of your own promoting to get the word out.
2) Your book will disappear if it doesn’t do well quickly. (No reprints because you don’t own the rights—the publisher does.)
3) You may not control quite a few aspects of the design, such as the cover.
4) You may wait a year and a half after the book is picked up for it to be available.
5) Chances are, you won’t make much money. $.50 – $1.50 per book.

The pros of self-publishing:

1) You will make significantly more money ($5 – $10 per book and full cover price when you sell directly).
2) If you find a publisher, you will have to do most of your own marketing anyway.
3) You own all rights and control every detail.
4) You can keep it available via Amazon, your own website, and other venues indefinitely.
5) You can get it out in the world quickly.
6) If it does decently, a publisher might pick you up later.
7) You dance indie, DIY, non-corporate style.

Cons of self-publishing:

1) More effective for non-fiction.
2) You are responsible for every detail.
3) You have to invest money upfront on design, printing, distribution and more.
4) You need to work to get bookstores and libraries to carry it.
5) You have to teach yourself the basics of publishing and promoting books.
6) Still does not get a lot of respect.

Next up: Where I am right now.

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