First of all, let me say I am so humbled by the amazing response I've received over the weekend. All Fall Down has only been available on Kindle since Friday and I've had so many people tweet and Facebook about it. Thank you all for helping me spread the word.
Over the last month or two I've been involved in discussions with other authors about traditional publishing vs. self-publishing. Since I'm an author with six traditionally published books and two self-published, I feel like I've seen both sides of the fence. People ask me which one I liked better---traditional or self, and I find that question hard to answer because there are good (and not-so-good) to both. To me, it's sort of like asking which parenting style you like best. There's no perfect way to be a parent and as such, there's no parenting style that will work for each child. Just like there is no perfect way to publish a book, there is no perfect publishing style that will work for everyone.
There is an interesting article in the Huffington Post this morning about whether traditional publishing is becoming the new vanity press---just a way for authors to validate their worth as an author. (You can read the article here) I agree with the article in that new avenues are opening up to authors. The advent of the e-reader has enlarged the book market by leaps and bound. (It's funny, I consider myself a fairly prolific reader, but when I got my Kindle, I noticed I read a lot more books because it was so convenient. I was carrying around a library in my purse and if I finished one book during carpool, I could start another one right away.) But this new avenue of e-readers has also brought a set of unique problems as well. Pricing becomes an issue and brick and mortar bookstores are taking large hits. Authors seems to be caught in the middle of it all, no matter which avenue they choose for publication.
The one common thing for both self-published authors and traditionally published authors is that you have to have a quality product to start with. I have heard authors complain that they uploaded their dusty manuscript to Kindle and were surprised they hardly got any sales. When I went to their Amazon page and downloaded a sample, I could see why. The cover looked like my fourth-grader did it and there were at least eighteen grammar and spelling errors in the first two pages. People don't want to pay for something that looks like a first draft. It seems obvious to me that self-published authors wear a lot of hats---they do cover design (or hopefully hire it out), editing (content and line), and are the marketing team for the book when it's out. Yet some authors don't want to do that work, they just want to collect a paycheck and seem stunned when it doesn't happen. Which brings me to the reason why I still like traditional publishers.
No matter what anyone says, traditional publishers have their place. When I was an editor at a traditional publishing house I saw the slush pile grow by the hundreds each week and as we went through, it was easy to tell which authors had done the work and honed their craft, and which authors needed polish and guidance. While it's true, that good authors don't make it through the slush pile because of budget restraints, I think a large percentage of rejections were just that---rejections of manuscripts that needed a lot of work, but there were the few which were more like veiled pleas to the author that has talent to go back and try again because the elements were there. Traditional publishers can still be a gatekeeper of sorts when we are spending hard-earned money and want a quality product.
Not to say that self-publishing doesn't have wonderful writers and great gems to read. There are, and I know because I've read them. But sometimes it can be hard to wade through the mounds of not-so-great self-published books to get to the good stuff. It can feel like an online slush pile at times. However, when you do find the good stuff, it is worth the effort. I always try to pass along the ones I find as well, to save others the trouble.
Traditional publishing has great things about it. I loved having a marketing person to get me on TV and set up book tours and signings. When I self-published I was the one calling my contacts to get me on the radio and into bookstores for signings. I had to set up my own book tours and while it wasn't hard, it was time-consuming. If you are thinking of self-publishing, be prepared for that. Traditional publishing made it easy for people to find me because there were large book displays of my book and store employees had read it and promoted it. With self-publishing, I've been lucky to get into some of the same stores that loved my traditionally published stuff. With traditional publishing, I had content editors, line editors, and typesetting people to make me look good. With self-publishing I've had to get that all done myself by hiring it out or climbing a steep learning curve. It's been an eye-opener for me, and I've learned a lot.
There are some great things about self-publishing, too. I don't have to wait two or three years for my book to be released---I can release it when it's ready. With my terrorism subject matter, time is an issue because it's relevant to what we face in our world, so I love that aspect. With self-publishing, I also get to choose my titles and keep them. I love that because I usually get attached to the title while I'm working on it. I love being able to have say in my covers and what they look like. I also love owning all my rights and retaining a majority of my royalties. But is self-publishing hard work? You bet. For me, though, the returns have been worth it.
So to sum up, I am glad to have choices. I have enjoyed my traditional publishing experience and I have enjoyed my self-publishing experience. To me, the more avenues there are for getting books out there, the better, because, as I said at the beginning, there is no one perfect way to publish. However, there seems to be paths opening up now to help every writer find what works for them. And as someone who's done it both ways now, that makes me grateful.
Where do you stand? Do you read self-published books? Does that matter to you as a reader in the end? As a writer, does a traditional publisher validate you as an author? Would you consider self-publishing?