Self publishing has grown huge in the last decade, and many new writers choose to follow this pursuit rather than traditional publishing.
Writers know that traditional publishing can be a long, arduous process. Self-publishing is quicker and provides more independence, but it also can be a large burden on the author since the jobs of a traditional publisher and agent fall on the author alone.
So which is better to pursue?
Are the benefits of self-publishing worth the setbacks?
Gaia B. Amman, author of the self-published Italian Saga series, points out that there is a definitive difference between simply self-publishing and being a genuine indie author.
“Being a self-published author is easy,” Amman says, “You print your own book and mostly give it (or try to sell it) to friends and family.
Conversely, indie publishing is hard.You take it upon yourself to produce a professional book able to compete with the publishing industry standards from every standpoint.The amount of work is overwhelming… [and] you might have to take up some upfront costs and risks.”
So are these risks worth it, if a writer truly wants to pursue this indie route?
“If they are unknown, first time authors, I would absolutely recommend indie publishing,” says Amman, “I would also recommend they drop the self-entitled attitude some authors have. If you want to be taken seriously, you have to behave like a professional.”
The amount of work (in indie publishing) is overwhelming… [and] you might have to take up some upfront costs and risks.”
-Gaia B. Amman, author of the Italian Saga series
One of the big misconceptions about self-publishing is that people believe that either 1) they will become instantly popular after publishing their novel or 2) their success or failure is due to mostly luck.
But dedicated indie authors agree that pursuing this route requires a lot of hard work and dedication in every area.
“You have to be ready—like, truly ready to take this project into your hands,” says S. Alex Martin, author of the Recovery series, “Self-publishing is a storm of work from the moment you write the first words.”
So what is the difference between that and traditional publishing? Martin, who has had experience in both, explains.
Self-Publishing is a storm of work from the moment you write the first words.”
-S. Alex Martin, Author of the Recovery series
“Traditional publishing is a waiting game,” says Martin, “It’s full of uncertainty. Hearing back from agents and publishers can literally take several months. If they decline, you move on and wait some more. If they accept, you send the next materials and wait some more. It takes a while to get to the publishing parts.”
So while a self-published author must be proactive from the beginning and pretty much never stop to push their work, going the traditional route is a much slower process.
Self-publishing may have more upfront work involved for the author, but the process is much quicker, and nothing about the process is out of the hands of the original creator.
But then again, there are benefits to traditional publishing, as well.
“The experience, the quality, and the incredible distribution,” says Gaiman, “[This] is very hard to achieve for an indie author.”
Martin also agreed that quality is hard to achieve for indie authors.
“One too many books are sub-par quality because the author either just wrote a draft and threw it up for publication, or they didn’t use the resources available to them to make quality books,” says Martin, “Writing is hard work. Respecting the craft and building reputability is essential.”
As an author who has dabbled in both traditional and self publishing, which does Martin prefer?
“Overall, I just think I prefer the ‘indie’ route because the lenient structure of the story, themes, [and] style of writing fits me a lot better,” says Martin, “I’m more able to tell the story I want to tell, the way I want to tell it.”
Overall, it would seem that the choice between self-publishing and traditional publishing remains solely based on the author’s preference.
Whether traditional publishing–a waiting game in which the book is out of the hands of the author, and choices made which might not suit their styles–or self-publishing–an immediate flurry of work from the beginning to end where the author has complete control over their project–is right for the author simply depends.
No way is right or wrong in comparison to the other.
But Gaiman and Martin both agree that, when pursuing the route of indie publishing, the author needs to be ready to start working and never stop to sell their work.