Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Great Publishing Debate Take 2: Other things you should know

Yes... a second post about Self Publishing vs. Traditional publishing.  I felt like there were some things touched on in the comments section of my last post that definitely should have been in the first post.  So I decided to talk about them here.

The first point brought up was the difference between a Print on Demand service (POD) and "self-publishing".  Yes, there is a difference.  Print on Demand services like Lulu and Createspace, are services where you can go online, upload your book and book cover yourself, press a button and POW!  Your book is ready for distribution.  It sounds easy -- and maybe it is at first... I mean, it doesn't take much time and you are in total control -- but it's the marketing that gets difficult.  This is the kind of publishing I was actually reffering to when I mentioned Self Publishing in my first post.

However, this isn't all there is when referring to self publishing.  There's also Vanity Presses and Subsidy Presses.  I'm sure many of you have at least heard of such companies.  Here's a definition pulled from the SFWA website.  And if you would like to read the entire article (which is highly recommended) you can go here:

  • A commercial publisher purchases the right to publish a manuscript (usually together with other rights, known as subsidiary rights), and pays the author a royalty on sales. Most also pay an advance on royalties. Commercial publishers are highly selective, publishing only a tiny percentage of manuscripts submitted. They handle every aspect of editing, publication, distribution, and marketing. There are no costs to the author.
  • A vanity publisher prints and binds a book at the author’s sole expense. Costs include the publisher’s profit and overhead, so vanity publishing is usually a good deal more expensive than self-publishing. All rights and completed books are the property of the author, and the author retains all proceeds from sales. Vanity publishers may exclude objectionable content such as pornography, but otherwise do not screen for quality.
  • A subsidy publisher also takes payment from the author to print and bind a book, but contributes a portion of the cost and/or provides adjunct services such as editing, distribution, warehousing, and marketing. Theoretically, subsidy publishers are selective. A subsidy publisher claims at least some rights, though the claim may be limited and non-exclusive. The completed books are the property of the publisher, which owns the ISBN, and remain in the publisher’s possession until sold. Income to the writer comes in the form of a royalty.
  • Self-publishing, like vanity publishing, requires the author to bear the entire cost of publication, and also to handle all marketing, distribution, storage, etc. However, rather than paying for a pre-set package of services, the author puts those services together himself. Because every aspect of the process can be out to bid, self-publishing can be much more cost effective than vanity publishing; it can also result in a higher-quality product. All rights, the ISBN, and completed books are owned by the author, who keeps all proceeds from sales.

So there you go.  And then of course, you also have POD publishing through something like Lulu or Createspace.  Technically, both of these websites are part of self publishing businesses, since an author can purchase certain services to aid them with their endeavorers.  However, both of these companies also offer a way to get a book bound, printed, and marketable totally free... with the understanding that the author is solely in charge of selling their books and will not receive further aid from the company without buying it.

The second point that was touched upon in the comments that I would like to talk about, is the fact that just because a book is "published" (through a POD or self publishing company), that doesn't mean it is marketable.  

What I mean by that is simply this: there are certainly benefits to becoming traditionally published.

1) not all authors are, in fact, visual effects artists: I know many people who can write like nobody's business, but who couldn't draw or paint to save their lives.  And some of these people can't tell good art from the bad stuff.  

Why would this be important?  For cover art purposes, of course!  Half the time it's the cover that actually sells the book.  If you don't have a good cover, it's likely you won't sell nearly as many books.

With a traditional publisher, this isn't so much of an issue.  The publisher hires artists and graphic designers who base their life around artwork and doing it well: basically, a professional full-time artist doesn't make money if he's not good at what he does. (And I ought to know, because that's what my dad is).  So, with a traditional publisher, it's likely you'll get good cover art, thus making your chances of selling well much higher.

2) Editing.  That's right, editing.

Galadriel pointed out something very important: Self publishing IS NOT a way to get around editing.  In fact, Self Published authors have to be even MORE aware of typos and misprints than the traditionally published author, and they have to be more concerned.  Why?  Because their book will reflect on their name... there will be no big publisher to hide behind.  Self Published authors will definitely want to look into editors, and have their books read over several times by critique partners and beta readers to try and catch all the flaws.

With traditional publishing, this isn't such an extremely huge deal.  Don't get me wrong here!  Editing is EXTREMELY important with traditional publishing too.  And a writer who is going for traditional publishing must strive to get their book as good as they can make it by themselves and with outside help in order to be confident when approaching a publisher or an agent.  But it's commonly known that writers are human, and humans make mistakes.  And, before manuscripts are actually bound, printed, and stamped with that big, glamorous publisher's name, they are chuck-full of typos and other mistakes.  

I look at SOTD here: reading through it the other day, I found a whole mess of typos that must of slipped through during a late night editing session.  And the book's already under submission!  

However, with traditional publishing your book is more likely to go through several rounds of possessional edits... without the cost coming out of your own pocket.  So that's bonus!

The last thing touched upon in the comments was e-books vs. paper books...

Eh, I'm not even going to mess with this subject.  There are so many different views!  I know many people who enjoy reading physical books as well as e-books, but who think that paper-bound books are superior. I know people who read the same way, only they prefer e-books.  And I know people who will only read e-books, and those who will only read paper books.

I personally don't own an e-reader, so from my point of view, paper books are better... namely because I don't like reading whole books on a computer screen.  It hurts my eyes and my brain, and I usually end up falling asleep (because my computer writing sessions are usually late at night, and for some reason the soft blue light of the screen makes me even more tired if my fingers aren't constantly moving.)  If I'm reading a physical book, my mind stays more engaged... can't really explain why.

However, the other day I was allowed to play with my sister's boyfriend's e-reader which he got for Christmas.  Now, I believe I could get used to that. :D  It really did feel much the same as reading paper, and it was more compact and lighter than many of the books I own.  There are troubles I can foresee with electronic devises, especially ones linked to any kind of network, whether the network is for books or not... but I won't go into those now.

And so ends TAKE 2.  Fell free to let me know what you are thinking on these matters in the comments.  And as some of you may have noticed, I have added a "reactions" tab to the bottom of each post.  If you want, click on one of those buttons to let me know that you read it and your  over-all take on this post.




Galadriel said...

I really enjoyed this follow-up post.

Jake said...

Heh. Again...interesting views. I like e-books and paper books and prefer--when reading really GOOD books--to read paper. However...the entire strains-your-eyes thing with Kindle has been addressed. >_> They use this e-Ink thing that renders the screen to look like paper...booklight and all. ;) So ye have no further strain to your eyes if ye were reading a Kindle.

Star-Dreamer said...

Galadriel: glad you liked it. :D

Jake: heh, I know. :) I decided that I really wanted to get myself a kindle after messing with my friend's kindle the other day. Like I said in the post, I could get used to that. :D I just don't have an e-reader yet. I'm not saying they're are totally bad or anything -- and now that I've got to mess with one, I'm excited to figure out where e-readers might be able to take me in the future -- but like you mentioned, I still like reading paper books, especially when it's a really GOOD book. and there's something more physical and personal about owning a paper book as well.


whoever said...

I have a color nook and it is good to read on. Yes, I regret giving up on paperbacks, etc., but I've got so MANY books now, I am running out of space. BTW, Nichole, you ever gonna read that manuscript I gave you a copy of?

Star-Dreamer said...

Ok... I might have already read it, but I can't say for sure because I'm not sure who you are, whoever... Can you tell me a name or an alias or something? That will help me remember. And it will help me remember which manuscript you are talking about too. :)

Star-Dreamer said...

Oh... You know what? I think I just remembered. :D But just in case, give me a name so I know for sure. And if I'm right, then the answer is "yes". Of course I'm gonna read it! If you are who I think you are, then you know I've read some of it already. I just have to find time to sit down and read the rest... School and all.

Thanks for droppin' by! :D

Anonymous said...

What is the difference between a critique partner and a beta reader?

Seriously, I ask because I don't know.

In my humble opinion, self publishing in ebook format is the way to go if a writer doesn't get any interest from traditional pub lishers.

In ebook format, you aren't stuck with a garage full of unsold paperbacks. :(

I bought a paperback for a dollar once from the back of a trailer, the kind of box trailer pulled by an eighteen wheeler truck. They had the trailer parked in a parking lot. I was curious when I saw the trailer full of books and came closer and found out that they were all the same book. No other customers were around, I think I was their only customer all day. :(

Star-Dreamer said...

Anon: A Beta reader is usually the first person to have read anything that you write... or, at least the first person that you trust with your entire manuscript. You can have more than one Beta, of course, but I only have one at the moment. :)

A critique partner is there to look through your writing and catch flaws. Sometimes your beta reader is also your critique partner, and you read through each other's writing and catch each other's flaws. Sometimes your critique partners are part of a group of people... for instance, my critique group is online at the forums at

The biggest difference between my critique partners and my beta reader is that I really can't see myself letting my online critique partners read my full manuscript... at least not on the forums. While I would definitely let my beta reader have a go at the full thing. :D