Friday, March 29, 2013

Switching Routes

You know I've been long considering taking the traditional route to publishing, aiming to go through a traditional publisher for a variety of reasons. Some of these have to do with distribution, broad fan bases, my preference for hybrid publishing and the difficulty in going self-to-traditional, and the initial investment required for self-publishing.

However, some of the circumstances have recently changed. For one thing, I've been saving up for a professional edit, and with a few more months (let's face it, the problem with being under 30 is the "you're-still-young" salary), and a little shopping around, I think I'll be able to get one.

I also invested $20 to take an online cover design class offered by my chapter of the RWA, and, well, it was a great class. I think I'll be able to make professional-looking covers on my own now with the help of stock photos, which will hopefully bring down the cost (hopefully, assuming I can fall in love with stock photos that aren't enormously expensive!).

Those two costs are the initial investment every self-publisher needs to put in. No excuses: a professional edit and a professional-looking cover design are essential to sales. Marketing often falls on writers anyway, so that's not a cost you wouldn't have to assume anyway; the difference between traditional and self-publishing is maybe the traditional publisher's advance providing the money up front instead of the as-you-go income from self-publishing. But not all publishers offer advances, and advances have lately been diminishing. While the starting capital would be nice, I can sacrifice and cooperate with other writers and stick to using free forms of publicity until I start making sufficient income for reinvestment.

Another factor in the switch is, admittedly, a degraded confidence in the product offered by traditional publishers. I still think traditional publishers offer worthwhile services, but, in the current market (and as my goal is to go to market by the end of the year), I don't want to get caught in the crossfire between, say, Simon & Schuster and Barnes and Noble, or Random House and Penguin's merge, or Amazon and virtually every other publisher and retailer in existence. Self-publishing puts me in neutral territory until the giants stop fighting. Then, hopefully, I'll be well enough established to appeal to traditional publishers for publishing one or two series through them, enough to broaden my audiences and take advantage of their services.

Yeah, it's still tougher to go from self-publishing to traditional publishing. You know what? I'll risk it: after two years of Publishing Industry News posts, I think I know the industry well enough to succeed. I know I'm a career author, and I've made connections to other authors through writing groups, G+, and conferences, so if I get lost I can ask for help. There's tons of resources for self-publishing authors, and now, I know where to look for them.

What will I need when I start looking for a traditional publisher? I'll need either an agent or a lawyer; I'll need sales figures (good ones); I'll need to refresh my query- and synopsis-writing skills. I'll need to know what publisher I want, and why. Which means I'll need a business plan, and up-to-date market research. And I will absolutely need to know what terms I will not accept (like nothing that prevents me from continuing to self-publish, such as certain non-compete clauses). Oh, and the confidence to insist that any contract I sign be on my terms, and beneficial to me.

In any case, that's why I'm now aiming for self-publishing first. I've always believed that every person must choose which path will be most beneficial to her--and in my case, beginning on the self-publishing path will now be more beneficial to me than beginning on the traditional. My situation, in essence, has changed over the past couple of years, and that means my plan must be changed, too.

Has your situation also changed in the past couple of years? How have your life plans changed to accommodate?