Trad Pub, Self Pub, and Drinking

After preparing and revising and polishing a novel until one can do no more to make it as perfect and appealing as possible, a writer must choose which “pub” (meaning publishing method) his or her “libation of words”  might be served.

Trad Pub (Traditional Publishing)= well furnished, established clientele, experienced staff, but very exclusive. You can’t just walk in and expect to be welcomed into the club.

After research, you (the writer) send query letters or pitch in hopes of gaining the interest of a literary agent.

And then…

The agent looks at samples of your work for quality. If it suits the agency and looks promising, this person might check to see if you’re anyone important or of celebrity status, if you’ve got a massive platform (social network contacts) to whom you can market your work, etc.

And then…

The agent might offer representation by sending an agency contract. (The agent more often than not does not. After all, he or she is being courted by thousands.)

And then…

You and your newly retained IP lawyer review and  work out the details of said agency contract.

And then…

The agent you’ve now engaged puts you to work making changes they are skilled enough to know will make your work more attractive to a publisher.

And then…

The agent meets with the acquiring editors employed by publishers and pitch your work, along with other people’s stuff, if it fits what that editor has been sent hunting to find…

And then…

If that editor likes the pitch, various samples will be sent back and forth…

And then…

The editor pitches your work to whomever they must answer to. Viability of the possible “product” is discussed.

And then…

A contract may be offered. This will be read through by the agent, and if you’re smart, by your IP lawyer. Amendments will be negotiated. Or not.

And then…

Changes to the manuscript will be suggested, made, and polishing done…

And then…

Somewhere in here an “advance” is sent to the writer. This is self-employed income and will be taxed accordingly (think “high”). 

Proofs are sent for review, covers are designed.

And then…

Press releases scheduled, copies sent to reviewers, release date set.

And then…

And then three to seven years after the initial contract was signed, a book is printed and set upon the shelves. Some signing-events may be scheduled.

And then…

If the book doesn’t make enough to cover the advance which is pretty much a loan against its future, that’s the end of the income for the writer.

I don’t know how the profitability of a book is determined past trying to earn back the initial investment, but I have been told 80% of books lose money. Some break even. And the rest carry the financial load for a publisher.

From the writer’s perspective, it seems that if your first book did not perform well, there is a strong reluctance for the publisher to invest in a second. This is understandable, because I know I would have trouble putting more cash the way of someone who just lost me money. But people are more likely to buy another book if they recognize a writer. 

SELF PUB=Anyone can join up, no representation required, which makes this place seem attractive at first. Belly up to the bar, however, and you’ll find you’re in a very mixed company. People with a grasp of story writing and a huge following stand shoulder-to-shoulder with others who have no grasp of basic sentence structure. The fixtures are new, the market more volatile, and the bulk of expenses are all on you.

So…

The writer purchases editing help (or doesn’t), cover design ( self-done, or by artist),ISBN, and may go through registering the copyright.

And then…

The writer sets up accounts with various electronic-publishing venues.

And then…

The writer hires out or sets up the digital version of the material and uploads it. He or she corrects whatever glitches occur.

And then…

The writer sets a price based on careful research and market analysis, or on what a best friend’s mother-in-law’s brother paid for an electronic book he liked. Announcements for the sales release may be made via social networking.

And also…

A “real” copy of a book may be set up for sales via POD (Print on Demand). This has its own set of design decisions and proofreading.

And then…

The sales are not spectacular. Yes, the writer keeps the lion’s share of the income percentage-wise, but maybe sells in double-digits. Or maybe something catches on and the whole thing goes wild. Prices get adjusted until they meet the market demand. Promotion continues online.

For the hard copy of the book, the writer sends samples to managers or owners or associations of booksellers, telephoning to ask for shelf space, and so forth, following up to keep the item in stock.

And then…

The writer gets back to work on the next release.

WHICH PUB has the advantage? Which is THE BEST?

Those who’ve gained entry into Trad Pub and love it are happy.

Many amid the swelling crowd of Self Pub love it are happy.

Some walk from one Pub to the other. Some are regulars at both Pubs. Bloggers take sides, supporting their choice with mountains of articles and research and personal joys and woes and warnings.

With head already spinning and friends and family (if you’re lucky) cheering for your success, asking “Where is your book, can we see it yet and show all of our friends?”, wondering when to stop revising and wanting to see a few dollars at least from this insane obsession so an overworked spouse and patient supporters can relax a little, is it worth the stress to bang your head against Trad Pub for decades, begging for admittance? Do you risk getting lost in the crowd of Self Pub, trying to out-shout the shouters and draw a readership, worry about trying to master all skills and failing? Prestige in one Pub draws sneers from patrons and owners of the other.

I’ve never been much of a drinker, social, binge, or otherwise. I can sure understand those driven to it in this biz. 

Cheers!

Elizabeth Ellen Everson