I keep laughing when writer after writer goes on about how much better traditional publishing is than indie publishing. Now, granted, I am still a traditionally published writer with a couple books under contract, but the myths involved with traditional publishing are just head-shaking to someone like me, an old-timer.
And there is one major area that almost no one talks about when having a discussion about indie publishing vs. traditional publishing. And I was reminded of this area tonight by a writer asking me about a book. So give me a minute and I’ll get to it.
But first, you all know the standard myths. But for fun, let me list the major ones here:
— Traditionally published books are cleaner and better proofed than indie books. Well, no, maybe, sometimes, but not always. It totally depends on the level of proofing an indie publisher has done on his books. It also depends on how bad the proofreader was at the traditional publisher and what level your advance was. These days, as we are through the start-up phase, indie books are often far cleaner than a traditional book.
– Traditionally published books get better promotion. Well, not really, unless your advance is way, way above six figures, and even then you are going to be doing a ton of it yourself. These days a midlist book out of a traditional publisher gets NO promotion. You do it either way.
– You get more respect if you sell your book to a traditional publisher. Well, maybe in your own head, but real readers never care if Bantam or Bongo Books published the book they love. If it looks professional and is clean and easy to read, they will never notice the publisher. This one is only a concern to insecure writers who need professional help. Or authors who care nothing of writing, but only want to be published to brag and sit on panels at conferences or join writer’s organizations. They are not writers, they are authors.
– Traditional publishing is a better way to launch a career. Well, if you have years to wait around while editors and agents and production departments get their fingers out of their noses and actually do something with your book. But most writers starting out would rather have a few readers on their books a little sooner than four or five years. It might only be a few, but that number will grow if you keep writing. If a traditional publisher buys two or three books and your first one bites it, they will drop the other two and you will repay the tiny advance.
–Only “Good” books get traditionally published. That is so darned silly, I have little I can say about it. Some of the major classics were rejected twenty and thirty times, which would never happen today. And some of the clone vampire/magic/sex books that are coming out of traditionally published houses are art I’m sure. Sigh. There are “good” books being published both ways. Whatever “good” is.
–You can only get into bookstores by going to a traditional publisher. Well, maybe a year ago. But that has changed completely. There are indie distributors starting up all over the country that will take indie books directly into all bookstores, including B&N (unless you were really silly and signed an exclusive agreement with some store.) We are firing up a distribution company ourselves that will be up and running this later summer that will take WMG Publishing books and other publishers’ books directly to stores.
–You can only get reviewed with a traditionally published book. Well, that’s a surprise to those of us who know how to get books to reviewers. We have had both Pulphouse books and WMG Publishing books reviewed by all major review sources. It’s called “acting like a publisher” instead of a spoiled writer. If you do a professional book and act like a publisher and send them out the same way as publishers do, reviewers will treat you like a publisher and review your authors’ books.
– You are guaranteed to sell more copies through a traditional publisher. Let me just try not to choke with laughter. Folks, I have sold books to traditional publishers that sold exactly 625 copies at last royalty statement. I have had books go out of print and the publisher still hold them at less than 2,000 copies. Some of those books I got advances beyond thirty grand. Trust me, selling to a traditional publisher doesn’t mean numbers of copies.
And that leads me back around to the reason for this silly post.
The myth that no one mentions.
You write a book, you spend the years and the energy to sell it to a traditional publisher. They pay you part of the advance. You think the book will then come out. Right? Well, not so fast.
That’s right, fair myth believers. Selling a book to a traditional publisher is not a guarantee it will ever see the light of day.
I say I have “published” more than 100 books through traditional publishers in my official bio. My sales numbers of novels are even higher.
At a rough count, going quickly back over records and sadly-functioning memory, I have sold and been paid for, and sometimes written, at least seventeen novels that never got published.
Yes, 17 novels. I said that, I really did. Thirteen of them are fully written, the rest are partially written with outlines. That is not counting novels that didn’t sell but I wrote or partially wrote with outlines. There are a bunch more of those.
That’s right, I’ve written, sold, and been paid for more novels that never saw print than most writers have written in their entire careers.
Guess what? A bunch of those novels are going to be coming out through WMG Publishing this next year. Wow, after decades, all the work didn’t really go to ruin and a long-spent paycheck.
Have I said lately how much I love this new world?
Have fun. I am.