Author Kristine Kathryn Rusch had a great article the other day on the Business Rusch blog about her experiences with traditional publishers. At the end of the article, Ms. Rusch provided author Lee Allred's concise guide to the pros and cons of indie publishing. It's plain fantastic. I couldn't find the original post by Mr. Alred. If someone has seen it, please shoot me the link so I can properly credit him:
Advantages with the traditional publishing/agent route
- Up front money (advance)
- Better placement in brick-and-mortar shelves (but Borders is gone and B&N is slashing shelf space)
- Probably better sales volume per title (if better placement above holds up)
- Cachet from being NY published (for now)
- Possible promotional push (don’t hold your breath)
- Commissioned cover art
- Book contract mine fields
- Peon-level royalty rates
- High danger of publishing house bankruptcy
- 15% to agents
- Late/missing/stolen checks
- Odd/offbeat projects/genres not wanted
- They control cover art, deadline, publishing schedule
- Good luck pitching a short fiction anthology of your work
- Time and frustration spent on phone/email with publisher/editor/agent
- No control over in print/out of print (Why is my 2nd book of 6 book series out of print?!?)
- Backlist orphaned
- Estate nightmares (contract, contract, who’s got the contract?)
Advantages with indie publishing
- Higher Royalties per sale, both ebooks and (POD) print.
- Real sales numbers
- No submissions bottleneck
- Mulligans (you can insta-fix typos etc.)
- Total Branding control
- Publishing line “look and feel”
- Back Cover Copy
- Deadline control
- Publishing Schedule control (no more mandatory just one book a year)
- Distribution Channel control
- Genre/subject/story control (want to write 1930s masked avenger pulps? Go for it!)
- Control of in print/out of print (keep all of a series in print!)
- Control of back list (“eternal backlist” — brand new readers can buy your earlier books)
- Estate planning (heirs can simply continue to maintain already uploaded works and collect moneys; no contract sleuthing/battles)
- Learning curve
- No up front advance money; earn as you sell
- Possible expenses (computer, software, artwork, CreateSpace pro fees, etc.)
- Problematic placement in brick-and-mortar stores
- Time spent formatting (less than agent/editor time, though)
- The biggest downside (also the biggest advantage); YOU OWN YOUR CAREER — IN INDIE PUBLISHINGTHERE IS NOBODY ELSE TO BLAME THINGS ON.
With indie publishing, the money, the sales figures,
and the control flows to the writer.
I've never said (and never will) that there are no good traditional publishing contracts out there. However, I do believe that the bar has been raised. Crummy contracts won't cut it anymore. More and more authors are getting wise to the game.
In the past, publishers controlled all paths to the reader. An author did what the publishers said or they didn't get published. Ebooks stormed in and changed everything. Dominance over a single conduit no longer mattered, only quality production did. The publishing houses were re-introduced to the scrum. They now have to compete for the attention of both readers and content providers with tech giants like Amazon.
We're still in the throws of this grand transition. Where the publishing industry will end up is unclear, but cracking the hegemony will be a net plus for the entire industry. There will be growing pains for sure. Some of publishing houses will crumble. Some authors might get buried in the rubble. Amazon is forcing innovation on an industry that has been stagnant for 500 years. Some brittle bones will break, but this change that is coming no matter what the fossilized factions try and do to stop it. We are all going have to adjust to new paradigms. We are all going to have to adapt to new formats and reading devicies. We are all going to have to compete on price and quality. These challenges are going to become the norm. And there is no harm in that, especially for the reader.