OK, no, it’s not. Publishing is hard. Really hard. But the 1, 2, 3 thing is true in one sense. You see, there are now three distinct paths to getting your work to readers.
That’s a pretty revolutionary change, though by now we often pass over the
Photo credit: Rob Fillion
(http://www.flickr.com/photos/robfillion)fact of it, unremarked. But until recently, if you weren’t given a contract by a major house or one of a handful of smaller ones, your only publishing option was a vanity press that would take your money and usually your dignity and pride as an author as well.
Many bits and bytes have been devoted to how indie publishing has changed the reading and writing landscape, if not the world. Indie publishing has resurrected the midlist. Expanded the number of authors who are able to make a living off their work. Offered published authors another way to pursue their careers, and emerging writers a way to break in.
The issue has become polarized, which is unfortunate, since it isn’t even an accurate representation of what’s happening. Some authors pursue both indie and traditional publishing at the same time, if, say, they write more books than can be published in a year, or if their books straddle different genres.
But for whatever reason sometimes this is more of a debate than a conversation. There are moderate voices, of course, but also zealotry—the ardor of the convert—on the part of some indie authors. And from traditionally published authors? Well, I hear less. Their voices seem to be quieter, which has allowed myths to be perpetrated (editors don’t edit anymore) and arguable predictions to be put forth as fait accompli (traditional publishing is on its way out).
I don’t have an answer for why the discussion breaks down in this way, beyond noting the similarity to other, hotter conflicts, political and religious ones, which also seem to become polarized instead of explored with nuance.
So, in the interest of promoting nuance, I would like to list the pros and cons of each of the three main paths.
1. Traditional publishing with a major house or established independent (e.g., Algonquin)
· Pros: Up-front money; a whole team working to make your book the best it can be; close, personal relationships with team are possible; anywhere from a lot to some support with marketing; broad distribution; review attention from mainstream media; strong print presence; potential for sales to foreign publishers and other subsidiary rights
· Cons: Takes a long time to find a publisher, if one is ever found; long delay between acquisition and release; need to make a big splash right away or possibility of future deals is diminished; desire to brand the author or have author publish in one niche
2. Traditional publishing with a smaller independent or niche press (e.g., Oak Tree, Echelon, Entangled, Wild Rose, Belle Bridge)
· Pros: Close, personal relationships with editor and publisher; press might be focused on and expert in a smaller slice of the fiction market corresponding to author’s work; less pressure to take off right away
· Cons: Usually no upfront money; bookstore presence and review attention can be harder to come by; risk of newer presses dissolving
3. Indie- or self-publishing
· Pros: Control over entire process; independence from constraints of publishers; potential to proceed very quickly
· Cons: Control over entire process; independence from constraints of publishers; potential to proceed very quickly
OK, that last is a little tongue-in-cheek, but it does seem that the advantages of indie publishing are its potential disadvantages as well. The wise indie author is able to turn them to his or her benefit and suffer none of the drawbacks.
In the above list, there’s a lot of room for nuance, no? There is much in the way of information and issues to consider if you choose to do so. What’s important is to open up a conversation. Because if someone tells you only one path is right, they’re probably wrong.
There’s just the one that’s right for you.
All my best in finding it.
Jenny Milchman is a suspense writer from New Jersey whose debut novel, Cover of Snow, will be published in January by Ballantine.