Pros and Cons
Last week, I discussed an overview of the main types of publishing and warned about looking for services versus a vanity publisher (see here). Today, we focus on traditional publishers. Over the next couple posts, I'll visit small presses and self publishing. Remember, there is no "best" path as it depends on the author's preferences when it comes to money they want/can invest, the control they desire, and their goals for their novels.
This day is dedicated the the traditional path: query an agent, get a contract, then agent gets you a publisher, and your book comes out through mainstream venues.
You'll get a quality product, with a famous name housing your book. Your novel will be on the big store bookshelves, have wide readership, and most distributors will produce (not POD--print on demand). Your publisher will market some for you, and find you professional reviewers. You'll usually have higher sales due to more exposure. Lucky authors get advances (can be a lot of money, but rare). When preparing your book, you'll have access to expert cover designers, experienced formatting folk, and the industries most qualified editors free of charge--they are years of successful experience behind them. In comparison to other routes, you don’t have to do much; you do have a say with edits, and the perk of having full legal protection. These powerhouses pump out lots of novels annually, make all book formats including audio, and costs you nothing. There is higher potential for fame or becoming a bestseller.
You need an agent to negotiate for you, who are difficult to land sometimes (they do not take unsolicited manuscripts), and an agent usually takes 15% of your royalties and a percent of the advance (but nothing until the book is sold to a publisher). The publisher will give you roughly 8-12% in royalties, which means as an author, you make nothing until advance is paid for and then only get that percent thereafter. The price of book is controlled by them as well as promotions. The biggest complaint by some authors is that the mainstream industry caters for sale--not the most artistic, well written, or unique book. Authors have reported their books being altered so much that it no longer felt like theirs. You don’t have to do much (some people like full control, so this is a benefit or drawback depending on the author). Depending on the wording in the contract, an author’s input during edits can be overridden; he/she could be bound to agent and/or publisher, so a lawyer is a good idea before signing. It can take a long time to publish, so prepare for 12-18+ months for query agents through seeing it on the selves.
In short, lowest royalties and control, but the best experts given at no costs and higher sales and exposure; the main path to becoming famous.
My experience with traditional publishers is limited, but with agents I dabbled. The above is through years of research, but I was at the stage where negotiations and contracts were in the works with an agent. Unfortunately, it fell through, and I made the decision to choose a different path: see the inspirational story here. The short of it is I queried about 30 agents, and had 5 full manuscript requests, that resulted in the aforementioned deal falling through after I thought I was so close to "making it." I also had 2 R&Rs (when an agent asks you to revise and resubmit). These R&R's were too much to ask--drastically changing the entire novel's tone, scope, and frankly would make it "vanilla." It was a moment in my life where I could sellout to get a chance at a book deal or stick to my vision. I chose the latter. My book was later picked up by a small press who did not want to change my vision. See this book here.
Small presses--or indie publishers--I'll visit next week. I'll try not to be biased as my experiences with two of them have been fantastic.