I’ve been very fortunate in my career that I’ve got to experience both the traditional publishing model and the self publishing model. In addition to my self-published works I’ve also published books with Dorchester Publishing, Harper Collins, and St. Martin’s Press. And today I wanted to use those experiences to dispel some myths I’ve heard lately from authors about what going the traditional publishing route means – either instead of or in conjunction with self publishing.
Myth #1 – A Traditional Publishing Contract means your books get into more venues
In my humble experience, I find this to be mostly false.
Traditionally published books eternally end up in the same exact venues as self-published books. If you go on Amazon.com or BN.com and look at the Top 100 bestselling ebooks, there is a mix of both traditional and self-published – they’re all lumped in there together, being bought by the same readers. And, while there are fewer self-published POD books on the print bestsellers lists, those print books are available in the same online venues traditional works. POD print can also be ordered by libraries and academic institutions. Just about the only place you can’t get your POD book into (or would have a very difficult time getting it into) would be in physical bookstores and chain stores like BN, Target, Walmart, grocery and drug stores.
HOWEVER… having a book come out with a traditional publisher is no guarantee that your books will end up there either. Of the 10 books I’ve published traditionally, only 2 have ever ended up in grocery stores, drug stores or Target. In fact, stores are cutting their buys significantly lately. So much so that my latest release from Harper Collins (April 2012) did not even make it into Barnes & Nobles stores – it was only available online and in the exact same venues as my self-published POD books.
So, while there is a possibility of getting a traditional book into more venues than a self-published book, it’s not a given, and it’s not even always the norm.
Myth #2 – Traditional Publishing will expose your book to more readers
Again, this has not been my experience. The first 5 books of my High Heels Mysteries series was originally published through traditional channels with Dorchester Publishing from 2006-2009. I sold a modest about of books, enough to keep me mid-list, but not enough that my publisher wanted to continue the series after book 5 came out. I’d guesstimate roughly 15-20K copies of each title sold. Once I self published this series, it hit the New York Times bestseller list and the USA Today bestseller list and, to date, has sold over 850,000 copies. I’ve reached FAR more readers with this series on my own.
There could be the argument that I’ve got a bigger readership now than I did when I first started pushing traditionally, hence more sales now. Which, I might agree with. However…
My first two books with Harper Collins and St. Martin’s Press released just this past year – in October 2011 and March 2012. In between those releases, I had a self-published book release, in November 2011. My first week sales for the self published book showed 2 to 3 times as many sales as my traditional releases. That’s 2 to 3 times as many readers that I reached on my own.
Myth #3 – A Traditional Publisher will market you better than you can on your own
Actually, it doesn’t matter how you publish, marketing is up to you. I’ve had widely varying experiences at different publishers with different books about how marketing has been done. I’ve had books come out where I never even knew the name of my in house publicist, let alone talked to her. And I’ve had some release where there were big marketing meetings with lots of ides thrown out. But, by and large, the marketing always falls on you, the author. If you’re very lucky, your publisher might buy front tale placement at a bookstore. They may set up a blog tour for you. It’s possible, if you’re a big fish, that they’ll even fly you around on a book signing tour. But I’ve never seen any of these things translate into big sales. Not to say that every marketing effort doesn’t count, but most of the time the very same marketing that you’re doing as a self-published authors is the same stuff you’d be doing as a traditionally published author. Your publisher won’t do it for you.
The big difference? As a traditionally published author you will have no idea if your marketing is making an impact. Generally, you will not have sales numbers for you book until at least 6 months after it comes out. So there’s no way to tell if what you’re doing is working or if you’re shouting into the wind.
Myth #4 – The only way to hit a bestseller list is with Traditional Publishing
See my answer for Myth #2. For the life of me, I’ve not been able to hit a list with my traditionally published books.
Myth #5 – There is stability in Traditional Publishing
I could go on and on about this myth, but the short answer is, there is no stability in publishing. Period. I hear a lot of authors that are nervous about the contract with Amazon or BN, because terms like royalty rates can be changed at any time by the companies. There is no guarantee that the wonderful bubble we’re working in now won’t pop at some point. A valid concern, and one I share! But traditional publishing doesn’t afford you much more job security.
My first publishing contracts were with Dorchester publishing. While I had some wonderful experiences there early on, when Dorchester hit financial difficulties, they just stopped paying their authors. We had contracts that said they had to pay us… but they didn’t. We had very little recourse when that happened. We could sue, but we’d have to get in line behind a ton of vendors who were also owed money, much more than we were – meaning we were not likely to ever see the money anyway. Some of us got our rights back (some unlucky ones did not), but we still never saw the money owed to us. Obviously this doesn’t happen everyday in publishing, but it does happen.
And what is even more common is editors leaving, lines closing, authors being dropped, the market changing. Print runs fluctuate, advances go down, and your next contract is never guaranteed. You may have four contract at three different publishers today, but tomorrow you may not be able to sell another book to anyone. Bottom line: if you’re looking for job security, find anther profession.
Having dispelled all these myths… I just want to say that I am NOT against traditional publishing. I think there are sometimes valid reason for going that route. Some authors are more suited to that style of publishing, enjoy that style of publishing, and thrive with it. In certain situations, some books may sell better through traditional routes than self publishing ones. And sometimes, the money can be better going the traditional route. But I hate seeing authors jump into any format of publishing for the WRONG reasons, only to find out later that they based this huge career decision on publishing myths.
Want to try out Gemmas books? The first book in her High Heels series, SPYING IN HIGH HEELS, is now FREE for download on Kindle and Kindle apps!
It’s Your Turn, WG2E-Land: What are your thoughts after reading this TradiPub Myths List?