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Is Traditional Publishing an Increasingly Bad Deal?

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Steerpike, Jul 16, 2014.

  1. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi Myth,

    "The safe and smart thing to do is to start with self publishing."

    I was thinking about this for a while, trying to work out whether I agree with it or not - and I think I don't. I do think self publishing is the better course for newbie authors in general. And it's probably smarter for those who are smarter and willing to do the hard yards. But it's not safer.

    My advice would generally still be to try and go through agents initially as a newbie. And that's not because I don't think that they and publishers aren't going to try and screw you - they likely will. I just think that if you can get a deal it is the best first leg up in the business. (And I say that as an indie.) But my thought is also that you need to set a limit on this. Pick a number - maybe 20, maybe 50, agents and publishers to submit to, and then be hard nosed about what comes back. Set a time period instead if that's easier. Now if you get good feedback from them or even a contract, you're on cloud nine. Then you can worry about contracts and the rest.

    If you don't it's time to go indie. This isn't a statement that indie is second class much as others would like you to believe. It's just a statement that you haven't won the lottery in essence.

    Now going indie, suddenly you have an enormous amount of new stuff to worry about. And this is why I think trade is better if you can get it initially. And to start with, you do need a cover designer. You do need an editor. You can try to get away without them, but the likelihood is that your book will just sink to the bottom of the pile of newly released books and drag you down with it. That's where the "safe" part goes horribly wrong.

    Can a good indie book rescue you, earn you a great trade contract in due course? Yes. But can a poor one kill you? Yes as well. And too many are poor. Especially first attempts. A lot of writers simply do not understand the steep learning curve involved in self publishing. A lot are not willing to put the time and effort into it. Or the cash.

    So my thought is that indie publishing is not necessarily safer or smarter. But for most of us it will be the necessary first step. The only real chance we have. The steps you take after it should all be better. But no matter which road you take, you have to be willing to invest everything in them.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  2. acapes

    acapes Sage

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    Ace, that's what I was thinking you'd have fought for. The non-compete clauses are truly insidious.
     
  3. acapes

    acapes Sage

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    Which is pretty much the statement that ought to be enough for everyone, even the hardline folks who think trad is the ONLY way or that self pub is the ONLY way.

    The only way is the way that suits a particular author at a particular time for a particular project.

    (3 uses of 'particular' excellent)
     
  4. brokethepoint

    brokethepoint Troubadour

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    I think the first thing that needs to be done is to sit down and look at what your goals are for you writing career/hobby.

    We need to realize that big 5, small press and self pub are tools that we use to attain our goal. Each of them have good and bad points, use them to your advantage.

    I am not going to let the tool that I choose identify or define who I am or what my works are. To me it is not about who is publishing or how I publish but what I publish.
     
  5. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    I don't know, I can make the case either way...it's REALLY hard to generalize the "starting path." For myself, I received a MUCH bigger advance and MORE favorable contract clauses because I had more power coming in due to the fact that I didn't HAVE to sign...I was earning well as self-published so I had leverage I wouldn't have had if I had no publishing history.

    Now to argue the "other side" - if you don't know about what it takes to make a professional product - editing, cover design, layout, marketing copy...well then leaving that with a publisher who does that for a living might mean a higher quality work released, and if you come out with something sub-standard it can really tarnish your name.

    I agree with the fact that no matter which way you go "initially" the "steps you take after" will certainly be easier and you'll probably have more options available. Personally, I look at each project as it concludes to determine which is the "right path." Sometimes that is going to be self, others traditional, and in many cases hybrid will be the way to go.
     
  6. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    They certainly can be...and it should be noted that the clause I was initially presented with (which essentially made my "non-compete" period to be the life of copyright) are totally illegal and would be struck down if you took the publisher to court...of course who wants to sign something that they know they'd have to seek litigation to get their rights enforced? I think it is unconscionable to write something into the contract that you know is total bulls***, but do so because most people will never take you to court over it.
     
    acapes likes this.
  7. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    Very well said.
     
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