Today we’re going to talk about a question we got which is what will I miss out on from traditional publishing if I just self-publish?
(If you prefer audio, you can listen to this episode on the Smarter Artist Podcast)
The answer to that is it varies widely.
As a general rule, the bigger the advance you are given by a traditional publisher, the more promotion you will get.
That’s a little counter-intuitive if you’re looking at it through a certain lens because you might think well, you know, they’re paying me less in an advance so it just makes more sense, there’s more money to spend.
Or conversely, why would I expect my publisher to spend a ton of money on promotion if they paid me some larger than normal advance?
The answer is that because if they pay you a larger advance, then they have a vested interest.
An advance is truly an advance. It does not come out of earnings. It is basically saying here, you get this no matter what.
Then if you earn your advance back, then you will get royalties in addition to the advance.
It is in a publisher’s best interest, if they spent a lot of money on an advance, to promote you in order to get their money back, because otherwise it’s just down the toilet because they don’t make money unless you make money.
The question is what will I miss out in traditional if I just self-publish, and the answer is it varies widely, and an advance predicting a higher than normal level of promotion is one of those variables.
That said, most people do not get a large advance, and most people do not get a lot of promotion.
If your name is James Patterson or Stephen King or one of the other big names, then yes, traditional publishing can be great for you because they have a huge reach.
They can get your books into all the stores. They can get you ads on the Internet, commercials on TV, and they can afford to get you into every nook and cranny of the world.
However, that’s not true of smaller authors in general.
Just because you have a traditional contract doesn’t mean your book is going to be promoted any better than you could do it yourself, that’s even if you don’t try very hard.
You’ll do better on your own in many cases for people who are smaller traditional publishing authors.
If you’re self-published, you do have to do more of the work yourself.
You need to find your cover designer. You need to figure out your marketing funnels and all the other stuff.
You don’t have to do that with traditional.
But again, I would say that’s a double edged sword because sometimes traditional does it terribly.
Sean and Dave have some traditionally published books and they have no control over the marketing because they “don’t have to do it themselves”, and the publisher has done a really bad job of promoting.
Yes, they don’t have to do it, but they also don’t get any results. So you do miss out on that.
There is definitely still an additional sort of ego cachet that comes with being traditionally published.
Because occasionally self-published authors will tell people that they’re published and oh, with who, with who, with Random House, with Penguin, and they’ll say oh, well, it’s self-published and their friend goes oh.
That basically means oh, well, you know, just because you’re self-published, that isn’t really being published.
There is some ego stuff that will be missed out, but personally that’s not something that bothers me. I take a lot of pride in that my success is my success. I have control over that. That’s a willing trade-off for me.
Especially since it’s just a warm fuzzy and doesn’t mean anything. Just in the minds of some people it means something.
You are missing out on guaranteed pay day.
If you get an advance for traditional publishing you’ll know what it is and you’ll be able to say yes or no and that’s yours guaranteed.
That doesn’t really exist in indie but those advances are usually small.
As far as getting into bookstores, that is not for sure thing at all.
You may have one copy sent to Barnes and Noble and if it doesn’t sell, then they’re not going to offer any more.
A successful print run predicts a successful print run to go, and if the few books that are sent out of your book are probably going to be displayed spine out, in an anonymous shelf.
They’re not going to be in the front of the store on the front display table; those are purchased positions and those go to the authors who are receiving large advances and hence have large budgets and promotion budgets.
You might make it into those stores, but there’s no guarantee that you’re going to stay in those stores or that anybody will buy them.