I’ve written many times about why I decided to self-publish and the pros and cons of going down this route, often by comparing a positive of indie publishing compared to a negative of going through a publisher. Because of this, I may occasionally come across as being against anyone trying to gain a publishing contract. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Publishing isn’t a black and white issue. There is no universal right or wrong. When you are looking to get your book published, all routes should be investigated and only once an author understands the positives and negatives of each option should they decide which route is right for them and their book at that particular time.
Below I’ve listed the benefits of publishing through a publisher. This isn’t meant to be a definitive list and is written from the perspective of somebody who has decided to go the indie route for his current series of books. Also, the level of benefits will clearly differ depending on whether you are being published by one of the Big 6 (or 5) publishers, a specialist publisher or a small publisher. However, compared to indie publishing there are plenty of benefits to publishing through a traditional publisher.
No financial risk
When an author signs up with a publisher, it is the publisher who takes on the financial risk of whether their book succeeds or fails, not the author. The publisher takes on the cost to get the manuscript into shape, all physical (and digital) production costs, organises and pays for the promotion of the book, and pays the author an advance. If the book flops, the author isn’t responsible for recouping these costs. Taking on this risk is why the the publisher expects such a large percentage of the profit from each book sale.
Most good publishers pay the author an advance for the rights to publish their book. While these advances may not be as large as they once were, they are still much larger than the advance you get as an indie author – $0.
It’s also important to realise that many books do not pay out their advance. That’s to say, despite having the support of a large organisation behind it, the book doesn’t sell in enough volume for the author’s royalties to exceed the amount of the advance. That doesn’t mean the publisher necessarily looses money on the book, but the author receives more money than they would have done through royalties alone.
Access to professionals
One of the great benefits to going through a publisher is that you have access to a number of professionals. There are developmental editors, to help shape the story, line editors to help smooth prose, and a number of copy editors to pick out those nasty typos and grammatical errors. Then you have book cover designers and book interior designers, there to give your book the best chance of success. To pay for all this support would cost an indie author many thousands of dollars, and many of us have to choose just how much to invest at each stage, but if you have a publishing contract you get it all as part of the price for giving up some of your profit.
There have been many articles written by traditionally published authors bemoaning the declining marketing support from their publisher but even if the marketing budgets are at a lower level than before, an author still gets access to marketing professionals help support their book launch. These professionals develop adverts, create and produce point of sale, send out arc’s to generate reviews and organising book signings. On top of this you have the publisher’s reps who push the author’s book when at bookstores.
Probably the biggest benefit, and one that us indies look on with some jealousy, is that when going through a traditional publisher, an author has access to all distribution options. There have been some indies that have negotiated contracts with distributors or wholesalers, but the majority will tell you that they do well just to get their book in a local store.
Traditional publishers can get your book into the major stores, independent stores and supermarkets (if you are very lucky). This gives the traditionally published author a massive advantage in the area most difficult for an indie author, being seen.
Sense of validation
This point isn’t true for everyone, but some authors feel as if they haven’t ‘made it’ until they win a publishing contract. The fact that publishing professionals have selected their work out of the many thousands of manuscripts they receive each year is a major boost to the author’s self-esteem. I’m sure there is nothing better than having friends and family see your book in their local store.
As I said before, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to publishing, just what suits you at the time, but to say publishers don’t have anything, or even enough, to offer writers is way off the mark.
For those of you who publish through a publisher, what are your thoughts on this? Have I included everything? Am I viewing publishing through a publisher with rose-tinted glasses? Is there anything I’ve missed? For indie authors, what out of the points above is the one thing you wish you had access to? I’d love to hear from you.
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