Thursday, 4 September 2008

Commercial Publication or Self Publication: which would you choose?

Imagine a world where talent, application and a little bit of luck can get you where you want to go. Where merit is rewarded, creativity is prized, and skilled people wait to help you on your way.

Now imagine a world where no matter how little talent you have or how much effort you put in, your work will be treated just the same as everyone else’s. If you have money, you can participate: if you don’t, you can’t.

The first world is commercial publication; the second world is vanity- and self-publication. Which one sounds the best to you?

14 comments:

emmadarwin said...

I suppose the only exception to the self-publishing rule is for people self-publishing for niche markets they know they can reach. Local walking guides, specialist and enthusiast subjects, local history... With print on demand, a bit of experience, a good copy-editor and the internet (or a local market and a car) it is possible to reach the people who'll buy your book without spending a fortune (well, not in money. Time's a different problem).

But it's quite different for fiction/poetry/memoir, where without a full-on Publicity department it's next to impossible to persuade more than a handful of people that they might like to buy your book. And non-fiction with a more diffused market isn't much better: most enthusiasts over-estimate the interest of the rest of the world in what so interests them.

Lynn Price said...

I can see where a POD situation could be warranted, say a previously out of print book where there is still demand, and the author is doing active promotion. If the author wants a book for friends and family, this can also be a good choice.

But just like vanity, authors have to buy their own books because it's the only way those will sell. They'll never see store shelf space.

And also like vanity (pay to play), the publishers assume very little risk because there are no print runs, promotion, advertising, or, sadly, distribution. Most authors never see big money or large sales.

Lastly, if the books fail to sell, who loses? The author. Vanity presses got their money up front. PODs got their money when the authors bought their own books at inflated prices.

Very few winners in these scenarios.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your helpful comments over at You Write On--hope you continue to give us the benefit of your experience. Nice blog!

Richie D

Jane Smith said...

Emma and Lynn, you're right, of course: there is a place for self-publishing in those niche markets, and it's a great option for the writers whose work falls into those categories. But for fiction, it is usually a disaster.

Richie, thank you for your kind comments. I've held off for a long time from contributing to YWO as I do have several reservations about it: but when I was told that someone there was, apparently, very happy with the representation that the New York Literary Agency was providing, I had to step in and say something. I'd have hoped that the board's administrators or moderators would have said something, but perhaps they're not aware of such scams.

Anonymous said...

It was actually me who discovered that poor soul "repped" by the NYLA -- and the webmaster passed on my words of warning. To little avail it seems, as her last contact made it clear.

I was surprised you had reservations about YWO. What were they?

I've been using YWO for almost a year and I've found it invaluable for improving my work.

Of course, now that you've joined up. . . perhaps I could twist your arm into doing what's termed on the site as a Free Will review of my novel, "¡Shake Off!"?

Richie D

Jane Smith said...

Richie, I didn't think the moderators had answered--sorry. But yes, it did seem that the person was pretty determined to stick with them. They'll cost her money and won't sell her book. It's a shame.

I have to say you're good at this self-promiotion. I'll have a look at your work when I get a spare half-hour (which might or might not be in this century!), but will be honest about what I think about it--so steel yourself, just in case.

Anonymous said...

Steeled and ready--I was a professional copywriter so I lost all shame a long time ago!

Many thanks,

Richie D

jenny2write said...

YouWriteOn is pretty good but it has its limitations, I've found after spending about a year there. First, it only looks at the first few chapters of your work (unless you are mad enough to keep posting subsequent chapters and "story so far". Second, there is an awful lot of samey stuff. I start to realise just a little tiny bit what slush pile readers feel like. Still, I don't know of another site that's as good.

Maybe you could look at my children's books "Wild" and "Magic Down the Drain" too! Sincerely, Jenny

Jane Smith said...

Well, Richie and Jenny, I was going to have a quick look at your work today but can't seem to get onto the boards or look at the work over at YWO. Is there a problem with the site, do you know?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, don't know what it is but I can't access the message boards--happens sometimes when they're updating the site.

But if you still have the time and inclination, my book is also at authonomy:

http://authonomy.com/ViewBook.aspx?bookid=1232

I don't think you need to register to read work.

Richie D

Jane Smith said...

Richie, I've got some work up at Authonomy too. If you can find it. It won't be there for long, though.

Writer Beware put up a good analysis of Authonomy, and similar sites, very recently. It's worth reading. There's a link to it on my front page.

Anonymous said...

Found you! (At least, I hope it's you. . . )

Richie D

Jane Smith said...

Richie, the work I put up at Authonomy is likely to work quite well as a sedative. Be warned.

Anonymous said...

Read it. Loved it. Didn't fall asleep! And many thanks for your kind comments.

Richie D