Democratic Underground Latest Greatest Lobby Journals Search Options Help Login

Traditional publishing vs Self publishing. Can we talk?

Printer-friendly format Printer-friendly format
Printer-friendly format Email this thread to a friend
Printer-friendly format Bookmark this thread
Home » Discuss » DU Groups » Reading & Writing » Writing Group Donate to DU
supernova Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-08-11 02:55 PM
Original message
Traditional publishing vs Self publishing. Can we talk?
Edited on Tue Mar-08-11 02:56 PM by supernova
Can we explore this?

I've been to writers groups around here off and on for several years now, both here in Durham and Raleigh. While the Durham group is a great intimate writing group for practicing and critiquing, the Raleigh group is very large (600+) and functions more as an information session on the business end of writing. The organizer always has agents, editors, and published writers, some very well known, as guests, all the to end of telling you how to get published. Agents tell what turns them from a reader to wanting to represent and book. Editors tell you what makes them want to buy a book from the author (almost always through an agent.) Published authors tell funny stories about book marketing tours.

There have been several sessions lately about self publishing, mostly through sites like, and the +/- of each.

I've gone back and forth on this in my mind. The fact that self publishing was spoken of favorably in the writing group leads me to believe that the bad old days of the "vanity" press are slowly disappearing, to wit "she couldn't get a publishing house to take that turkey, so she's publishing it herself." Sucker.

Here's the thing, with e-books now, there is virtually no cost to the author to publish. There are no printing costs, no space to be paid for by the publishing house on the shelf at B&N. Sure, you can pay for an outside editor (everyone should if they've never worn an editor's hat) and of course cover art. The plus is the writer gets to keep a better percentage of their sales.

My question: Is the traditional path to getting published (author->agent->publisher) still the preferred way to go, or is self-publishing coming into its own?

I want to hear from published as well as unpublished writers here.
Refresh | 0 Recommendations Printer Friendly | Permalink | Reply | Top
DavidDvorkin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-08-11 06:52 PM
Response to Original message
1. I've switched entirely to self-publishing
I've blogged about it a few times and will again some time this week. I think self-pubbed e-books are the future.
Printer Friendly | Permalink | Reply | Top
nadinbrzezinski Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-09-11 03:38 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. I was in the leading edge
and suspect that the history of labor will have to be self done too
Printer Friendly | Permalink | Reply | Top
sybylla Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-09-11 06:08 PM
Response to Original message
3. There are some genre fiction publishers who straddle the line between both
They publish mainly online and have generated a good name for themselves there, while doing a short-run of print for the author to use as marketing/book signing copies, say maybe 500. That means they can be a little more generous in the material they choose to publish. Because the front end costs aren't all that high, they can take more risk in publishing material traditional publishers won't touch.

I'm trying to think of a few names. In romance, seems to me Wild Rose Press and Samhain publish in this manner.

Has anyone had any experience with these kinds of publishing houses?
Printer Friendly | Permalink | Reply | Top
SheilaT Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-22-11 02:39 PM
Response to Original message
4. Speaking as a reader, I have generally found that
self-published books are self-published for a reason. They just aren't very good.

The other problem is that they receive almost no marketing of any kind, so even if they are really good, they're impossible to find. And since I don't read e-books, I regret to tell the authors who only publish that way that I simply won't be reading their books. I know I'm only one reader, but I think the numbers of the e-reading public is vastly overestimated. The vast majority continue to read -- and many I think continue to prefer -- traditional books.
Printer Friendly | Permalink | Reply | Top
Tansy_Gold Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-27-11 03:41 PM
Response to Original message
5. regarding "the traditional path". . . .
Resurrecting an older thread and hoping to breathe some life into it.

Before I walked away from my fiction-writing career 15 or so years ago, I had some success with the "traditional" path to publication -- author > agent (ugh, barf) > publisher -- with established genre fiction paperback houses.

The books are now out of print long enough for the rights to have reverted to me, and I'm considering republishing them in e-format (through Amazon, because frankly it looks the easiest and Kindle appears to be the most popular format).

Here's what I see as some of the important pros and cons, taking into consideration that my books have all been published in DTB ("dead tree book") form first --

PRO --
(see also and )

1. No editorial interference. I dealt with some truly horrible editors who made -- or tried to make -- some truly horrible revisions to my manuscripts. The old adage of "never argue with a person who buys ink by the barrel" is very true: When the editor is in the position of total power and there is no sense of partnership, bad things can happen and often do. And it's always the author's name that's on the front cover.

2. MUCH better royalties. Amazon pays 35% on Kindle editions priced under $2.99; 70% on Kindle editions over $2.99. Standard (?) pb royalty rates are +-8%. On a $6.99 DTB that's 56 cents per copy sold (less reserves against returns); on a $2.99 Kindle ebook, it's $2.10, no reserves. Ebooks pay quicker, too.

3. No loss of sales due to used bookstores. That $6.99 book sold used for $3.50 nets the author NOTHING; the reader can get the $2.99 Kindle version for less than the used copy and the author gets $2.10 in royalties. Amazon nets 90 cents. I still like the distribution on $$ better than with a DTB publisher.

4. Ability to publish what the author wants to write rather than ONLY what the publishers want to publish.

1. Absolute necessity to do publicity. I don't like doing this; it's not my forte. My books have the advantage that they've already been issued in paper; Amazon has covers of them (covers which I technically have no ownership of). If I were to write additional books, I'd have to commission cover art, etc. and do the publicity routine. Given the greater returns on the investment, I think I could afford to do a little.
(PRO, however, is that there are many venues for e-publicity via blogs, discussion boards, etc.)

2. No cash advance, although I've read current sources that suggest publishers are becoming more and more stingy with advances.

3. The book still has to get noticed, and when the e-publishing field is cluttered with junk -- which, by the way, it is, and it's only going to get worse -- it's going to be harder and harder for the cream to rise to the top. #1 CON, therefore, will become more and more essential.

I heartily recommend the two referenced blogs, because they give the opinions of several authors who have had considerable success publishing via the "traditional" path for genre fiction and who are going to epublishing for precisely the reasons I've listed.

And if this thread dies, oh well.

Printer Friendly | Permalink | Reply | Top
SheilaT Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-27-11 05:42 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. Thanks for your input.
Since your books made it through the traditional route I'm guessing there's a high readability factor. As I said above, a lot of the self-published books that I've come across are quite low in readability.

And I hadn't even thought about the problem that the entire e-book field may well become inundated with even more poorly written "books". Oh, dear. My inclination to stay with traditional paper is all the more reinforced.

And even though I do understand that writers lose royalties when I pass a book on to someone else, or when I buy a used one, or when I check one out of the library, right now I'm purchasing very few books at all, and mostly using the library for my books. If my financial situation improves, I'll go back to buying more, but until then I simply can't afford to buy very much.
Printer Friendly | Permalink | Reply | Top
Tansy_Gold Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-27-11 07:00 PM
Response to Reply #6
7. Thanks for the reply, and to address one of your concerns -- $$$
As an author, I always championed used book stores and libraries, even though they "robbed" me of royalties. Along the way, they "robbed" the publishers of even more, and my primary objective was always to have people read. And goodness knows I own enough secondhand books myself!

But I think, to carry this whole scenario out further, there are e-book $$$ advantages to the less affluent readers as well.

When a book is published, the price is fixed. It's printed on the cover or inside the jacket, and that's that. If the cover price is $6.99, it'll go to $3.50 at the used book store, or 25-cents at a yard sale. The author gets nothing; the reader gets a bargain. (Remaindered books generate no income for the author, though the publishers, greedy bastards that they are, get something.)

E-books require a reader, and that's a considerable investment. But I think, as with any electronic toy, the prices will come down. There's already a free Kindle app for the PC -- because Amazon wants to sell e-books. And because the e-publishers want to sell books, they're going to keep lowering the price of the readers. I suspect they're also going to move to a standardization so there's no longer a Kindle for Amazon, a Nook for B&N, etc. (Remember BetaMax?) I also suspect the e-reader devices will eventually incorporate facilities for illustrations instead of just plain-text versions.

But remember, the main objective is to get readers to buy e-books. Unlike paper books, e-books can't be taken to the UBS and traded for credit on other used e-books. So the price has to be made attractive. E-book prices are easily changed. Buy the new blockbuster from HotHot Author during the first few weeks when you just gottagottagotta have it, and you pay the full price of $7.99 for the download. But if you can wait a few weeks, after the big rush, the price drops to $2.99. And when the author has milked the first and second tier readers, the book goes into the bargain e-bin for $.99. That's still cheaper than a used paperback.

Whether publishers will do this or not is a big question; I have no doubt authors using e-publishing services will.

As I mentioned, there are opportunities for authors to publicize their works using the same technology that produces and distributes the e-books -- namely, the internet. There are websites that review both paper and e-books, and even some self-published e-books. If the books are bad, the online reviewers aren't afraid to say so.

I used to spend hours in my favorite used book stores, just going through the shelves and looking for interesting reads. Sometimes I got them home was monumentally disappointed. Now, by perusing the review sites, I can find out which new/newer books might match my interests. I can check out an opening chapter online. I can do it at my convenience rather than only during the store's business hours. And when I find an e-book I like, I can have it downloaded to my PC in seconds. Nothing spent on gas, no time wasted driving through traffic.

Is there a downside to e-books? I'm sure there are. But there are also downsides to paper-and-ink books, and although I think they'll share the market together for the foreseeable future, I'd be willing to bet money that the paper-and-ink publishing industry is on its way to extinction.

Printer Friendly | Permalink | Reply | Top
SheilaT Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-27-11 10:03 PM
Response to Reply #7
8. I have long tended to read book reviews
before getting a book. Lately, when I read a review that's especially appealing I go straight to the website for my local library and put the book on reserve if they have it. And even with reading reviews I don't always like book as much as I thought I would.

I've actually had a couple of short stories published, so I am very sensitive to money issues and copyright issues.

Since I don't have an e-reader, and at present have no plans to get one, I can mainly think about and address the issues of paper and ink books. Not only do I currently have a money problem, but since I moved to a smaller place I have a space problem, which is another motivation to not buy very many books, but rather get as many from the public library as possible.

And I'm just wondering if at some point in the near future the technology of e-readers won't change, requiring everyone to buy a new reader, and all new books. Don't scoff. It's already happened several times with music technology and video technology. Meanwhile, I will always be able to read a paper and ink book without needing any special technology for it.

Please don't think I don't want authors to get what they genuinely deserve. Writing is hard work, and since I'm currently fiddling around with a novel (first draft during last November's novel writing month) I've once again regained respect for how hard it is. And I'm so happy there are so many people out there who do write well, or at least write things I want to read. For me the real problem is, So Many Books, So Little Time. I keep telling people I really truly hope there is an afterlife and that there are libraries there.
Printer Friendly | Permalink | Reply | Top
Tansy_Gold Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-27-11 11:23 PM
Response to Reply #8
9. I'm certainly not scoffing, believe me
I'm in a similar situation -- so many books, never enough time. And I keep acquiring more.

1. Changing technology -- I have a cabinet filled with 45s, with vinyl albums, with VHS tapes, so I'm well aware of the issues there. But what happened along the way of the changing technology was that the new process was made attractive to people by being either better or cheaper or BOTH than the original. You could buy a 45 for $1.00 in 1963, which was about the hourly minimum wage. The sound quality wasn't that great, and they tended to wear out after a few hundred plays. A 33 rpm sound track album ran about $5. Half a day's pay for a record! The prevailing technology to copy your own was an expensive reel-to-reel tape recorder. So when cassettes came along, they were better quality, if not necessarily cheaper, and they were a whole lot easier and cheaper to duplicate. Did vinyl become obsolete? yeah, kinda. And those of us who had huge record collections were screwed. But then came CDs -- lots better quality audio and they took up a lot less room, and eventually the cost came down so far that it was a lot cheaper to replace the old vinyl than to keep repairing the old turntables. Given a few more years, and look how easy and cheap it is to digitally duplicate what we had on vinyl.

2. Home movies weren't even available to the general public before the advent of VHS and BetaMax in the early 1980s. The first VCR I bought, in 1985, cost $440 in 1985 dollars. I think I was making about $6.50/hour then, so figure how long I had to work to pay for that sucker. What does a DVD player cost these days? $50? $30? With things like pay-per-view and TIVO (and all that other newfangled stuff I don't have!) a lot of other things have become obsolete, and yes, some of us have to replace our previous collections. But a VCR doesn't last forever, and neither do we. At some point we're not going to be reading those paper-and-ink books and most of 'em will end up in a trash can, a landfill, or a fireplace.

3. From an environmental standpoint, your use and reuse of paper-and-ink books is undeniably the best way to go. The planet just plain doesn't need all these unread books. I'm guilty of having too many, and I have two friends who each have entire rooms in their homes devoted to nothing but enormous quantities of books that they purchase, read once, and then put on a shelf. Many of these are art, history, and/or travel books, so they are lavishly illustrated and not amenable to the current e-book format. But many others are just (!) popular novels from the best-selling authors, books that will be read once and never touched again. What a waste! Those books should be shared.

4. Another friend has vision difficulties. For many years she was able to read large print books but now even those are difficult for her. They're also quite heavy and weren't often available for the many books she was interested in. After trying a friend's Kindle, she bought one a few months ago and is now able to read to her heart's content because she can enlarge the print on any book.

5. The shift of readers away from DTBs is going to alter the whole scheme of publishing. "Agency pricing" which sets downloaded e-books at the same price as print books (though with a slightly higher royalty to the author) is protecting the income/investment of the publishers, but does little to nothing for the readers and writers. When it's a relatively simple matter for an author to upload his/her manuscript to Amazon and make more money and have more control, how long do you think up and coming authors are going to follow the "traditional" route and let themselves be screwed out of their rightful earnings? As more and more writers go to e-books and readers go to e-books, the paper-and-ink printing industry will fade. It won't happen overnight, but it will happen. It may take a generation, or it may take less.

I wrote my first complete novel at age 16 on an ancient Remington manual typewriter. I wrote my first published novel longhand on ordinary notebook paper and transcribed it on a tiny Smith-Corona electric typewriter with manual carriage return. I swore I would never go to a computer where I couldn't feel the snap of each key and see the words bouncing out onto the paper. The idea of writing to a screen was inconceivable. Then I got hit with the task of retyping an 888-page manuscript in two weeks, right after I had agreed to two weeks of double-time at my regular job, going from 30 hours a week to 60. Typing, on a typewriter, with two carbon copies. All of a sudden the idea of being able to correct the typos before they hit the paper, and print out multiple perfect copies, seemed pretty darned attractive.

I understand that not everyone can or wants to make the transition from paper-and-ink book to e-book. And I hope the transition will be gradual enough that everyone can be affordably and comfortably accommodated in the meantime. But I still think the transition is coming. Do I think it will bring about the demise of the brick-and-mortar bookstore? Yeah, pretty much. Do I think it will force a radical alteration of the publishing/printing industry? You betcha. Do I think it will put a whole lot more crap out there for the reading public to sift through? Undoubtedly. But I also think it will put much more creative control in the hands of the creative people where it belongs. I think it will also put more of the profits in the hands of the people who actually create the works. And I think it will make a lot more material and information readily, easily, and affordably available to a lot more people. And I think that's a damned good thing.

Happy reading!

Printer Friendly | Permalink | Reply | Top
SheilaT Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-28-11 02:19 PM
Response to Reply #9
10. Home movies have been around
since at least the 1940's, probably the 1930's.

Supposedly there are still writers out there who do it by longhand or on a manual typewriter. Personally, I think they're nuts. I long ago switched to typing all my first drafts of everything, and then campaigned for a computer pretty early on.

I think the numbers of those who use e-readers exclusively is vastly overestimated. I think brick and mortar bookstores will be around for some time to come. Just because we differ on this doesn't mean one of us needs to be judged wrong and the other right. Time will obviously tell.
Printer Friendly | Permalink | Reply | Top
Tansy_Gold Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-28-11 02:52 PM
Response to Reply #10
11. Just for clarification -- what kind of "home movies" are we talkin' about?
'Cause I think I didn't make myself very clear. :blush:

My grandfather took home movies in the 30s, when my mother and uncles were children. His first camera was hand cranked. So yeah, that kind of home movies has been around for a while.

What I meant to write was that copies of theatrical release motion pictures weren't commonly available for home use until the advent of Beta and VHS. And when they first came out, they were expensive. I remember wanting to buy a copy of a favorite movie in the early 90s and the VHS was $79.95. Obviously, prices have come down as the technology simplifies.

I don't have any idea how many readers use only the e-format. While it's certainly growing, I don't think at the present time it's very high, simply because the format is limited pretty much (but not exclusively) to plain-text. Once the technology advances to where it can include photos, maps, etc., I think the cost of continuing to publish that type of book in paper format will become prohibitively expensive (and that includes costs of shipping and warehousing and retailing, not to mention the cost of shelf space in my house!). Plus, the future generations of e-readers will probably be able to do more than just photos and maps and charts. Imagine a biography of, say, Elizabeth Taylor that includes not only the text but photographs and video clips from films and interviews. Can't get that in a printed book at all. Chemistry text books that include videos of experiments. Biology texts that incorporate videos of dissections. Taking a trip to Turkey? Download thirty or forty or more guidebooks and histories and have them all tucked conveniently in your fanny pack.

As you correctly observed, only time will tell how much and how soon these advances happen. But I think the advances we've already seen in technology over just the past 20 years suggest that the bookstore as we know it today will not survive. There will probably always be books and book readers and book sellers, simply because the ones we have today aren't all going to suddenly disappear. But just as movable type pretty much put the hand-copied book out of the picture except for very expensive and exclusive editions, e-publishing is eventually going to destroy paper-and-ink publishing. In the meantime, we can enjoy the best of both worlds!

Printer Friendly | Permalink | Reply | Top
valerief Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-29-11 04:35 PM
Response to Original message
12. Talkies will never catch on.
Printer Friendly | Permalink | Reply | Top
Tansy_Gold Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-29-11 04:57 PM
Response to Reply #12
13. John Gilbert would have been happier n/t
Printer Friendly | Permalink | Reply | Top
Tansy_Gold Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-29-11 05:01 PM
Response to Original message
14. Here's another pitfall to e-publishing
Printer Friendly | Permalink | Reply | Top
DU AdBot (1000+ posts) Click to send private message to this author Click to view 
this author's profile Click to add 
this author to your buddy list Click to add 
this author to your Ignore list Wed Jan 17th 2018, 02:54 AM
Response to Original message
Advertisements [?]

Home » Discuss » DU Groups » Reading & Writing » Writing Group Donate to DU

Powered by DCForum+ Version 1.1 Copyright 1997-2002
Software has been extensively modified by the DU administrators

Important Notices: By participating on this discussion board, visitors agree to abide by the rules outlined on our Rules page. Messages posted on the Democratic Underground Discussion Forums are the opinions of the individuals who post them, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Democratic Underground, LLC.

Home  |  Discussion Forums  |  Journals |  Store  |  Donate

About DU  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy

Got a message for Democratic Underground? Click here to send us a message.

© 2001 - 2011 Democratic Underground, LLC