Friday, May 19, 2017

A few thoughts on traditional publishing

Now that I have turned in my page proofs for my first traditionally published book, I thought I would share with all of you some of the good and bad things I've learned.

I know most authors are self-publishing, largely due to the competitive nature of traditional publishing. I considered that for my nonfiction book as well, but because I want to get it in the hands of medical professionals, I knew it needed the gravitas of being traditionally published, preferably by a science or medical publisher. Amazingly, the second publisher I queried accepted the book and for the last couple of months, I have been immersed in the finalization of my book for publication.

When one self-publishes, one controls everything, which means one does everything from the writing to arranging for editing, to laying the book out and uploading it to wherever one has chosen. Marketing is all on the author as well. With the traditional route, some of this does not apply.

I probably spent at least one month reformatting my book. I had assumed the publisher would do that, and to some extent, they did, but I had to follow their very specific format for final submission. I hated doing it but I do believe it made my book better - with one exception. I had wanted sidebars in the first part of my book. They don't do sidebars. Oh, well.

Another assumption I made was that the publisher would take care of any illustrations needed. Wrong. That was on me, too. I had to purchase the rights as well as provide the illustrations. And then, I further assumed that limited color illustrations would be done. Wrong again. If I wanted color, I would have to foot the bill. Ditto for editing. Fortunately I had already had my book professionally edited.

I also thought there might be some back-and-forth on the content of my book. Perhaps some questions about my conclusions, etc. but there were none. It might be because I did such a superlative job of citing my sources, but I don't know that for sure.

I also had to provide a bio and pages of marketing leads. I expected this. My contract included signing away almost all rights with the exception of those to my first-born. It was a typical first contract, I believe, with royalties kicking in well after the cost of publication is covered and a percentage of future sales abroad. That said, I expect to make next to nothing on the book.

I spent hundreds of dollars and a year and a half of my life producing the book. I wore out a computer, a printer, several reams of paper, dozens of ink cartridges, and traveled to attend a conference related to my topic to conduct interviews all to the tune of another $1,000 or so. Thanks to my co-author, I did not have to pay for the academic papers I consulted. Otherwise, at $40 a pop, I'd have gone broke.

I didn't write the book for fame or fortune. I wrote it because I believe it needed to exist. I believe it will meet a critical need and serve people well. I do regret that the price - at $82 - is so high, but again, as the author, I had no input on that.

Now the key question: Would I do this again? I probably won't get the chance, but yes, if all the circumstances remain the same, I would still elect to publish traditionally. However, if my next book is a novel or something like a self-help book, I will go the self-published route. I think I might actually see some of the money from sales and now that I've gotten one book under my belt, I feel more confident in the formatting.

I don't think either way is always superior to the other. There are benefits and drawbacks to both. Traditional comes with greater status and perhaps, in some circumstances, greater promise for future endeavors, but self-publishing offers more control, autonomy, and potentially faster returns.

So, pick your poison and publish!

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