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An article on Publishing vs Self-Publishing by Nathan Bradford 3/18/15
So. You have yourself a book. Should you just go ahead and self-publish and see how it does? Should you try your luck with agents and publishers? Should you try agents and publishers first and then self-publish if that doesn’t work?
Having traditionally published the Jacob Wonderbar series and self-published How to Write a Novel, I’ve seen both sides of the publishing world.
Which way should you go? Here are seven questions to ask yourself:
1) Is your book a niche/passion project or does it have broad, national appeal?
In order to attract a traditional publisher, especially one of the major ones, you’re going to need to have a book that fits squarely into an established genre, is of appropriate length, and has mass commercial appeal.
Be honest with yourself. Is your book something that has broad, national appeal or is a niche? Is it a potential bestseller or something you just wrote to, say, have your family history recorded for posterity?
If it’s hyper-specialized you might want to either try for a similarly specialized publisher, or just go ahead and self-publish. And if it’s a passion project without commercial potential you’re probably best-served going straight to self-publishing.
2) How much control do you want over the publishing process?
If you go the traditional route, you’ll have an agent who will likely want you to edit your work before submission. You will (hopefully) have a publisher who will want you to revise your work. You won’t have approval over your cover, and you’ll probably only have mutual consent on your book title, meaning if your publisher doesn’t like it you’ll have to think of a new one that you both can agree upon. You’ll probably have limited control over how and where your book is marketed.
Traditional publishing is a group process and you absolutely cede some control over your book. This can be a good thing, chances are you’re dealing with experienced people within the publishing industry who are experts in their fields, but you may be frustrated at times with decisions you don’t agree with.
Meanwhile, with self-publishing, everything is up to you. Edits, cover, title, fonts, marketing, whether or not you want to include that stream of conscious sequence about the philosophical implications of of cotton candy… all your choice.
3) How much does the validation of traditional publishing matter to you?
The stigma surrounding self-publishing has largely dissipated, but it’s not gone entirely.
And there’s still something gratifying about doing something as hugely difficult as making it through the traditional publishing process, having your work validated by professionals, and being paid for your efforts. The names Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster… they still matter to many people.
Success is success, and in the end it’s the readers who are the ultimate validators. Do you want the validation that comes with traditional publishing? Or are you cool going straight to readers?
4) How important is it for your book to be in bookstores and libraries?
While you might be able to strike up some individual relationships with local bookstores and libraries as a self-published author, the surest route to bookstores and libraries is through traditional publishers, who have wide distribution.
Do you care about being in bookstores? Are you writing in a genre, like books for children, where libraries are super-important? If so, you might want to pursue traditional publication.
5) How capable are you at self-promotion?
There’s no guarantee that a publisher is going to adequately promote your book, but they’ll at least give you a bit of a boost at bare minimum.
If you self-publish, you’re entirely on your own. You don’t necessarily have to be a social media maven or a celebrity in order to give your book the boost necessary to generate crucial word of mouth, but you’re going to have to do something.
6) Can you afford to invest money in your book?
Say what you will about traditional publishing, but one great thing about it is that it is not very cost prohibitive. You might incur some postage sending your manuscript around or if you choose to pay an editor before pursuing publication, but agents don’t charge you until they get commission for selling your book, and publishers pay you.
Self-publishing similarly doesn’t have to be hugely cost-prohibitive, but there are a lot of tasks involved in self-publishing, such as generating a cover, editing, copyediting, formatting, self-promotion, that you’re either going to have to spend the time to do yourself or pay someone to do for you.
Depending on how much time you have to spend and your level of expertise, you may end up spending a thousand dollars or two to effectively self-publish. Can you afford that? (And you shouldn’t necessarily assume you’re going to get it back).
7) How patient are you?
Choosing traditional or self-publishing isn’t necessarily an either/or decision. You can absolutely decide to pursue traditional publishing first and fall back on self-publishing if you so desire.
But even in the best case scenario, traditional publishing can take forever. It can take a year or more to query agents, and then a year or more to find an editor when you’re on submission to publishers, and then even if you get a book deal it can be a year or two after that before your book comes out. It can very easily add up to two or three years or more after you finish your manuscript.
Meanwhile, when I finished How to Write a Novel, it was up for sale a few days later. Self-publishing is practically instantaneous.
Are you the patient type? Do you want to cut to the chase? That can perhaps be the most important factor of all.
Rochester (MI) Writers Association has just announced that I have been awarded First Place in their 2013 Page One Writing Contest and overall Best In Show for their second half of 2013 Multimedia writing contests.
I submitted excerpts of Private Svoboda, A Freak’s Journey and The Share Conspiracy to the judges. Holy Cow How About That?
The Naked Truth
Jumping down from the train, we line up outside the military induction center. The train station, done in polished oak, cut stone and glass, has historically received the wealthy and powerful of Europe to the mineral bath resort of Bad Ischl, Austria. The station has been converted to receive recruits headed for military boot camp, located on the side of the tracks opposite the station. This morning, my schoolmates and I are part of two hundred and fifty excited and apprehensive 14-year-old boys from three Austrian middle schools. Anxious and heroic, we are about to become soldiers in the war against the enemies of the fatherland. Nervous laughter takes our minds off the deep snow around our boots and the freezing cold of the morning.
A sergeant, stiff and creased, appears and shouts orders bullying us into four ragged rows. We stand in place tall and proud, feet together, skinny chests forward, our backs straight as we were taught last year in the Hitler Youth camps. The sergeant steps back inside the dull green-colored building and we stand without instructions for an hour. The windows of the one-story building with a snow-covered roof are blocked off with paper so we can’t see what is going on inside. The cold wind dulls our enthusiasm for this adventure a bit. Smiling and grinning at our friends, we stomp our feet to help circulation and rock side to side sometimes bumping into each other. A boy two down the row to my right is hit in the back of the head with a snowball, and a shoving match breaks out knocking two of the rows out of order. A kid somewhere down to my left has the nervous giggles and eventually falls to his knees. Teenage excitement. As for me, I need to pee.
The door to the large barracks-like structure opens with a bang against the outer wall and a different sergeant, this one short with glasses and the stepped-on face of a bulldog, struts out on the front deck and paces back and forth. His worn black leather jacket is creased like his face, his dark olive-colored helmet the shade of his pressed trousers.
“Stillgestanden!” (Attention) clips the sergeant. Dead quiet happens. My nerves are growing tighter. I confirm my alignment out of the corner of my eye.
Turning slowly, the bulldog stares at us in disgust, clicking the heels of his long black boots. Squinting, as if fixing his gaze on me alone, he stands and pounds his swagger stick over and over into the palm of a leather glove.
“You will now undress!” he shouts. “You will remove everything, fold your clothes and set them on top of your boots. We will dispose of these items in the village. Those who survive screening will be issued uniforms of the Wehrmacht, the greatest army in the world.”
Already trembling in my clothes, I turn and look down the row to make sure I’d heard the command correctly. There is a moment of mutual hesitation followed by a flurry of activity as we all stand in place and undress. Naked and shivering in the freezing winter wind, the snow oozes between my toes. I am surprised at this initial lack of civility. Finding the situation so bizarre at first as to be amusing, some smile broadly and stretch their arms toward the sky then fold them tightly against their chests. Most of us hold our arms straight down and tight to the body, clasping our hands in front of our privates. Standing between Hans and Karl, two friends from my 8th grade class at school, I sneak a nervous smile as the sergeant goes back inside the building, letting the door slam shut.
I came to know a man who was drafted into the army out of his eight-grade class along with all of his classmates.
Attending an Austrian boarding school, away from the big city bombing targets,the whole class was drafted and put on a train to boot camp with only a brief letter to advise their mothers when they had gone. Six weeks later the boys were in Hitler’s army fighting the Russians on the Eastern Front.
Freezing at the start last Sunday but better later, I made it through the 13.1 miles of the Detroit International Half Marathon. At road runner speed we traveled up across the Ambassador Bridge to Canada as the sun rose over the city, toured lovely downtown Windsor and plunged down into the tunnel under the Detroit River and back to the U.S. Our number bibs served as passports and the Canadians were quite friendly.
As one of the sweet Canadians handed me a cup of water I whispered, “Please call me a taxi.”
She smiled and said, “Hey everybody, he’s a taxi.”
Ran 10 miles yesterday in prep for the Detroit International (over the bridge and back the tunnel from Canada) Marathon next week. I’ve run in the event for several years but never as far as 13 miles. Hope I don’t break down in Canada and can’t get back. Of course they have good beer over there.
Terror on the F Train
“Some men are born great, some achieve greatness,
and some have greatness thrust upon them.”
Sam struggled to keep his emotions in check that morning. He managed to get through the sting of tears, clinging hugs and kisses with the family on the porch including frigid moments with his wife, Wendy. His cheeks were suddenly wet as he glanced at the house through the cab’s rear window. His mother waved stoically from her upstairs window, tears streaming down her dark, weathered face. Wendy was sitting on the top step of the porch, head in her hands, their son and daughter sitting close and holding their mother. Wendy had been tearing-up for a week with intermittent periods of anger and defiance. Neither could sleep as they lay close to each other in silence during Sam’s last nights at home. He vowed to grab some sleep on the flight.
“Damn it Sam,” Wendy had said, her brown eyes flattening her husband’s face. “Haven’t you done enough? Haven’t you suffered enough?” At breakfast she had confessed to being disgusted with her husband, the government and even God.
“It’s for the best,” Sam said, studying his bowl of oats. “Trust me.”
“Not this time,” Wendy said. “The idiots running the CIA are taking advantage of your compromised condition. You beat the stupid disease before and you can do it again and besides, the mission is insane. If you don’t come back how am I supposed to afford to keep this house and raise Austin and Rayen? Have you thought of that?”
“Hon, my condition is different this time,” Sam said. “For one thing, my brother is dead and you know that’s part of the reason I have to go. As to the finances, just trust me and know you will be okay.”
Sam had confirmed that half of the money in his contract had been deposited in their savings account. Wendy wouldn’t know this until the monthly statement came from the bank.
“All I know is your papa, if he were alive, might be gung-ho over this mission but your momma has more sense,” Wendy said. Sam had been up to his momma, Winona’s room after breakfast to say goodbye. She hugged him hard and told Sam she preferred to cry alone in her room on his parting day.
“Sammy, shake your head and get it right,” Winona had said. “You need to lead this tribe, not run off to solve somebody else’s problems.”
To Sam, his papa’s final actions rang truer. As a black man trying to survive in a white world, his father, Sawyer, provided a better place for his family for years by staying under the radar. But in the end, when the world turned on him, Sawyer stood up and took his own kind of revenge. Growing up, Sam had also worked at getting along and staying out of trouble at all costs. His attitude had changed on his way to becoming a man.
The timing for Sam’s exit from the family was due to a dramatic change in his chances for a long life, a reoccurrence of the cancer he had been fighting for six years. In his fading days, Sam’s goal at home had been to leave in one piece, not as a shadow of a man convulsing and gasping for each labored breath. Not as a husband and father who didn’t remember any of their names. Not as an invalid who couldn’t even wipe his own ass.
Flying out of Detroit Metro, headed for the Middle East, Sam’s mission was to stop a unique terrorist plan to shut down the American economy and lifestyle in a way designed to start the most widespread religious war since the crusades. Sam’s mission was complex and frankly held only a middle-hope of being successful. But, even compromised from drugs, Sam’s skill set and personal situation made him the best man for the job. He’d done the impossible before, only this time he would have an unwelcome assistant holding a stop watch.
The CIA had been tipped off weeks earlier to the planned terrorist attacks in the U.S. A customs agent working at Boston Logan accidentally discovered partially assembled bomb components hidden inside a shipment of band instruments on an incoming flight from Cologne. The bombs had not been stopped by the country’s latest, 1988, bomb detection equipment or the canine agents protecting our borders. Extensive interrogation of the shipment receiving suspect had obtained information that the deadly devices were being assembled by a terrorist cell of suicide bombers who were either in the U.S. or on their way to deploy the bombs in U.S. commuter trains. Sam’s mission was to make his way into the terrorist cell, find the bomb lab and the deployment plan so the attacks could be stopped.
The cab had been scheduled early that morning so Sam could have a last look at the home town that had been so important in his family’s life. They drove up Outer Drive past Dearborn High, the cemetery and the country club where it all started. With Sam’s coaching, the taxi driver worked his way to the freeway and turned south toward the Ford Rouge plants where Sam had worked a summer installing Mustang door handles. A billowing red cloud of brick like dust and industrial perfume was rising into the morning sky out of the Ford manufacturing complex. In the distance above the trees to the west was the towering sight of Oakwood Hospital where Sam had spent too much of his remaining time this past year. He closed his eyes and exhaled, checking for the two pill boxes in his navy blue blazer pocket.
Samuel Nahuel Cotton, 37, touched the silver talisman hanging under his open-collared white shirt. The silver eagle had been a gift a long time ago from his momma, Winona. She was a tall, sturdy woman whose family had been part of the remnants of the Seminole tribes from the green mountains of Georgia. Sam a, buff 6’2” lawyer with straight shoulders from his military days gave the illusion of health. His black piercing eyes and thin slightly hooked nose had caused his momma to give him his middle name, which in her tribe meant Eagle. If he’d been wearing a tie, lawyer Sam could be flying to meet with a client. The only difference in this scenario was that Sam was intent on killing the client during the meeting.
The web site for more information on all Steven R Roberts writings is
Honor Bound, Terror on the F Train
My newest action adventure novel was released in the north in June at a book signing in Dearborn, Michigan, the site of several scenes early in the book. Thirty plus books were sold and the early reviews and comments are very enthusiastic including “I loved it, it was Grisham-like.” from R P in Dearborn and “The book is fantastic. I highly recommend it.” from N.L in Tennessee.
More on the book on the web at: www.steverroberts.com.
Release of the book in Florida is planned for November.
By Steven R. Roberts
Girls have girlfriends, boys have brothers
They’re a group, a team, a common theme like no others
Some save their brothers’ lives, mine saved mine
Many times it happens, it happens all the time
From the start, brothers need one another
Joking, ridin, playin, fightin, drinkin, brothers
A bro’s a guys who knows enough to hurt you
Instead he’s more likely to lie about your every virtue
Ask many a man about his best days he’ll stutter
about those times young and reckless with his brother
He’ll remember the music that was playing on the radio
The night they got kicked out of the bar long ago
So, brothers make the days count, make ‘em gleam
Soon enough you’ll be chasing your own dream
Young days with our brothers don’t last and yet
Now and then there’s that song we can’t forget
Girls have girlfriends, boys have brothers
They’re a group, a team, a common theme like no others
Some save their brothers’ lives, mine saved mine
Many times its happens, it happens all the time
This poem From the Book Rhythm and Rhyme Lifetime
By Steven R Roberts, Second Printing 2009