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The Pros and Cons of Being Traditionally Published

Do I even want to be traditionally published?

If you're writing a manuscript with the intention of publishing, then that’s a very important question to ask yourself. But first, since we’re at Step #8 of the 8-step Getting to the Publishable Point Process, let’s review the other steps real quick.

  1. Figure out whether you need to put in research time before you get started.

  2. Complete a first draft.

  3. Revise your first draft.

  4. Revise your second draft.

  5. Revise your third draft.

  6. Give it to a beta reader or two (or five if you can find them).

  7. Consider their critiques and add in appropriate revisions.

  8. Review that draft.

  9. Give it to a professional editor.

  10. Consider his or her critique and add in appropriate revisions.

  11. Review that draft.

  12. Start shopping it out to literary agents and publishing companies, or choose to self-publish.

Most writers at any stage of the Getting to the Publishable Point Process are going to be dreaming – or at least have dreamed – about being traditionally published by a big-name publishing company. It’s what we’re conditioned to believe is the ultimate sign of authorial success.

And that conditioning isn’t entirely inaccurate considering how almost all the big-name authors are signed on by big-name publishers who give them editors for their manuscripts, graphic designers for their front covers and publicists to tell absolutely every reader possible, “Guess who has a new book out!”

Self-published authors get none of that. Not unless they pay someone to do the work for them. Otherwise, it’s all on them.

So why would any author or author-in-the-making willingly choose self-publishing over traditional publishing?

Honestly, that is such a detailed question that there’s no way I can comprehensively cover it in one short little video. So we’re breaking Step #8 of the Getting to the Publishable Point Process into three videos, starting with the pros and cons of traditional publishing.

Because it isn’t all literary roses. The situation is a little more complicated than that.

Here are the definite pros:

  • A traditional publisher will edit your book at its own cost.

  • A traditional publisher will design your front cover at its own cost.

  • A traditional publisher will pay you a signing fee and/or royalties for any books sold.

Here are the definite cons:

  • Getting a contract with a traditional publisher isn’t easy. Publishers are busy people trying to run busy businesses. And unless your name is already well-recognized, loved and lauded, then you’re an automatic liability. A risk. It’s on you to convince them you’re a worthwhile chance. Yet that’s what every other “I want to be traditionally published” author and author-in-the-making out there is trying to say too, making traditional publishers very, very skeptical. Understandably.

  • Supposing you’re clever, talented, hardworking and lucky enough to land a traditional publisher, understand that, if you actually go forward and sign with it, you’re signing away your rights to your book for at least a period of time. They own it. And, to a degree, they own you.

Here are the iffy areas:

  • There are so many levels of traditional publishing. So just because you get traditionally published doesn’t mean you do so through one of the big guys that sign on big authors. And the smaller the publishing company, the less money and resources it’s going to have at your disposal.

  • Even if a big-name publisher gives you a contract, that doesn’t mean you’re on your way to fame and fortune. Those companies sign on plenty of smaller names just to round out their catalogues and databases. And those smaller names don’t get publicists, much less placement on prominent bookstore shelves. They’re filler, and they’re treated as such.

  • Traditional publishers may or may not give you any say in what your front cover looks like or even what your story looks like. They might demand that you gut parts or practically rewrite the whole story to get in bed with them. So your original work might not look much like your original work when it’s published.

None of this is to turn you off from trying the traditional publishing route. It’s just to make you as informed an author-in-the-making as possible.



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