Regular or Self?

As the time approaches for the editor who’s taking a look at my first novel to make his report (I hope it’s either good or bad, not indifferent) I find myself wondering about which form of publishing I should use for the final product.  Should I try the old standard method and find an agent and let him/her send it around to publishers?  Or should I try the “new” way and self-publish with an electronic book publishing group like, for example, Smashwords?  To be or not to be…

Lots of reasons and advantages of both.  Going with a traditional publisher gives me, a first-time novelist, access to the ideas, opinions, and expertise of professionals who have been down this road before.  An agent with experience in what makes a novel work; a publisher with background in all the little details that bring a book into being.  The editor, the proofreader, the cover artist–these are all part of the process of publishing a book, and usually taken care of by the publisher.  (At least that’s my understanding.)  I certainly don’t have that kind of experience and I might be foolish not to take advantage of it.  Wouldn’t cost me anything, either.

On the other hand, self-publishing means I don’t have to go through the time-consuming process of finding an agent.  That can take time, especially for a first-time author.  I would have to persuade him/her, without a good history in publishing, that I’m someone it would be to their advantage on which to take a risk.  That could take years.  Also, I’d have to wait for the agent to find a publisher.  Self-publishing, on the other hand, is exactly what it says it is: published by myself.  There’s a heady elegance in that concept.

They say that self-published authors get a higher percentage of the purchase price of the book as royalties.  The number I’ve heard most often is 70%, as opposed to 10 to 20% for traditionally published books.  But there’s a catch to that argument.  If a book is e-published and available on Nook, Kindle, and so on, the cost is usually in the $1 to $4 range.  A traditional book can be $15 for hard cover, $6 to $10 for paperback.  Seventy percent of a $3 book is $2.10, but 20% of a $10 hardback is $2.00.  Not much difference.

I like the aspect of publishing that puts the hard copy on the shelf where the customer can see it in all its glory, especially with a bright, colorful cover.  An e-book is a line on Amazon, perhaps with a small picture of the cover.  You can’t hold and caress an e-book.  You can’t get the author to sign your e-copy, unless you want him to scribble all over the back of your Kindle.

Self-publishing, if done properly, requires that the manuscript be edited to perfection.  Developmental editing, copy editing, etc., all contribute to the success of a book, regardless of how published.  For the self-published author, these cost money, and have to be paid for up front.  The cover artist has to be paid–more expense.  I’m not rich (far from it!) so I might have to pay for the editing of the second novel with the proceeds from the first, the third from the second, and so on.  Could get tricky and time-consuming.  Having the publisher take care of that helps.

Yet, if I self-publish, I get control of the process.  I pick the cover, not the publisher.  I make the decisions on marketing–well, publishers don’t do that anymore anyway.  I’m already on Facebook, and I blog regularly (What!  You’ve never read my blog?), a good start on making my brand known to the world at large.  You gotta have a brand, they say.

So, what will it be?  Self-publish and make my own decisions though I take my chances, or the traditional way and let others do some of the work for me?  Too bad there isn’t a hybrid method that combines the best of both methods.  In any event, I’ll let you know.

PS.  How do you like the new font?

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