Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Why a Small Press and Not Indie?

My professional life as a university professor brainwashed me with the importance of external validation. No pubs from reputable journals and legitimate presses? Then no tenure, raises, or promotions. External validation of one’s work, in academia, is the coin of the realm.

It’s no surprise then that I went the traditional route for my first two books (and their sequels). I am currently published (e-books and print books) with two small presses. I put up no money and get royalties. I work with an editor for the publishing house. They send me cover art for input. They hire someone to format the manuscript for print and e-books.

It is the wimp’s way out. No hassles for me, and I feel I am a “legitimate” author (going back to my past life experiences). I am not so sure, for me, that the extra money for going indie would beat back my insecurities.

First, one has to get past the old vanity press notions that dog us. Sadly, indie e-books--rightly or wrongly--are linked to so many poor quality books that going indie still carries the taint of “you couldn’t make it traditionally.” It’s why you hear some indie published writers yearning for the traditional press book contract. Many of us carry around that baggage.

And for so many years vanity presses were the only option for writers who couldn’t get a press to publish them. These presses, we knew, would publish anything written, if you paid their fees and were willing to fill your garage with books you had to hawk out of the trunk of your car. The old-time vanity press authors, rarely sold enough to pay the fees they were charged, let alone make money.

But digital publishing provided a new way for authors to be published. Digital publishing makes it so much easier for authors. Publishing your work can be accomplished through royalty-paying publishers who review your book.  It can also be done on your own through sites like Smashwords, Lulu, and Create Space.  There are both “supported publishing” sites and there are opportunities to do each book on your own.

When traditionally published, you get a royalty rate, pay no upfront money, and may see
both e-book and print copies of your book. They pick the cover, they arrange the copyright (sometimes), and they provide editing services and will format your book for digital and print release.

When publishing on your own, you must do two things: pay to have your book professionally edited and pay to have an original cover designed. Both are critical to keeping up the quality of e-book and print books. Don’t rely on the stock covers various sites provide or you might be sharing a cover with another author’s book.

Additionally, indie authors arrange for copyright and use provided templates to format an e-book and/or print book for publication. Still, after you pay the fees, you own your book with all rights and you get all the royalties after paying some site fees.

In both cases, as all authors have learned over the last few years, marketing is Job One for you. Publishers, digital or print, do little. So, some argue, why split your money with traditional publishers? Go Indie! Isn't it nice to have options these days? My choice is my choice. I'm not into convincing anyone to do what I do. But it is right for me.

I am willing to stay with my small presses. I get individual attention and I don’t have to do anything except write and edit. And wait for royalty checks. Those are my strengths. Formatting books is so NOT my strength! To me, at my age, learning how to indie publish is not worth the additional money I would net.

I do have a couple of books I cannot find homes for with traditional publishers. I am trying to get brave enough to go indie! But I need major handholding or serious money to have someone do all that work for me.

So for now, the small presses meet my needs very well. Hats off to small press publishers and editors for all they do for authors.

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