One of the biggest questions I hear from authors is this. Should I traditionally publish or indie publish? Since 2013 Jane Friedman has been regularly updating her informational chart about the key book publishing paths. She addresses this question in her website Publishing Trends and I have pasted the chart below. She says this: "Should I traditionally publish or indie publish?"
This is an increasingly complicated question to answer because: There are now many varieties of traditional publishing and self-publishing with evolving models and diverse contracts. It’s not an either/or proposition you can do both. Many successful authors including myself decide which path is best based on our goals and career level. Thus there is no one path or service that’s right for everyone all the time you should take time to understand the landscape and make a decision based on long-term career goals as well as the unique qualities of your work. Your choice should also be guided by your own personality (are you an entrepreneurial sort?) and experience as an author (do you have the slightest idea what you’re doing?). My chart divides the field into traditional (advance-based) publishing small presses assisted publishing indie or self-publishing and social publishing. Traditional publishing (the big guys and the little guys) I define traditional publishing primarily as receiving payment from a publisher in the form of an advance. Whether they’re a Big Five publisher or a smaller house the traditional publisher assumes all financial risk and typically invests in a print run for the book. The author may see no other income from the book aside from the advance in today’s industry it’s commonly accepted that most book advances don’t earn out. However authors do not have to pay back the advance that’s the risk the publisher takes. Small presses This is the category most open to interpretation among authors for the purposes of this chart I’m defining small presses as publishers who take on less financial risk because they pay no advance and avoid print runs. Authors must exercise caution when signing with small presses some mom-and-pop operations offer little advantage over self-publishing especially when it comes to distribution and sales muscle. Also think carefully before signing a no-advance deal or digital-only deal which are sometimes offered even by the big traditional houses you may not receive the same support and investment from the publisher on marketing and distribution. The less financial risk the publisher accepts the more flexible your contract should be—and ideally they’ll also offer higher royalty rates. Assisted and hybrid publishing This is where you pay to publish and enter into an agreement or contract with a publishing service or a hybrid publisher. Once upon a time this was called “vanity” publishing but I don’t like that term. Costs vary widely (low four figures to well into the five figures—even six figures). There is a risk of paying too much money for basic services or purchasing services you don’t need. Some people ask me about the difference between a hybrid publisher and other publishing services. Usually there isn’t a difference but here’s a more detailed answer. It is paramount that any author closely research and study these companies before investing. Scams abound. Indie or DIY self-publishing. I define this as publishing on your own where you essentially start your own publishing company and directly hire and manage all help needed. Social publishing Social efforts will always be an important and meaningful way that writers build a readership and gain attention and it’s not necessary to publish and distribute a book to say that you’re an active and published writer. Plus these social forms of publishing increasingly have monetization built in such as Patreon. Read more here
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