We were asked this question recently by a WWW reader: Does it make sense anymore to try to get a big publisher interested? They seem frantic with their survival and only name authors get enough marketing/publicity help!
Well, you’ve said a mouthful there, sister. Let’s break it down:
1. Look, everyone’s frantic with their survival these days; I don’t think we can limit that to just book publishers. Start-ups have to worry about being one-upped (there’s ALWAYS a bigger, better idea around the corner). Bookstores have become coffee shops with books. Libraries will likely soon begin to resemble high school computer labs (no doubt complete with chewed gum stuck to the undersides of tables and chairs). And yes, book and magazine publishers continue to struggle with their identities and who/what they’re going to “be” in this brave new world.
2. Keep in mind that big publishers, while struggling like the rest of us, are still putting out relatively the same number of titles they’ve been putting out each year for the past five years (around 288,000 collectively). So on the one hand, that’s good news for authors as publishers still need to put out books. On the other hand, with trimmed staffs that’s probably more work an author must take on themselves, but you’d do that as a self-published author as well.
3. An author’s path to being published well is always going to depend on their own needs.
- If you’re doing a back-of-the-room book for speaking, or something that’s very timely and needs to get out there NOW, self-publishing is no doubt the way to go.
- If you’re a newbie that wants a bit of hand-holding and also the benefit of a publishing co. “name” behind you (because many bookstores and reviewers just won’t “deal” with self-published authors) then a hybrid publisher is an ideal option.
- And if you want the benefit of a “big boy” behind you, that comes with sales staff that’s also working to get you shelf space, and guaranteed distribution that you’re not paying for yourself, then traditional models are no doubt your better choice.
My personal feeling is that this is the real beauty of this brave new digital world – it gives an author OPTIONS. Our PubSmart keynote speaker Jane Friedman will be speaking on this very topic. As the former publisher of Writers Digest, she has keen insights into what works for who.
She’ll then moderate a panel that will include some heavy hitters from each of these areas to discuss Which Publishing Option is Right for You? Included in that discussion will be Random House senior executive editor Will Murphy; successful hybrid publishers Terri Ann Leidich of BQB Publishing and Frank Monahan of Rocket Science Productions; the enormously successful indie author Hugh Howey; and David Symonds of self-publishing giant CreateSpace.
We’ll all have a chance to ask these folks to defend their models, and look forward to hearing new insights about why each might be better, depending on the author and their goals…