A few weeks ago, I wrote a post called Skip the Slush Pile: The Case for Indie Publishing. I wrote it because there are some excellent reasons to pursue indie publishing as both a creative outlet and a lucrative one. I also wrote it because I’m currently in the process of publishing my With Love series, including Missing Pieces: a With Love Novelette, and To Lennon, With Love, the first full-length novel in the series due later this spring. By the end of the year, I also plan to self-publish a sequel, To Lila, With Love.
But I also wrote the post knowing I would eventually make the case for traditional publishing, too. After all, there are pros and cons to both, and it’s up to each individual writer to determine her goals and decide which path is right for her.
Without further ado, here are five reasons to embrace the slush pile and pursue a traditional publishing contract:
You get an agent’s help. Something I wanted access to during my indie publishing journey was access to a marketing-managing-negotiating professional who knew how to market-manage-negotiate where I didn’t. I don’t have any regrets about deciding to publish my first series independently, but there have truly been moments when I wished I had an agent’s hand to hold. Someone who would bring me coffee, compliment my Pinterest novel boards, tell my book it was pretty, and figure out all the confusing, disheartening stuff I didn’t want to deal with. Seeking representation is exactly what I plan to do with the standalone novel I’m currently writing, and I’m hoping to find an agent who will wipe my tears and then tell me to snap out of it. (And, of course, bring me coffee.)
You “just want to write.” If you’re one of those authors who just wants to write books, then good luck. (Just kidding.) However, pursuing a traditional contract will make that goal more achievable. Most of the legwork that comes with indie publishing — such as editing, cover design, formatting, publishing, and marketing — simply isn’t your responsibility as a traditionally-published author. Instead, you’ll work with a team who will provide editorial advice and handle the nitty gritty details of the publishing process for you. In addition, you won’t have to sacrifice as much of your writing time for marketing and self-promotion. You’ll still want to market your own books to connect with as many readers as possible, but a publisher will likely help you reach more readers than you could on your own.
You get an advance. If you want to write your book and get a check for it, then boom. Here you go. Assuming your agent successfully sells your manuscript, you’ll get an advance against royalties for the number of copies the publishing company thinks it can sell. An average advance for a first novel will probably be somewhere between $5,000 and $15,000, so don’t quit your day job just yet. You’ll only earn more money on your book if it sells beyond the initial advance (i.e., beyond the $10,000 or so you already received). But you won’t get that initial chunk of change if you choose to self-publish, and you’ll likely have to spend at least a little bit of money to polish your book. Through traditional publishing, you also have the potential for wider distribution and higher sales, as long as you and the publishing company market your book effectively.
You see it as more reputable. Many authors see traditional publishing as the more reputable path. I get it. There are so many books in our great, big, bookish world, but not all of them are good. Now that anyone can self-publish, it’s becoming harder to wade through the literary noise to find books that resonate deeply with you. Additionally, getting your book into brick and mortar bookstores is much easier when a publisher handles it for you. For many authors, that’s the goal: to walk into a bookstore and see their own books on the shelf.
You’re more likely to win prizes. Just because you publish traditionally doesn’t mean you’ll automatically win a pretty blue ribbon. This isn’t field day in elementary school. (I still kind of miss tug of war.) However, at this point, most prize-winning books have been traditionally published, and many literary prizes aren’t even open to indie authors. Of course, this is only relevant if writing prize-winning books is your ultimate goal.
Obviously, there are pros and cons to both types of publishing. The option you choose depends on your personal preferences, goals, and ideas of success. That’s why it’s so crucial to figure out why you write in the first place. Making informed decisions is much easier with a clear purpose and goal in mind.