There is a tension in the publishing industry today between traditional and indie (or self) publishing. As few as ten to fifteen years ago, people generally equated self-publishing with vanity publishing. While this tension is fading, many writers would still prefer to be traditionally published because of the validation it provides - a professional in the industry picked their book. I completely understand this desire for endorsement.
But I have also come across many authors who are wildly successful self-publishing - and they get to define success on their terms. Every year, more people choose to self-publish their books, even those who are traditionally published, and there are many times when the quality of the storytelling meets or exceeds what's seen in traditional publishing. When you take emotion out of the equation, the facts come to light.
Time - Indie publishers control their timeline. Those who traditionally publish have to find an agent who then tries to sell the book to a publisher. Once a writer has an agent, it will likely be a minimum of eighteen months before their book is published.
Editing - Agents and publishing house editors provide editing to traditionally published authors at no charge. Indie authors must find their own editors, and if they don't do a good job with this, it will affect their sales and their reputation.
Distribution - Indie publishers have equal access to the world's largest online bookstore - Amazon. Most indie authors today choose ebooks and print-on-demand. Traditional publishers are more likely to distribute books to brick-and-mortar stores.
Money - Indie authors keep all their profits, although they also have higher expenses (editing and marketing). Traditional authors may get an advance that they don't have to repay, which is typically $1,000-$10,000. Fifteen percent of this goes to their agent, and most authors don't earn out their advance (earn more than their initial advance).
Marketing - Indie authors are responsible for their own marketing, and with that comes the freedom to do a good job promoting their novels. Traditionally published authors are expected to market their books, but they don't control the price and don't always have the ability to use the tools used by indie authors.
There are more than two ways to publish, in fact, indie and traditional publishing are two ends of a spectrum of publishing services available to authors. In addition, authors can choose different options for different books.
So, how do you decide? Tune in to the next issue.
The Overstory by Richard Powers, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel published in 2019, is a fantastic book for anyone concerned about nature and the environment. It is a long book at over 500 pages, and it tells the story of a handful of people, first individually, and then as they come together.
Complex with beautiful language and big ideas, it is a satisfying book to read. If you're interested in philosophy, ecology, environmentalism, and the magic of our world, this is the book for you.
A Travel Story
Tanzania: Safari with Kids
For my parent's fiftieth wedding anniversary, they took my brother and me and our families on safari in Tanzania. In addition to six adults, we traveled with twelve-year-old twin boys, a ten-year-old girl, and my eight-year-old son.
This is the perfect age for kids to visit Africa. They are old enough to appreciate it, and aren’t teenagers yet, so they’re still young enough to appreciate it. They also made the trip hilarious.
The eight-year-old started by taking a photo montage of zebra butts. Then, one of the twelve-year-olds started pronouncing the name of an adorable miniature antelope, the dik-dik, with a wholly inappropriate emphasis on both syllables.
Then we found the vervet monkey. The male of this particular species of primate has gigantic, bright blue balls. We’re talking neon balls that could probably be seen from the surface of the moon. Needless to say, the kids were fascinated by this monkey.
Every night we had dinner in a big tent, and we'd recount stories and laugh until we cried. "Wild Animal Kindom" - kid version. To this day, that family safari is my favorite trip ever.