Image courtesy of Kristin Nador WANA Commons

I read an interesting post from Hugh Howey this morning, titled, Submit. But Don’t Say Uncle.

His post is a response to a something he’d seen online, from a writer named Paul, who was desperate to be published, traditionally published, as a form of validation for his writing talents.  This writer, who actually did self-publish, regretted his decision.  He didn’t like being categorized as a self-published author, because he felt linked with those authors whose work was not up to his standards.

The idea of going the traditional publishing route is something that has to be considered by every author.  It’s obviously one of the primary routes to publication.  If your work is selected by one of the big five publishing houses, you’ll be able to have your picture taken, holding your book, at your local bookstore.  You may see your book in airport bookstores, and your friends will be able to see, and buy your book, in those bookstores.  That’s got to be an amazing feeling.  I’ve spoken with a number of authors who are no longer traditionally published, and that’s the thing they miss the most.

There are obvious benefits of being published by one of the big five.  But do those same benefits also accrue to those who are published by the smaller presses.  I’m curious what drives authors to the presses who won’t be able to get their books into bookstores.  The publishers who won’t offer advances that provide some real form of compensation for the work that goes into writing a novel. What’s the appeal of those publishing houses?

Is it simply being able to avoid the stigma of being self-published?  Is that why authors would take deals that can’t possibly work out well?   My favorite quote in Hugh’s post is the following:

In many ways, traditional publishing has become the new vanity press. Authors used to spend a lot of money for the ego boost of being an “author” and holding their “book.” Now they simply give up a lot of money in order to think of themselves as “real authors” who can hold their “real book.” It’s still ego and money lost. But I understand the urge. I get it. I can empathize with the need to feel good enough.

Of course, there are other reasons why an author might choose to go the small press route.  The publisher may provide services the author is unable, or unwilling to acquire on her own.  Things like professional editing, cover design, formatting,  and a myriad of other tasks that don’t involve writing the book.  The author doesn’t need to find the right people for these jobs, or to pay for these services.  The publisher will do it for her.

The publisher is willing to place a bet on the author that the author is unwilling to place on herself.

The publishers who pay for these services, and provide the advances, expect to earn that money back and more.  If not, why would they make the bet?

Everyone’s situation is different.  In some cases going the small press route may make sense.  But in many cases it doesn’t. I hear too many stories of authors signing with small presses, and regretting the decision. Sometimes before the first book is published, sometimes later.

Are there others reasons authors might go the small press route?  Please let me know in the comments.

Image courtesy of Kristin Nador WANA Commons

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