Each year in the U.S. more titles are published indie/self-pub than by all traditional publishers combined.
Some authors publish only indie or traditional, but some entrepreneurial folks are known as “hybrid” and use whatever model works best for the situation at the moment. Many clients of the Steve Laube Agency are hybrid authors and it works just fine.
There are some things you do for an indie book you won’t do for traditional publishers. Knowing when to switch your thinking and approach is important. If you cannot switch your approach to accommodate traditional publishers, you will attempt to exert control over things that you can’t control and it will not be a fulfilling experience for you.
A hybrid author is similar to a person who is self-employed but also holds a job with a “traditional” company.
A self-employed person would split their time being self-driven, decision-making, buck-stops-here, trail-blazing, everything depends on them and a person who knows how to be a team player.
If you are indie-published and eventually seek to be a hybrid author, here are some things you need to change when working with a traditional book publishing.
“The manuscript is finished” – the publisher will be thankful for this and tell you. Then they will gather their editorial staff and have you make so many changes that you wonder if they really understood that you gave them a “finished manuscript.” No manuscript is ever truly finished. (evil laugh)
“I have a final cover already designed” – You might have some ideas, but hold them lightly in your hand. If you tell the publisher you have a cover already done for the book, they will politely thank you and maybe even agree to take a look, but publishers are thinking more about what their retail customers are thinking, not what the author likes. Covers need to be fluid and adaptable for the marketplace.
“It’s a 200-page book” – For indie publishing, page count is important because the price you pay for printing is based on the number of pages. Publishers might turn it into a 150 or 300-page book depending on how they see the content, interior structure and desired retail price. Use word-counts instead when communicating length.
“I will send out a press release as part of the marketing” – Take a deep breath and have a nice conversation with the publisher to determine what they will do to promote your book and what you should do. It won’t all fall on you. Think as a team player.
“I would like this to release next month” – There will be no initial response from the publisher, but behind the scenes, the agent or acquisitions editor will be questioned by a person in management to find out who gave the impression to the author that the 12-24 month timeframe needed to publish a book effectively was no longer in effect. After that happens, you will get a call from someone apologizing for not making it clearer that traditional publishers are a little different than the indie process. Publishing a book well is more than getting it printed and placed at an online retailer.
“The price is $12.99” – You can’t dictate retail prices to a publisher. Well, I suppose you can, but it is a waste of your time. So many factors go into pricing that you can save yourself some work by just forgetting about it and let the publisher do their job.
“I’d like to give away the eBook for free” – Umm…no. Publisher will want to recoup the money they paid you. Accountants don’t consider “units” as currency and besides, they can’t pay bills with units. So, while a publisher will want to use special eBook pricing for promotion once in a while, they will set the highest reasonable price they can for your book so they can earn back their investment.
“I gave away 50,000 copies of my previous book as a free download” – see above answer. This is not as positive as you think it is. Free is OK if it leads to increased paid sales. If not, you just gave away the store for no reason at all. Traditional publishers do not like to give things away for no reason.
“This is my book” – yes it is, but you just entered into a partnership and in exchange for someone else taking financial risk, you need to move to a cooperative state of mind.
Self-publishing is singles tennis. Everything depends on you.
Traditional publishing is doubles tennis. You succeed when you and your teammate succeed.
When you maintain that balance…game, set, match.