I decided to ask an author in each one of those positions who has achieved (or will hopefully achieve) success with her books. Below are the responses from an author with an agent & big publisher, an author with an independent publisher, and an author who self-published.
With all of the changes in the industry - the shift to eBooks, bookstores dying, etc. - what are the advantages of an author in your position?
With all the changes, I’m glad I have an agent and a big publisher to help me every step of the way.
My agent fights for every dollar from any kind of sale, whether it be a digital copy, a physical copy, or the rights for audio, to come to me. I think that’s a huge advantage, because it’s something I don’t have to think about. I don’t have to be “the heavy,” and negotiate percentages. That’s her job, and she does it well. My time is freed up for writing my next project.
With a larger publisher, the ability to reach more people is increased. Simon & Schuster has a built-in network of librarians, booksellers, bloggers, teachers, and readers. Those are markets that I could attempt to break into myself, but with a track record like S&S’s, I don’t have to.
Of course, I’m still organizing marketing strategies. Every author should. But with an agent and a larger publisher, I also have their wealth of knowledge to supplement whatever I do.
Elana Johnson's debut novel, POSSESSION, will be published by Simon & Schuster on 6-7-11. She runs a personal blog on publishing, is a founding author of the QueryTracker blog and The League of Extraordinary Writers, and is a WriteOnCon organizer.
As an author published by a small press, I’m in an ideal position to capitalize on the growing market trend towards e-books. Smaller presses don’t have the long lead times of traditional publishers, so they can get a product to market much faster. With e-books and their unlimited reach, the major drawback of independent publishers – distribution – doesn’t exist. Also, small presses have much more flexibility when it comes to pricing e-books. They don’t have the large operational costs of larger publishers, so they can afford to be more competitive. Finally, small presses care if their titles are performing, and if they’re not, they work to fix it. When the cover of my debut novel The Hating Game wasn’t hitting the right target market on Kindle, my publisher had a new one designed and displayed, within a day. In my opinion, small presses provide the right mix of quality control and quick-wittedness.
Talli Roland’s debut novel The Hating Game is out now as an e-book with Prospera Publishing; paperback coming next month! Her next title, Watching Willow Watts, will be released later this year.
From L.J. Sellers, a best-selling author of multiple books, who chose the path of self-publishing:
The biggest advantage for the indie author is the speed to market. For example, mid last year I had three completed novels scheduled (but not yet contracted) to be published by a small press in late 2011, 2012, and 2013. I decided waiting that long to publish them was not in my best interest. Readers were excited about my stories and wanted more.
I was able to hire editors, a cover designer, and a formatter, and release all three books in a matter of months. Now I’m earning money from each of them that goes toward my bills. Which in turn, gives me time to write more novels, instead of having to freelance to get by.
The second main advantage is that all the royalties come to me, so again, I’m able to earn a living from novels for the first time in my career. And last, as an indie author, I’m more motivated to do the necessary promotion everyday because I can directly witness, and benefit from, the results of my efforts. Leaving my publisher to go indie was best thing I’ve ever done!
L.J. Sellers is an award-winning journalist and the author of the bestselling Detective Jackson mystery/suspense series: The Sex Club, Secrets to Die For, Thrilled to Death, Passions of the Dead, and Dying for Justice. Her novels have been highly praised by Mystery Scene and Spinetingler magazines, and all four are on Amazon Kindle’s bestselling police procedural list. L.J. also has two standalone thrillers: The Baby Thief and The Suicide Effect. When not plotting murders, she enjoys performing standup comedy, cycling, social networking, and attending mystery conferences. She’s also been known to jump out of airplanes. Visit L.J. at her website, blog, and Amazon author page.
Thank you Elana, Talli, and L.J.!
Which path will you choose? Bookstores are dying. EBooks are taking over. Gatekeepers no longer control all. The Internet levels the playing field. An agent gets you a better deal but working with a smaller publisher can be more personable. Which way will I achieve more success?
It still all comes down to promotion - and your personal goals!