I’d like to welcome Susan K. Marlow who has graciously agreed to share her insight into the world of Traditional Publishing.
Welcome to the wonderful (and sometimes wacky) world of publishing as seen through the eyes of Susan K. Marlow, author of over twenty novels for readers ages six through sixteen (and up).
I (Susan) started writing stories when I was about ten years old, before computers and keyboarding. Pencil and paper—lots of paper—were the order of the day. Later, I was a homeschool mom by day and a keyboarding writer by night. During those homeschooling years I created the first of my Circle C Adventures. By the time I was ready to seek a publisher (reluctantly, as I really didn’t want anyone reading my stories at all), four or five complete stories were ready to go.
I am published with a traditional, royalty (they pay me), CBA (Christian) publisher, Kregel Publications. Self-publishing in the early 2000s was still a very expensive, author-pay route I did not want to take. In addition, there was a stigma hanging over self-publishing (vanity press). I went through the traditional query, proposal, writer’s conventions, etc. and—after a few years of receiving rejection letters—an author friend recommended me to her editor at Kregel. I emailed my proposal, and he asked to see the whole manuscript within a couple of hours. Andrea Carter and the Long Ride Home was eventually accepted, and the Circle C Adventures series was born. Since then it has expanded into four other spin-off series for all ages.
I have also published within the free (these days), easy, and fun self-publishing world. It is not what it used to be! There are pros and cons with both types of publishing.
Some of the pros of traditional (royalty) publishing are:
- Professional editing, proofreading, and layout. I believe this is the number one reason to seek a traditional publisher. The editors know their jobs. A CBA (or ABA for general publishing) publisher will most likely produce a good product with few or no mistakes. Many eyes go over your manuscript to produce the very best book possible (since their name is on it). A self-published author must either pay for this service or skip this step—a deadly mistake—or have good editors “in the family” who are willing to speak the truth and challenge the author to revise, revise, and revise.
2. No cost. A royalty publisher will never ask an author to contribute financially to publish their book. Not even to “partner for marketing” or any other nonsense. If a publisher asks an author to contribute even one dime, then that publisher is not a true royalty publisher by industry standards. A traditional publisher pays you out of the profits they make from sales of your book.
3. World-wide and bookstore distribution. A traditional publisher can get your books into bookstores worldwide. (I once received an email from a fan in South Africa. She’d found my book in her Christian bookstore.) It’s very rare to see a self-published book in a brick and mortar bookstore. Yes, they can order it for a customer, but since most self-published books have no returns policy, the bookstore is not going to stock a self-published book.
4. Traditional publishers do all the work. They create the cover, lay out the interior pages, choose the font, market the book, and take care of all the other little details an ordinary person has no idea happens to make a story become a reality. Unless a self-published author is very careful, their interior pages “look” self-published, their covers amateurish, and other details that mark the book as a do-it-yourself.
There are some cons with going the traditional publishing route, however.
1. It’s almost impossible to be accepted by a royalty publisher. It’s a little like winning the Lottery. Some wannabe authors receive dozens—no, hundreds—of rejection letters. This is a disappointment and a discouragement to most writers (I’ve had my share of rejections). It’s harder and harder these days for a publisher to take a chance on a new author.
2. The publisher gets most of the money. Sure, you don’t pay for anything with a royalty publisher, but you don’t make much from royalties either. The publisher has put all of the time and work into your story, so the company makes more than you do. A 12% to 16% (of net) is about what you’ll make—if you’re lucky. The publisher has to sell a lot of books for you to make any money.
3. The publisher has the final say on design, layout, cover, etc. You can express your opinion, but the publisher makes the final decision—based on what they think will sell in the market. You give up control in your contract. A good publisher (like Kregel) works with their authors. My ideas have always been accepted or seriously considered. However, I didn’t like a color on a cover for one of my books, but the marketing manager pretty much said (nicely) “this is what we’re going with.” End of discussion.
4. In today’s publishing world, even with a royalty publisher, you have to help market. Self-publishing authors know they have to market and promote their own books. While a royalty publisher has traditionally marketed and promoted their authors’ books, the world has changed. Now, royalty authors (who would like their publisher to accept another story) must market as vigorously as any self-published author.
I have published both ways. I like the control of self-publishing. I like the higher profit margin too. However, I like the feel of legitimacy of being published with a traditional (royalty) publisher and the fact that they can expand into markets I never would be able to match with a self-published book.
Either way you choose to go, it can be summed up with doing two things: 1) write the best book you can, and 2) be prepared to spend plenty of time and money on letting your audience know your book is out there to enjoy!
Thanks so much for sharing with us, Susan K. Marlow. It’s been good to hear from someone who has gone the traditional route as well as done a little self-publishing.
Read more about Susan K. Marlow’s books at www.CircleCAdventures.com Do you have any questions about this publishing route? Have you published traditionally before? If not, would you be interested in doing so?