Lately, I've been receiving emails from young writers (both sexes) wanting to know what their options are for getting their works published. I've been meaning to write this entry for them but life and work's gotten in the way.
Eventually though, I've realized that life and work will always get in the way until I make time to write this entry. So here I am, and apologies for the delay.
Now, I've actually rewritten this post in my mind several times, trying to think of how to best explain the difference between traditional and self-publishing is. But now I'm thinking I don't have to do that. Other experts have already weighed about the difference between as well as the pros and cons of self-publishing and traditional publishing, and their explanations are way better than anything I can ever come up with.
So no, I'm not going to bother with that. I do recommend you read Courtney Milan's take on it as well as this and this by Jane Friedman.
(Note: I know that PH's publishing industry is different from the publishing industry in the US but there are also enough similarities for the aforementioned posts to still be applicable.)
Anyway, what I'll be sharing with you now is a questionnaire that I hope can help Filipino authors determine whether it's traditional or self-publishing they're more suitable for.
Now, the rules:
- Each question is answerable by YES or NO.
- When you're done, tally your answers.
- If you have MORE YES answers than no then you're more suitable to self-publishing.
- If you have MORE NO answers than yes then you're more suitable to traditional publishing.
- This questionnaire is ONLY meant to be used as A GUIDE.
- It DOES NOT GUARANTEE SUCCESS in publishing.
the self-publishing questionnaire for filipino authors
- Do you want to own copyright to your work? (Note: It's possible that you'll still own copyright to your book when it's traditionally published, but it's something you usually have to negotiate with the publisher. The advantages of owning copyright is that you DON'T need to ask anyone's permission when you want to promote or alter your book in any way. BUT if a publisher owns copyright to your work then you may have to ask their permission for just about, well, everything. Keep in mind as well that when you sign your copyright to a publisher's, it's very hard - in most cases - to get those rights reverted back to you. In worst case scenario, these contracts can actually STOP you from self-publishing your other works.)
- Do you want / are you more comfortable with having more control over your book covers? (Note: With traditional publishers, they often will consider your opinion but they almost always have last say over your books, and yes, that means they can choose to ignore your output. On the other hand, more control means YOU have to PAY for your OWN COVER. Then again, you can always make your own covers, and sometimes - depending on your skills - that could work, too.)
- Do you want / are you more comfortable with having more control over the editing of your books? (Note: I know a lot of authors who self-edit their work and are still able to sell a lot of copies. You need to be honest with yourself, though, and figure out on your own if you need professional help with editing. The main advantages with working with a professional editor: it frees up your time to write more AND your book is less likely to suffer from poor editing since you are working with a professional. However, this also means having to find a good editor to work with and paying for their services - something that traditional publishers typically do for their authors.)
- Do you want / are you more comfortable with having more control over the marketing of your books? (Note: It used to be that traditional publishers would spend a lot of money on every book they release. Now, that's no longer the case. Only a few handful - really few, to be honest - get to enjoy huge marketing campaigns. Of course, you can still do your own marketing even with a traditionally published book but if that's the case, you should be publishing your own work. On the other hand, being indie means you have to DEVELOP and PAY for your own marketing campaign.)
- Are you READY to think of WRITING AS A BUSINESS? (Note: You can no longer think of your writing as just art. You also need to see it as a business - in every aspect. You still need to write what you LOVE, absolutely, but you also need to make sure that what you love is what readers will love as well. This may mean tweaking your plot, setting, even your characters' names. This also means thinking about the right pricing strategy and how to package your work.)
- Are you ready to work on spreadsheets? (Note: I'm NOT asking you to be an accountant, but you do need to keep track of your expenses to figure out the ROI of each book. You will also need to monitor results every time you conduct experiments on your books in order to figure out what you need to keep doing and what you need to change with your strategy.)
- Are you OKAY with NOT having your books IN BOOKSTORES? (Note: It's possible for an indie author to get his/her books on local bookstores on consignment, but you'll need to negotiate your own contract and take care of all the logistics. It's not easy but not impossible either. Also, having your book in bookstores is considered an important milestone by many authors. Are you willing to let go - even temporarily - of this opportunity?)
- Are you READY to take FULL RESPONSIBILITY for your book? (Note: As an indie publisher, the buck will always stop with you. No ifs, no buts - whether it has to do with your writing, cover, editing, or even formatting - you're accountable for it. BUT then again, everything that's right about the book is also because of your own efforts.)
- Do you want to enjoy INCREASED CHANCES of EARNING? (Note: I say increased chances of earning because I can't guarantee that you'll earn from your work. However, if you take a look at AuthorEarnings.com, you'll see that indie authors out-earn their traditional counterparts in general. Primary reasons for this include being able to have higher royalty percentages for authors and indie writers being free to publish as many books as they want.)
- Do you want to START EARNING NOW? (Note: Amazon et al has a 2-month delay for royalty payments. What you earned this September, you will be paid with a check late November. For us Filipino authors, this check will be mailed and reach us early to mid-December. OTOH it takes publishers months to a year or even more to pay you royalties.)
- Are you comfortable with working on your own? (Note: Indie = independent, and most of the time you will be working all by your lonesome. There won't be anyone to prod you about deadlines, no one to look after your interests except yourself. If you're the type who needs supervision while working then indie publishing may not be for you.)
- Are you good with TIME MANAGEMENT? (Note: You need to know your priorities as an indie publisher. You need to learn how to say 'no' to people or opportunities in order to FIERCELY PROTECT your writing time. Marketing and networking with other writers is important, yes, but it's not as important as getting the next book out.)
- Do you write FAST enough? (Note: The main advantage of working independently is being able to publish as many books as you want. But if it's an advantage that you don't think you want or intend to make use of, then you may be better off signing with a traditional publisher.)
- Are you comfortable with and excited about WRITING TO TREND? (Note: Imagine having watched this week's blockbuster movie and finding it so inspiring you want to write something like it, with your own twist. Imagine having read this week's NYT bestseller and again feeling so inspired by it that you want to write your own version. That's what writing to trend is all about: you're writing what's CURRENTLY POPULAR, regardless of your motivations. This used to be an ill-advised move in the past because then, we only had traditional publishing. Since it usually takes 1 to 2 years for a book to go out from the time you signed your publishing contract, there's no point writing to trend. By the time your book's out, the trend's no longer popular. BUT IT'S DIFFERENT NOW. Depending on how fast you write and how passionate, excited, challenged, and inspired you are about the trend, it's more than possible to get your next book out while the trend's still hot and readers are EAGER to pay for books that cater to that trend. Don't you want to be the author who gives these readers what they want?)
- Are you comfortable with approaching readers or reviewers about your work? (Note: I consider this as an inevitable and necessary part of self-publishing. With traditional publishing, your publicist or your publisher's marketing department will do it for you but since you're indie, you'll need to do this on your own. You'll need to come up with a system for determining which reviewers are best to approach, following them up, and monitoring reviews.)
- Are you READY to SPEND money on MARKETING? (Note: This is also something I consider inevitable and necessary. While there are many ways to market your book for free, in the end there are also instances when you just HAVE to pay for marketing, in order to boost your book's visibility.
- Are you FLEXIBLE? (Note: I still believe the ebook / digital publishing industry will continue to experience growing pains for quite some time, and because of that we as indie authors need to be ready to work with whatever changes that are sure to come our way. An example: KU changing its payment policies, which totally took me by surprise, but I've moved on and I'm already working on my next strategy. We can't waste time crying over spilled milk. We just need to move on, work harder, and keep writing.)
- Are you READY to face the STIGMA that still comes with SELF-PUBLISHING? (Note: People's take on self-publishing isn't as bad as it used to be in the past, and yes, I thank God for that. BUT it's not completely gone. There will still be people who won't consider you a "real" author because you don't have a book in bookstores. There will still be people who think you don't have a "real job". If you're not ready to deal with such stigma in a positive manner then you may not yet be ready to self-publish.)
Hope this helps!