Follow the path or blaze your own as a writer?

Catching up on some old posts from two of my favorite authors, Edward W. Robertson, the author of Breakers, a fantastic series you really should love and check out, and Hugh W. Howey, author of the stunning story Wool.  Fantastic reads, both are series, and both are well worth the effort.

You can follow them both at @hughhowey and @edwardwrobertson.

Why do I mention these two?  Well, as I said, great writers.

But it was a post by both that got me thinking on this, and it is on the subject of independent vs. Trad Publishing, or working for the Big 5.  Both have their pro’s and cons, to be certain.

Big 5, you get into most of the bookstores, professional editing and cover designs, and, most times, a nice advance on your story.

You’ll also more than likely get a huge amount (compared to independent) of press coverage.   Now, before you go running off the page to your email to send off that stunning query letter you have?  Let’s look at what you have to give up to get that… if you can get past the gate keepers (more on them later).

First of all, you’ll be given recommendations for your story.  These recommendations are made by professionals in the publishing world.

These editing recommendations will go beyond punctuation and spelling.  They can cost you characters you’ve invested time and heart into, as well as entire chapters can be erased.  Obviously, this can change a story drastically, and lead to you re-writing a good bit.

You will also find out that the release date can be quite far down the road.

But!   Yeah, there’s a but.  You don’t have to worry about the cover, publishing, editing, or advertising of your book.  This is all good to those that don’t care to do such labors, as they can and are rather tedious at times.

They also buy your rights for a fairly decent amount of time.

But again, odds are pretty good you’ll get an advance.

Now for a little side step that we must cover;  If you contact a publishing house and they tell you that they’re going to make you a famous author for the low low price of…. run.   Just drop your shit and head for the doors.  This is a vanity press, and they are going to screw you blind.

Hard, I know, but that’s reality.  Even if you want paperbacks, you can get them cheaper through a site like Createspace than you can from most vanity presses.

And you can order a lot fewer copies, as few as one and I really don’t know the upper end.  But still, don’t do vanity.

So now we’re going into what I am doing, which is self pubbing.  Drawbacks are I don’t get an advance, I don’t get to have a professionally designed cover, my editing is left up to me and any friends I have who are grammar nazi’s and endless hours wandering the web for guidance, or you dig into your bank account if you have the money and plunk down some cash to get it done by a professional.  Just be aware that this can cost 30 to 40 dollars an hour, and an 80,000 word manuscript can run $1,100 dollars.

If you have the money to hire a professional without financially crippling yourself, then I’d recommend you do so, AFTER the beta’s are done.

If you are not one of those who can have a sailboat and pay for a professional edit, but instead are one of us who can’t even afford a rubber duckie for the tub?  Get your friends who are good at grammar to help.

Fortunately, Word has a good  spell checker, and the thesaurus isn’t completely booger eating stupid, either.  So always use that as a tool at your disposal.  You may not be Daniel Webster or Theo Saurus, but by damn, you can polish as much as possible so that you’re not sending out a manuscript that looks like a cross eyed drunk dyslexic wrote it, either.

So… now you have that part done.  Hallelujah!!  We have gotten to the next part of our journey, which you should really start thinking on between when we write.

Your cover.  First rule?  Do NOT plan on what your cover looks like when you’re holding the cover in your hand.

That’s not how you sell it.  You sell your book with an icon.  A little one by one size square that you have to play magician with.  It’s got to be good enough to grab a readers attention there, and make them decide to click it to see it in more detail.

Then you have to make the now enlarged image cool enough where they want to open it and give it a test read.  Especially if you don’t have 500 or more reviews and are in a genre where everyone else is writing a story.  (I am a zombie lover, and my genre is saturated with writers.  So I fully understand crowded.)

Again, you can do your own cover, or you can pay someone.  There are sites where you can buy premade covers at modest prices, there are professionals who will charge you significant money to do so, and there are sites where you can get an artist to do your cover at a reasonable cost.

If you choose this last option, be forewarned by one who learned the hard way that they are more than likely going to send it to you in the wrong damn size, and your final, printed paperback version looks like you’re viewing it through a partially melted window.

Or you can do like Hugh and do your own cover if you have either an inkling of talent and computer skills, or you’re just that masochistic.  Me, I bred my new cover artists.  My two youngest sons are one hell of a tag team on the computer and they come up with some quality work.

My overall point?

First, back to the gatekeepers before I wrap it up.  I promised, after all.

You can put your writing fate in the hands of a very select few who determine whether your book will ever see the light of day, potentially stacking rejection upon rejection until you have wallpapered your entire house with them, or you are one of the chosen who they deem worthy of an attempt to publish.

From that moment until the end of your contract, you will be fairly limited, unless you are fortunate and smart enough to do like Hugh and structure a contract where you keep all your ebook rights, or you deal with it.

You’re playing the literary lottery with both choices, truthfully.  What it really all boils down to is a select few things.

Is your book worth a damn?  Truthfully, this is always going to be the root of whether or not you sell.

Do you feel lucky?  One person stumbles upon Norman Noname and the Faceless Flock, and suddenly it shoots up the charts, a word of mouth and keyboard sensation that sells two million copies, or it becomes some poor little lost ruffian with five reviews and hundreds of downloads.

Both books can be equally well written.  There is no magic formula beyond a good story and a healthy dose of word of mouth.

Write for the sake of writing.  Build a following.  Your writing will improve with each book.  Mine does.  But this is, for most of us, a marathon, not a sprint.

But if you’re writing for the opportunity to get rich?  Man did you fuck up…