First, let me say, unlike some publishing professionals, I have a lot of respect for writers who decide to take the self-publishing route. If it's well-written, with professional editing, layout, and design help, a self-published book can be as good as the ones released from traditional publishers.
Today, just or the sake of this article, we're going to confine our discussion to a writer's temperament and expectations and how they should help dictate which publishing path they should pursue. We are also presupposing that you will be able to attract the attention of a traditional publisher with your writing. Now you have a decision to make, traditional or self-publish.
Time for some questions:
Do you need to have the last word about every comma, period or phrase?
Do you suffer under the illusion that a traditional publisher works for you, as if they were a paid employee?
Do you find it difficult to stop making changes to your work, or the work of others?
Do you need to be in charge of everything?
Are you unable to trust professionals to do their work, or do you second guess them at every turn?
Be brutally honest. No one can see your answers, but if you answered yes to any of these questions, then the path for you is clear. You will be much happier going the self-published route.
Traditional publishers don't work for you. They are not your employee(s). They take a huge financial risk when they offer you a contract for your book. More than 70% of traditionally published titles never earn back what the publish invested in bringing them into print. Publishers are concerned with one thing: polishing, packaging, printing, shipping, and marketing your book in the hopes that it will make a profit. If you cannot trust them to do their job, then make every one happy - self-publish. Don't expect a traditional publisher to bend to your every whim or to respond positively to your demands regarding edits, design, scheduling, or any other part of their area of expertise. In the end you might find yourself on the outside looking in. Remember, in traditional publishing, the publisher isn't getting paid by you, rather they are the ones pouring their money into giving your book every possible chance to succeed. They are not there just to take the burden of the "technical stuff" off your hands. Unlike "publishing" services like Bookbaby, Outskirt or Author House, they don't make a cent until your book sells enough copies to cover their cost investment.
If you feel no one other than yourself can ever do anything correctly, then by all means, please self-publish.
If on the other hand, you are eager to work with professionals in their field, knowing that they can help you realize your book's potential, then pursue the traditional path. If you want to be part of a lasting relationship focused on your writing and success, go traditional if you can.
Publishers bring much to the table if you are ready, willing, and able to let them do their job. They've spent decades honing their craft and staying on top of the latest changes and trends in the marketplace. They employ equally well-qualified editors, copyeditors. artists, designers, and marketing people. Treat them with the same level of respect you would like in return, and you will likely have a long and satisfying relationship.
If you are lucky enough to get signed, know that publishers are always happy to answer your questions. They want their
authors on their list to be happy. It's all right to ask about possible changes, just make sure it's put in the form of a question and not framed as a demand.
You see, there's more to consider than just who to query. First consider your working expectations and temperament. If you have even the slightest doubts about the merits of traditional publishing, do everyone, including the publisher, a huge favor and self-publish.
~ Buddhapuss Ink