Let’s Talk Traditional Publishing: My Experience

It is every authors dream to have an agent or a publisher look at their work and say “Yes, this is exactly what we want,” and to go on publishing their book, as it was my dream too. To have your book published by a company is great because they do all the work from editing, to cover and interior designing, to marketing your work; at least they’re supposed to.

I’ve been traditional published by a wonderful small press and while I hold lots of respect towards them and have had many great experiences with them, there are some cons to the deal that I’ve been wanting to address.

As I always do, starting with the pros:

Beyond having bragging rights to say, “I have a publisher now,” when working with a publishing company, you have access to almost their entire team of creatives to help edit, design, and sell your book, all for free. Whereas when self-publishing, unless you find someone to hire, you end up doing all those jobs yourself, which for some can be exciting, but for others, it can become taxing and frustrating.

I had a wonderful team that listened to every note I made, whether it was to remove a poem or to choose a different color for the cover. In fact, the cover went through a wide variety of changes where the original, although still semi present on the cover, has been lost within color changes, font changes, and elemental design changes, and is now looking it’s very best. I’m grateful to have had that team of designers to give me that beautiful cover.

My publishers also gave me file access to different shots of my book taken by their photographer for me to use however I liked. And I did, by using them for pre-order announcements and ads, all of which bring me into my cons.

The marketing is something I looked forward to most when querying for a publisher. I’ve self-published my books three times before, and knew how to edit and design a good-enough cover myself, but it was the marketing I wanted the most help with, and I expected I’d get that when I signed the contract.

Unfortunately, marketing of my book seems to be more on the back burner. My publishers rebranded their name and made the focus on their author services, rather than their books as a once-a-time press. I can’t blame them, a small press branching out is fine and a good idea, but it left me feeling extremely disappointed.

I, once again, am left doing most of the marketing for my book. Despite my publishers efforts in giving marketing support by way of a planning template and scarce monthly book posts, it is very clear that when they said their focus would be more on the “creative studio” rather than the “publishing studio,” they meant it.

Covid had my book delayed and rushed, it was whirlwind of excitement, disappointment, radio silence, rushing anxiety excitement and more creeping disappointment towards the release date. And by all of that I mean, my book was set to come out in the spring of 2020, but delayed because of Covid. The new release date was fall of 2020, but again, delayed. There was silence from my publishers for months, due to lack of available funding to print my book, until summer 2021 when I was given an almost permanent release date in October. Even then, the week leading up to the release was chaos. I didn’t know when I could announce the release date because it was tentative and subject to change. I didn’t know when I could open pre-orders because the company hadn’t received their shipment of books yet. It was beginning to frustrate me more than excite me, so much, that when the time came for me to hold my book and read through it’s physical form, I had felt nothing.

Beyond all that, something you’ll find with all publishers, as it should be expected, the profit is split. Because you have access to an entire team “for free,” the percentage of royalties you receive on your book most likely won’t be the same as you would if you self-published, and that is simply because you are paying for their services and the company. I debated dropping this into the cons, because it is only right that the creative team gets paid for their hard work, just as much as you, but figured it’d be good to address if the royalties are something you take the most interest in.

At the end of it all, I know patience is something I lack. When I discuss my frustrations about my publishers, as a first time traditionally published author, it does not turn me away from trying to be given a contract again, instead it sort of encourages me to go out and find more. One bad experience can’t speak for them all, especially not when there was still some good within it, that I’m grateful for. I imagine it will be less chaotic and more smooth sailing the second time. I won’t have to worry about flipping up the sofa cushions to scrape up a quarter of patience I’ve dwindled out of. It will be better.

And as I’ve said, this is just my experience. I’m still proud of myself for achieving this lifelong goal of mine, and I’m still thankful to have had this opportunity to begin with. Do I wish I didn’t have so many complaints? Yes. But alas, life is full of them.

Published by Robin

Poetry author from Pennsylvania

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