(Guest Blogging on Ashlyn Forge’s Site)
1. ONCE YOU GET SIGNED YOUR TROUBLES ARE OVER.
This is simply untrue. Getting a publishing deal does mean your work will be readily available, but doesn’t mean you will soon be famous, or that you will be able to quit your job and live off the royalties. Generally, a writer will not see a profit until they have published their 4th or 5th book, at least.
2. YOUR PUBLISHER PAYS YOU TO WRITE
Some publishers will offer an author an advance. This should be understood as a ‘loan’ rather than payment. The publisher will get this money back one way or another. You will not receive a royalty check for your work until your book has sold enough copies to wipe out the advance. Most first time authors will never sell this amount of their first work, and many are later forced to find work elsewhere to repay the publisher. It is not unheard of for publishers to take legal action against an author to recoup their money.
3. ITS STILL YOUR BOOK, THE PUBLISHER JUST SELLS IT FOR YOU
This one is especially tricky and varies with different publishers. Get legal advice before signing any contract. Some publishers will let an author retain their copyright and will share or revert publishing rights. Some publishers will insist that you give up the copyright (essentially making it the intellectual property of the publisher), and may require you give up publishing rights (this varies the most. some will ask for exclusive rights to sell only the book and/ or e-book for the terms of your relationship with the publisher; on the other end of the spectrum is the publishers who will ask you to give up all publishing rights, forever, including movie or television optioning rights, foreign publishing, merchandising rights, etc…)
4. A TRADITIONAL PUBLISHER CAN MARKET YOUR BOOK BETTER
While this one may be true in theory, it often does not play out like this so easily. Publishers are going to spend their money here they best think there is a chance to earn more money back. The biggest marketing campaigns are launched for the most established, well known authors. A relatively unknown author should not expect much in the way of a publisher pushing, advertising or marketing your work. Much of the foot work and effort will still be the responsibility of the author. Some publishers recently have been known to ask a potential author how they plan to market their own work before considering whether to sign them.
5. TRADITIONALLY PUBLISHED BOOKS ALWAYS READ/LOOK BETTER THAN SELF PUBLISHED
This may be true in some cases, especially if you are signed to a major publisher who has artists, editors, proofreaders, designers on staff or on retainer. But whether the new author in the house gets free reign in the best options may be a very different story.
Again, publishers are going to spend the most time and money on a project they know will make them money back. New authors may be relegated to new artists, designers, editors; and the time devoted to the project may be limited. Also worth considering is if you have given the publisher the rights to your work, they can edit it to best fit their needs, tastes– whether it still resembles your work, or adheres to the message you intended.
Smaller, independent publishers will invariably have smaller limited budgets and resources. And again, the time and money spent on your project may be proportional to the amount of return they potentially see in your work.
The myth that self published works are stigmatized just by the fact of self publishing simply is not true. Many famous, successful authors have begun with self-publishing (Charles Dickens ‘A Christmas Carol’, Walt Whitman ‘Leaves of Grass’, Marcel Proust ‘Swanns Way’) And many established authors have chosen to self-publish at one time or another (Mark Twain, James Joyce, Edgar Allen Poe). All the arguments made here are meant simply as a guide, and should not be taken as indisputable truth.
There are many different types of publishers who employee many different techniques, ethics, and standards. Ultimately the decision to self-publish or seek a traditional publisher is up to each author, and may differ even for each work.
This is not meant as a final statement about publishing, but the beginning of a conversation every writer should have. Do your research, educate yourself as much as possible, and decide which points are most important and applicable to you.
And make sure you understand exactly what you are agreeing to before you sign any contract with anyone.