Thursday, May 4, 2017

0 Writing 101: To Query or Not to Query

**This post is part of the Writing 101: From Concept to Query (and Beyond!) series. For an overview of planned posts, take a look at the series introduction. Previous posts have explored the drafting process, and novel revisions**

So, you’ve written a book, you’ve revised that book, and you’re ready to send it out into the world.
Before we go any further, congratulations! This is an incredible achievement and you should be very proud of all the hard work you’ve put into your final product. Make sure you do something to celebrate this milestone!

Once you have a complete and polished book on your hands, you can decide to do one of three things with it:
  1. Keep it to yourself, or simply share it with family and friends
  2. Self-publish
  3. Pursue traditional publication
We’re going to look at why you might choose option two or three, and their advantages and disadvantages.

Self-Publishing Pros

Control over the development of your work
As a self-publisher, you never have to worry about things like being saddled with a cover you hate, or back cover copy you feel doesn’t represent your book well. You’re calling all the shots.

Less rejection
When self-publishing, you won’t have to put up with the sometimes grueling processes of querying literary agents and submitting to editors. Instead, you decide when your book is ready, and you pursue publication.

Condensed timeline
Self-publishing means you’ll do significantly less waiting than a traditionally published author. The timeline from edits to formatting to cover art to launch depends entirely on how fast you can work.

Higher royalties
As a self-publisher, you'll make significantly more off of each copy you sell than a traditionally published author would.

Self Publishing Cons

A lot of work!
Traditional publishing is work too, of course, but if you self-publish, everything’s up to you. You’ll either have to do it yourself or find and hire professionals to take care of things like copy edits, formatting, and cover design.

Need money upfront
Unless you’re a whiz who can do all of the aforementioned really well yourself, you’ll need some capital to sink into your book prior to publication, to cover the costs of editing and design.

Less access to bookstores
Most self-published authors thrive in the e-book and online realm. It’s difficult to break into print bookstores as a self-pubber.

Traditional Publishing Pros

No money needed upfront
Breaking into the traditional publishing industry requires nothing but time, some talent, and a lot of perseverance. Agents will take you on in exchange for earning a commission on future sales, and publishers will (for the most part) pay an advance against future sales prior to publication.

Better distribution access
Traditional publishers have access to bookstores and retailers that self-publishers won’t. Working with them can get your book on more shelves.

Work as part of a team
You won’t have to worry about copy edits, formatting, or design if you publish traditionally. Your imprint or house will have a team of professionals who handle all that for you.

Prestige
Let’s be honest. For many authors, the dream is to be able to say something along the lines of “I’m published by Penguin” or “Macmillan” or “Scholastic” And that’s a perfectly worthy dream to pursue!

Traditional Publishing Cons

Lower royalties
As a traditionally published author, you’ll only make a small percentage of each book sale. You’ll also have to pay your agency a commission fee on your earnings.

Less creative control
When working with a publishing house, you’ll be (to a degree) at the mercy of a marketing team. You’ll have input, but not the final say on things like your title, cover art, and back cover copy.

A LOT of waiting
Traditional publishing is a game of hurry up and wait, hurry up and wait. You can expect to wait around 18 months from the time you sign a book deal to your book actually hitting shelves.

Ultimately, deciding to self-publish or traditionally publish comes down to your priorities. If creative control is most important to you and you enjoy getting to work on the full spectrum of book development activities, self-publication would be a good fit. On the other hand, if you enjoy working with a team of individuals and prefer to focus more single-mindedly on your craft, traditional publication might be best.

If you decide to self-publish, there are a lot of resources available online to help guide your journey. You can find a few here, here, and here.

For the rest of this series, we’ll discuss traditional publishing. Tune in next week for a look at the process of querying literary agents!


Which do you find most appealing? Traditional or self publication? Let us know in the comments below.

About the Author

Laura Weymouth is AYAP's contest coordinator, working to create opportunities for you to get samples of your work in front of agents right here on Adventures in YA Publishing.

Laura lives on the edge of the woods in western New York, along with her husband, two wild-hearted daughters, a spoiled cat, and an indeterminate number of chickens. Her YA fantasy debut, THE WEIGHT OF WORLDS, is forthcoming from HarperTeen in the fall of 2018.

You can follow Laura on Twitter and add her book on Goodreads.

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