Self Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing: Part One

To self publish or not to self publish.

That´s something I never had to ask myself because I´m not a writer, but many others have undoubtedly asked themselves if they should dive into self publishing or not.

Writers from all literature corners have, at some point, thought of the idea of publishing their own work, whether through traditional publishing or through self-publishing.

Both routes are fully acceptable these days, but before any writer choses a path to take they should definitely have a closer look at the pro´s and con´s of both traditional publishing and self publishing. Let´s do a quick breakdown to show the differences between the two and include pros and cons for both traditional publishing and self publishing:

Pros for Traditional Publishing

  • Marketing
  • Reach a wide audience, more exposure
  • Publishing houses often offer a financial advance
  • Publishing houses take care of edits, covers, etc.

Cons for Traditional Publishing

  • A writer hardly ( if at all, depending on the publisher) has a say ( in all areas)
  • Marketing runs at a snail’s pace
  • Royalty rates suck
  • It´s hard to get out of a contract

So basically, a writer´s hands are bound.

 

Pros for Self Publishing

  • You call the shots. You´re your own boss.
  • Publication is almost instantly
  • Royalty rates are higher
  • No rejections ( other than maybe from readers)

Cons for Self Publishing

  • No professional book polish ( no editing, no suitable cover image)
  • You have to do major self marketing
  • Potential for publishing a shitty book
  • Literally, anyone can self publish

It all comes down to having all the freedom in the world but also investing an outrageous amount of time doing self promotion because.. since you´re your own boss you have to do every stinking thing yourself.

If I was in a writer´s position I would definitely go with the traditional route. But that´s just me. Since I´m not a writer it´s not important what I would do, right?

A simple fact is: It´s hard getting a deal with a publishing house and it´s easy as hell to self publish.

Doing business with hundreds of self published writers did reveal an awful lot, but what the years of observation have shown was that many self published authors struggle.

And the struggle is real.

Some authors don´t know how to market themselves or they find it extremely difficult.

Why is that?

Well, for one… most writers who go into self publishing and want to make a name for themselves know that they´re going to have to deal with marketing but they don´t know how hard it is.

Imagine you wrote a book and you set your mind of self publishing. Great. But what steps need to be done?

Is your book edited? If not, it should be. You don´t want to sell crap and no one wants to spend money on crap. A harsh truth alot of self published author´s don´t want to hear.

Is the book cover image eye-catchy and is the quality of the image good? If not, you might want to invest some money and get something that´ll make a reader want to buy your book. Many readers judge a book by it´s cover. ( read my article on book covers )

Once your book is properly looked over and the cover ( incl. the quality) is ready you still need readers.

Do you have fans? Without fans you have little to no sales. And without fans you have no one but yourself and maybe your mother to spread the word about your book.

Your book can be a genius piece of written art or a possible world-wide bestseller but that´s worth crap if you don´t have any readers.

You need a plan. A large one.

From what I´ve been able to learn was that self published authors NEED to interact with people. There´s no way around it. Writers must use the tools they´re given and start interacting with all sorts of people in order to get the marketing ball rolling.

Social media is the best place for that. Millions of book lovers hang around Facebook, Twitter & Co. and are dying to get their hands on a new book. Befriending authors is also a step in the right direction because other, more accomplished self published authors have the know-how and can help with fulfilling a dream of becoming a known writer. Contacting book blogs is another way. Us foot folk know how to spread the word in an effective way.

It sounds so easy. But then again- everything seems easy in theory. Contacting strangers is not always easy. It´s acutally awkward.

„Hey, we don´t know each other but I have a book and ( after a full-blown social media investigation) I know you like to read… So, do you wanna read my book?“

Yes. That´s awkward but with a little more tact there is a high chance of gaining potential readers that way.

When a writer has to do their own marketing that means nothing other than having to sell their own product. In this case, it´s their book. Selling a product involves having to interact with people.

A nightmare for introverts or moody artists.

Another thing most self published authors forget is that self marketing never stops. It´s a constant, never-ending cycle. Once the self marketing slows down or stops then that´s it. Everything else stops too.

It also doesn´t stop at the interacting, either. There´s a whole lot more to self marketing than a writer´s eye can meet. Writers need to become creative and find ways to keep the ball rolling. This can be done with simple posts of teasers from their book or maybe a graphic quote or possibly through another author promoting a new writer. Something that engages other people. There are ways to make self marketing fun and slightly easier but the key is: interaction.

It also can´t hurt to mention how much time self published writers need to invest on self marketing. Yes. Many writers would appreciate a day with more than 24 hours.

The reality of self publishing is completely different from what people might think. It´s not just going on some self publishing platform and uploading a story with over 60.000 words and calling it a day.

Of course, writers who chose the traditional path and get taken under the wings of a publishing house have it bit easier. They don´t have to worry about self marketing because that´s included in their package. All the fun( insert sarcasm) with having to deal with emotional stress, interacting with strangers and working on spreading the word falls in the hands of competent people who know how to work the book mill. It might not always be what the writer had planned but it´s one less thing to worry about.

Self publishing is hard work and we´ve only just scratched the surface of how hard and frustrating self publishing can really be. The only advice I can give to writers who are unsure of which publishing path to take is: Collect as much info as possible and weigh your options. See what works best.

Because if we´re honest- not everyone is capable of marketing themselves or their work. Not everyone is a social bunny. But if a writer wants to self publish then there´s no way around having to do some self marketing. But when someone is good at marketing themselves then self publishing can be a joy and fun all around.

Coming next: Self Published Authors, Part Two: Book Pricing

Wattpad: Online Writing Community-Review

There are hundreds of free online writing communities but none are as fast growing as Wattpad.

As a writer, being apart of an online writing community is genius, expecially on Wattpad2Wattpad.The registration is free and it takes mere minutes for a writer to create a profile, which is a huge bonus, and they can start uploading their stories, fan-fictions and / or poetry. Practial, right? A writer can upload their stories chapter by chapter where readers can vote and comment on. Often, through the comments, a writer can receive feedback from their readers which may or may not be helpful ( depending on the feedback, of course ). Wattpad is a great place for writers to interact with other writers and readers. And another huge bonus? Wattpad writers are able to enjoy some of the many opportunities Wattpad has to offer ( and there are quite a few. Awesome sauce).

As a reader, being able to pick from millions of stories from just as many writers is like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Wattpad is a fabulous platform where a reader can dive head first into any story and explore different genres for free.

It´s an overall win/win for everyone, at first glance. Wattpad is like Christmas on Easter. Everything is idiot-proof. As a writer, you can become super successful and enjoy all the perks Wattpad has to offer and as a reader all you have to do is vote and comment on a story you enjoyed. Include all the cool and fancy fun stuff and you´re at a writer´s fun-park where everyone is happy. Voila!

But what happens when you take a closer look at Wattpad and the writers who publish their stories?

Now- Personally, I love Wattpad. Not because of the neat knick-knacks and fun stuff the platform offers. I love it because it feels like I´m a child in Bookland. I enjoy watching stories grow with each uploaded chapter and I like how easy it is to build connections there.

It´s incredible to see so many talented people in one spot.

From cover designers to writers ( and so many more )… Wattpad is a hot spot no one should miss out on. BUT…….  ( there´s always a but…..*giggle* )

Wattpad2As an avid reader myself I´ve read my fair share of Wattpad stories- many great and fully worth recommending. I´m even surprised that a few of those stories haven´t been picked up by a publishing house yet.

But then again- I´ve been down the „What the heck did I just read?“ road, too. I´ve even been on the „You must be kidding me.“ lane, where I´ve seen the unthinkable happen. It´s sad to say that not everything on Wattpad is golden.

From what I´ve noticed- Wattpad is more geared towards fantasy, science fiction and YA. Of course, there are plently of other genre´s, such as: romance, historical, horror, self-help, etc, to satisfy a reader´s appitite. Wattpad welcomes all, including fan-fiction. Yes. The F genre.

The problem with a platform that allows everything to happen is- everything happens.

With over 40 million members, Wattpad is a place for all kinds of writers. People who take writing seriously, people who see writing as a hobby, people who just want to scribble down ideas and unfortunately- Wattpad is also misused by writers. I´ve even seen NYT Bestselling authors on Wattpad!

One thing really stands out on Wattpad. You can´t get around without being confronted with a fan-fiction. It happens. No use in trying to prevent it. You´ll definitely see an image from Harry Styles ( The kid from 1D ) or a cover with the actor Jamie Dornan on it. And when you see one, you´ll see more. That´s the downside of Wattpad. It´s over flooded with fan-fiction. That´s not to say that fan-fiction is terrible. Personally- I don´t like that genre but some stories aren´t too shabby.  A few fan-fics on Wattpad are actually brilliant. Sadly, not the majority, though. Many on Wattpad are down-right tasteless, tacky, poorly written and so over the top weird you can´t help but categorise all fan-fics as terrible.

Same goes for paranormal, fantasy and sci-fi stories. Wattpad writers have outstanding imaginations when it comes to preternatural and supernatural… it´s mindblowing. If you´re lucky, you can stumble upon a brilliant story that will most likely tear your heart into pieces and leave you with a nasty book hangover.

If luck isn´t on your side you can be stuck with a night full of shifters, skinwalkers ( Yes, apparently- that´s a thing ), toothless, alpha vampires which will definitely make you think about the writers sanity.

Each genre has it´s perks and downfalls in the Wattpad world. But, all the genre´s share one issue: Typos and misspellings ( not all stories, of course, but more than enough).

I believe in the good of everything. I over see lots of stuff all the time because I understand how busy or stressful life can get. But when I start a story on Wattpad and the first lines in the authors note are:

„This is not edited. You´ll find misspellings and typos. I´m sorry. I don´t want to waste my time with editing this.“

„ If you want to read the typo/misspelling-free version you can purchase this book on Amazon.com.“

That´s slightly rude, in my opinion. I´ve read books with over 100 misspellings and it´s annoying beyond means. If you upload something and expect anyone to enjoy reading then surely it´s not too much to ask for less than 20 typos? That can be done, right?

Let´s not forget to mention the sly Wattpad writers who already have their books up for sale on Amazon but still keep 3 chapters from the same book on their Wattpad page…as a teaser. I´m pretty sure that goes against the Wattpad policy. Yet each night, I come across at least 1 writer who does that. Teasing a reader with 3-5 chapters and hope they´ll buy the book on Amazon. These people think they´re clever but forget that Wattpad readers read on Wattpad for a reason. Namely- because of the free stories.

One could believe the fantastic Wattpad is corrupt. I certainly believe it´s corrupt sometimes. The contests many writers run are great but the Watty Awards that run on Twitter are full of horse s**t and alot of  writers are so full of themselves. How can I not think that Wattpad is a place filled with evil minded, shameless people? Have I forgotten the trillion horny teenagers with the Dornan fantasies? ( I can write a book about those people…. )

This doesn´t really put Wattpad in a good light. It´s rather sad. All I´ve mentioned above is rather harmful for the great writing community. But do not fear. Not all hope is lost. Wattpad isn´t filled with all evil. If you take your time, you can find the gems hidden in the sea of stories. You just have to look hard and stick to what the great writers recommend… or ask me and I´ll gladly point out the writers that are out of this world brilliant * wink *.

If I were to rate Wattpad as I would the books I read then I´d definitely give it 4 out of 5 stars. Why? Well, as I´ve said- Wattpad is a great community where readers and writers can mingle and have a great time with stories. Ignore the rude writers, ignore the fanfics, ignore the Watty´s Awards and avoid being sucked into the many events and you should be all set to have a great time. If a reader sticks to the basics ( vote and comment & interaction ) then Wattpad is THE place to be.

 

I´m giving Wattpad 4 out of 5 stars.

Book Covers- What Happened?

Book Covers

Book covers / cover images are the first thing we see when we look for books. Whether it´s while we´re scrolling through an online shop or simply combing the bookshelves in a bookstore- It´s always the cover that grabs our attention before anything else does. 

Let´s get one thing out of the way before I begin:

Book covers / images are a matter of taste. Everyone has a different idea on what is great or what´s eye catching.

Personally, I like book covers that hardly give away anything from the story. I believe a cover image should grab someones attention, not give the story away. A book cover has to make me stop dead in my tracks. I mean- it’s the first thing a reader sees, right? And if a reader doesn’t like the cover, how fat are chances the reader will buy the book unless they´ve been forced by a friend/family member to read the book? ( The power of recommendations. “It has a hideous cover but awesome story!” )

All this means- I judge a book by it´s cover. I know I shouldn´t. No one should, yet we all do it.

I love to see covers with lots of color / color clashes, unique symbols or anything that stands out ( eye catching, remember? ) Contrasts are also brilliant.

 I’m Amazon’s Costumer Of The Year. Alot of my hard earned money goes for books. I’m sure I’m not the only one with this devastating condition. But if you asked me about book covers then I’d have to say that maybe half of the books I own have decent covers and half from that half have AWESOME images.In other words- I find alot of book covers / images boring and sometimes questionable. 

While reading books from the Romance, New Adult, Young Adult, Erotica and even Horror genre, I’ve come to learn that each genre has their preferred book covers or colors.

Young Adult usually has some teenagers holding hands in a meadow ( colors are usually light ), New Adult covers are a bit more mature ( colors are more bold ), mostly showing some skin or a headless figure… you get the picture, right? We don´t really need to mention Horror covers because many of those covers are just down right brilliant. Creepy but cool.

Also, one has to see the difference between traditional published and self-published book covers. It most cases, self-published book covers / images aren´t done well. But then again- alot of traditional published books have horrible, tacky covers. I can’t really speak for trad-published authors because most of them don’t have a say in the matter. The publisher calls the shots and authors have no power over what cover will be used for their story. That all depends on the publisher and how tight the contract is. Some published authors are lucky and get to chose a cover image themselves. Very few have covers that are able to knock me out of my socks.

There are 2 types of book covers that do not grab my attention at all.  

  1. shaded, oiled torsos with tribal tattoos
  2. covers that look like every other cover

I can’t begin to tell you how many books I have that have black covers with some tiny animal, a key, a keyhole, pearls, diamonds or has some shadowed body parts on it. It’s a nightmare that will not end. 

It´s a trend, I get it. Still… It´s annoying. And when I see certain covers I immediately say to myself ” Uugh. Not again.”.

20161128_010727

( Those are only a few taken from my private bookshelf from only God knows how many )

Many would argue with me on the fact that black book covers aren´t an issue. They´re practical because they look good on a bookshelf, etc.  It truly isn´t an issue. It´s just nothing spectacular.

Then there are those covers with half naked, totally muscular, tribal tattooed, well oiled and well tanned, headless guys. In short- eye candy in it’s tackiest form. I stopped counting those covers because they’re endless. I know I know…sex sells and all that stuff…..but can’t someone stop this nonsense? Tribal tattoos went out of style a while back. Plus, I like guys who have a head. Hands can be sexy, too. Also-  I’m also not a huge fan of character covers, which is when the cover has a face on it. That ruins alot for me and I will ignore the book, risking the chance to read a fantabulous story. Why? Because a character image ruins my own personal image I like to create myself of a character. 

Another thing that brings my blood to boil is when there’s too much going on on a book cover. 

I once saw a cover that was in full color and had an oiled naked, tattooed bod, except- the lucky headless guy had arms and hands ( yay!) and those hands were holding a suit which hung from a coathanger ( I have never in my life seen a suit hanging from a hanger on a book cover before…NEVER) in the background stood the Eiffel Tower. The title- Caged. Can you imagine how confused I was? After taking all the images in I knew what the story was about. But the real question was- Was I interested in the story although I knew there was some godly guy in it, who was probably going to wear a suit at some point, paying the Eiffel Tower a visit? No, I wasn´t. Not even the coathanger was able to convice me.

My point- There´s no need to overload a book cover with dozens of images. That´s only confusing. 

Copying. It´s not a secret that many self-published authors like to copy. Which is fine. I´m the last person to point a finger at anyone in particular. Whatever works best for an author, right? Right. No wait- that´s wrong. Copying is wrong and often doesn´t work out well for an author who wants to make money. What worked for author A doesn´t necessarily have to work for author B. Many writers seem to forget that. 

What happened to self-published authors wanting to be original, standing out and making their book cover better than others? Any, if not all, want to make a living ( eventually ) off of writing, right?

I understand that cover designers are costy. And, yes. I´m aware of how prices are sky high. But they´re worth it. If an author finds a good, professional designer, and both communicate then nothing can go wrong. No one in the history of writing said it would be easy, or cheap. Unless writers don´t value quality and focus their attention more on their story. Then I´d say ” Whatever floats their boat.”.

Still, many don´t or are financially unable to take that path and invest in a cover designer. And if an author doesn´t have a clue what they´re doing when creating their own cover I´m 100% positive it will affect sales. Because, let´s face it- If I notice bad quality / a copied image then other readers will too.  There could be a chance people will ignore a not so great cover and read the story OR they´ll skip the book because of the cover. Who knows. I´m not an expert. But I´ve been watching this business for the last 10 years and can say that covers mean alot. 

I´m not out to ruin self-published authors. I´m not even out to diss traditional publishing houses for their often lack of taste in cover images. Just remember this before the next book hits the market:

1. Sex doesn´t always sell. ( Keep them well oiled studs in the late 90´s where they belong.)

2. Less is ALWAYS more. ( Be tasteful. Be creative. Be original. )

It may not be up to me to decide what cover image is acceptable for a book cover or not. After all- Cover images are a matter of taste.  But since I spend the majority of my money on books I can skip a cover that´s not original or won´t grab my attention.

My wish for the future? For writers to be more creative when deciding on a cover image. Or, invest in a designer. Although, I have seen a small inprovement in the past year ( see Colleen Hoover´s cover image for `Too Late`, for example. What a color explosion! ) so my hopes haven´t died completely.

( NOTE: A cover image alone won´t influence sales. Titles and excerpts play an important role as well. The cover is just what we see first.)