Guest Blogger: Nathan Bransford
One of the more common questions I receive in interviews and the like is this one: You have a blog, you were in the business by virtue of being a former literary agent, why didn’t you self-publish? Why didn’t you do it on your own? Couldn’t you have made more money self-publishing?
I know there are lots of people out there asking themselves whether they should go through the potentially months- or years-long finding-an-agent-and-then-a-publisher process or just get right to it and self-publish. But I decided to go the traditional route with Penguin for a two book deal (JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW and JACOB WONDERBAR FOR PRESIDENT OF THE UNIVERSE), and I’m very pleased to announce that we finalized a third, tentatively titled JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE INTERSTELLAR TIME WARP!!
So why did I choose a traditional publisher? Many many reasons.
My Editor is Amazing
Having a professional editor in your corner is indispensable, and here’s the part where I give heap tons of well-deserved praise on my amazing editor, Kate Harrison, who understood and believed in WONDERBAR from the start. Kate has a ton of experience, I trust her instincts and editorial eye, and she is deeply committed to making every book as good as it can possibly be.
We went through pretty extensive revisions for COSMIC SPACE KAPOW, and I think they resulted in a much stronger book.
I Don’t Have Time to be a Self-Published Author
I have a very full-time job that I am deeply committed to and a blog that takes up a good chunk of my free time. I don’t have time to hire an editor, hire a copyeditor, hire an illustrator, hire a cover artist, buy ISBNs, make sure the formatting is right for all the various editions, choose trim size, write cover copy, and all of the other seven billion tasks that go into making a book.
I write, I do the bloggy things, I do the Twitter and the Facebook, and Penguin handles the making-of-the-book thing. Better still? Penguin does a fabulous job. I love my illustrator, I love my cover, the interior looks amazing. They did a way better job at all of that than I could have done on my own.
Print is Still Where It’s At, Especially for Children’s Books
Yes, this balance will continue to change as we move into the e-book world. But as I articulated in a post a few months back, this is still a print world. Even with the exponential rise of e-books we’re still somewhere between 65-80% print, and perhaps even a bit more for children’s books. Parents aren’t exactly rushing out to buy their 8-12 year-olds e-readers.
That may well change in the next five years. But for now? Print is still where it’s at. And if you want to get into bookstores you need a publisher.
I Appreciate Penguin’s Cachet
A few years back I honestly don’t know that the average consumer really knew the difference between a traditionally published and self-published book. If it was bound it was a book. Who cares what name was on the spine?
Now though, in the past year or two I feel like I’ve noticed a subtle change. People will hear I have a book coming out and I’ll see them squint, and they’ll say cautiously, “Oh, really? Who’s it with?” Then when I say Penguin the reaction is different.
This isn’t to take anything away from self-published authors, many of whom are really really great writers and who I know are very hard at work bucking that skepticism. It’s nothing personal at all, I just think being associated with an established brand helps.
Yes, in the long run maybe I could have made more money self-publishing. Then again, maybe I couldn’t. Maybe I would have made ten bucks. Who knows.
But hey. When you get an advance you can literally take it to the bank.
I Believe in the Traditional Publishing Process
Having worked in publishing I have a deep appreciation for the professionalism of publishers. They are in the book-making trenches. They know what works, they love words, they are eating, sleeping and breathing books.
Now, I don’t think the traditional publishing process is for everyone, and I don’t consider myself an advocate for either traditional or self-publishing. But for me? When my writing career is getting started? I really appreciate having a professional editor who is invested in the outcome of my book. I appreciate the expertise of the designers and the marketers and the sales team and all the people who help make the process work smoothly.
As I alluded to in some recent interviews, traditional publishing is a collaborative process. The author doesn’t have total control. I’m okay with that, in fact I appreciate it and I think it’s resulted in a better book than I could have produced on my own. Other authors may want more autonomy. It’s important to know who you are.
Nathan Bransford is the author of JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW, published by Dial Books for Young Readers. He was formerly a literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd., but is now a publishing civilian working in the tech industry. He lives in San Francisco.