Two Paths to Publishing: Which is Right for You?

This blog has often featured articles that writers might find helpful. Not because I’m an expert on this whole “writing gig” but because I’ve done some digging. I want your road to publishing to be smoother than mine has been.

One of the big questions I still find myself debating is about HOW to get published. Should I take the traditional path? Or should I self publish?

Recently, one of the writing teachers I follow wrote a long blog post on the subject. The teacher is Tim Grahl and you can read his post here.

Not that I’m trying to convince you not to click over to Tim’s site, but the post is LONG. And I can sum it up in two sentences.

If you want someone else to do the work of publishing your book, you want to go traditional. If you want to control all of the ins and outs, and don’t mind spending time as an entrepreneur, self-publishing is probably the road for you.

Too simple? Yeah, that’s what I thought too.

Traditional

This used to be the path of “authentic” authors. But it’s a LONG and arduous path with a lot more querying and pitching than actual writing.

Here it is:

  1. Write a book
  2. Revise, edit and polish the manuscript
  3. Research agents and publishers
  4. Craft a killer query and synopsis
  5. Start emailing your query to the members of your list
  6. Attend conferences to pitch agents and editors in person

Don’t sit around and wait, my friend. You’ll grow old and might ruin your computer from repeatedly clicking the refresh button on your mail inbox.

Once you send the queries out, it’s time to begin writing something new. Authors from either path agree on this.

Self-Publishing

This used to mean your manuscript couldn’t get past the gatekeepers. Let’s be honest, we’ve read some books that weren’t publish-worthy by snagging up free reads on Amazon.

But there are plenty of books that debuted as self-published and made their way into a movie deal or a television series. I’m thinking of The Martian not 50 Shades.

The traditional path generally takes long and probably won’t net you as much of a return on a “per book sold” basis, but check out all the steps for self-publishing:

  1. Write a book
  2. Revise, edit and polish the manuscript
  3. Research editors
  4. Hire an editor
  5. Research cover designers
  6. Hire a designer
  7. Fix manuscript according to editors suggestions
  8. Hire a proofreader
  9. Deal with changes to the cover
  10. Upload the final products to your publishing platform of choice
  11. Figure out how to market the book

Yes, I could have added a step for researching and hiring a formatter because it isn’t as easy as one might think to get the book ready for publishing. But it can be done with a minimum of hair pulling and several review phases with CreateSpace.

I’ve been guilty of including my small indie publisher in it’s own realm because it doesn’t require the wait times (nor have the distribution) of the big publishing houses.

There is a third path. It’s the one I’ve been traveling for the past three years.

Hybrid

I have manuscripts I’m actively trying to sell to agents or publishers. This is me on the traditional path

I’ve contracted many stories and novellas with a small publisher, so this is probably me on the traditional path, too.

I also have a novella and two Bible study books that I published myself using CreateSpace.

Some authors have books on Amazon they’ve published, and then they sign with a big house and contract for other books that will soon be on Amazon under that publisher’s control.

Either way, that’s the hybrid path. You aren’t sold on getting published ONE way.

Although Grahl suggests giving yourself a year on a path before deserting it, I think you can walk the middle line as a hybrid author. You’re likely to discover which trail appeals to you and you’ll see your name in print rather than waiting for an acceptance letter from an agent or publisher.

Maybe it really is as easy as deciding if you want to spend your time writing (and marketing because you do that on either road) or if you want to embrace the business side of publishing while you’re writing.

What experience do you have with publishing paths? Do you have other advice that will help muddy clear up this issue?

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Celebrating a “Sold” Sign

sold sign

If you’ve been reading this blog for long, you’re familiar with the “we’re trying to sell our house” woes faced over the past two years. In light of that, with a solid offer and a “Sold” sign out front, there should be plenty to celebrate.

Don’t think I’m ungrateful or anything, because that’s what the rest of this post might sound like. I am supremely thankful for the buyers God sent in answer to our prayers. (And He sent them in December – but the couple was divided about this house being perfect for them.)

I mean, we dropped the price of our house three separate times since signing the original contract to sell it in September. Our original listing price was $5,000 below the tax assessed value. (Actually, they call this the Real Market Value on the tax bill. Doesn’t that mean I should have been able to get someone to pay that much for the house?)

Living here has been a cross between staying at a hotel and a museum. Everything that made it feel like our home was stripped during the staging process. Since the house had to be ready to show at an hour’s notice, everything needed to find its proper corner and stay there.

Sometimes, I felt that meant even me.

After having two separate couples love the house – one of them sending a verbal offer through their Realtor (if you call $30,000 below asking price a real offer) – we finally have a written offer to purchase.

I smiled when I heard it, even though it would be another two weeks before I smiled about it again.

The Offer

One week before, we had reduced the price from $245,000 (which was $20,000 below the initial listing price in September and $25,000 below the County Assessors ridiculous idea of our home’s “market value”).

The new price was $239,900 (“It sounds like so much less than $240,000” our Realtor said).

My husband and I discussed our “bottom line. ” We hoped to net enough from the house to put $40,000 down on the new one – without touching our savings – and replace the furniture we’d sold to make the house less cluttered.

The offer matched our lowest price. Before I could do a jig of joy, I learned that our buyers wanted us to pay their closing costs – to the tune of $6,800. Oh, and since they were getting an FHA loan, there was another government fee we were required to pay.

its.only.money

Further, they wanted to close in six weeks, and they wanted us out five days afterward (rent amount to be discussed if this offer was accepted). Our new house wasn’t expected to close until four days after their requested  closing date, giving us one day to move into the new place.

(Did I mention that my husband attends this computer conference in Las Vegas the last week of March? Yeah, he wouldn’t even be in the state on that single day they gave us to move. In their defense, they didn’t know where we were moving or that our new house isn’t completed.)

Give-and-Take Fallacy

After taking a look at the estimated cost sheet, we realized we would barely net the exact amount we needed for the down payment and purchases at the new house.

Okay, no need to be greedy. The Lord handed us buyers that could exactly meet our expectations. (Sad how I now feel we should have held higher expectations.)

However, the possession date wasn’t doable.

Our builder would not finish the house early. We will record that sale on March 30 and can take possession that day. Me and the cats – since my tenant son is getting his own place before that and my itinerant husband will be out of state.

For some reason, the mental picture of the cats and I loading the piano into a moving van won’t come into focus.

As a counter-offer, we agreed to all their terms except the possession date. We asked for 30 days after closing to vacate these premises. Seventeen years’ worth of memories aren’t going to be boxed up in 24 hours. Of course, since we had made concessions in price and closing costs, we asked for that time to be granted rent-free.

“That’s $1,650 you’re asking for,” my Realtor said.

No money for this rent would actually be changing hands. They weren’t making a payment until May 1.

“But they’ll have to pay rent on their current place when they’re expecting to have that money for other things.”

I admit my brain had already done the math. We had conceded nearly $12,000 to them and they weren’t willing to pay rent for an extra 30 days? I know we will be out before that time because Mr. Travels-a-lot will be heading out of town on April 5-12 and April 23-29.

In the end, they agreed to ten days rent-free. But the inspection of the premises they ordered could still throw a hand-grenade in our tentative peace treaty.

Next week I’ll share the results of the fiasco inspection.

Do you think real estate contracts should give buyers an upper hand? Do you have any advice or words of encouragement for me?