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Why I'm Grateful for My Publisher & Traditional Publication


By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

Since this is the season of gratefulness, I decided to write a post about what I'm thankful for. But instead of the usual list that includes family, friends, and freedom (which is by no means insignificant!), I decided to share some of the reasons why I'm grateful for my publisher and traditional publication.

This isn't a bash against self-publishing by any means. I love that self-publishing has come of age. I know many successful self-published authors, and I'm genuinely excited to see the new options available to writers.

But in all the self-publishing hype over the past year or two, traditional publishing has come under a lot of criticism. And I see many writers now turning up their noses at the thought of going traditional.

Obviously, we all have to decide the right course for us. And for many writers self-publishing may indeed open a wealth of opportunities. But let's not forget that traditional publication still can offer writers many benefits too.

So in light of Thanksgiving, I've put together a list of why I'm grateful for my publisher, Bethany House Publishers. (Sidenote: Keep in mind that every publisher is different, and so what my publisher offers me, might vary with what other traditional publishers offer).

1. Top-notch editors. Of course I'm really biased! But I think I have the two best editors in the world. They're involved in every aspect of my book: brainstorming book ideas, going through my synopsis step-by-step (before I start a book), offering multiple pages worth of rewrite suggestions once I finish the first draft, and later combing through my manuscript for line and copy editing.

They even come up with title and cover suggestions, back cover blurbs, and marketing copy. Since they know my book so intimately, they're able to oversee coordinate every aspect of publication.

And to top all that off, my editors are incredibly encouraging and supportive. In fact, I just got rewrites back for my book that's releasing next fall of 2013. And to assuage my worries my editor said this:  

"Please don’t let this stress you out or take it too seriously. The review is just a tool, hopefully to guide the revision process and free up new avenues of looking at the story and its characters/conflicts . . . It’s not meant to deflate you or hurt your confidence but to energize your creativity to revise and improve what’s already in place." (I seriously wanted to give him a high five after reading that!)

2. Hard-working marketing department. Again, I'm really biased, but I think Bethany House has one of the best marketing departments out there. They put together a special marketing plan for each of my books months before the release date. And while they have their standard marketing venues, they also ask for my input for each book. They've been willing to try many of my suggestions and add them to the marketing budget for my book.

They've also done a fantastic job of looking at what my strengths are and trying to tailor the marketing plans to fit them. They don't pressure me to do things that I'm not fond of. And overall, they put an incredible marketing effort into each book so that I can't help but want to follow their example and work just as hard doing my part.

3. A savvy and strategic sales department. While I don't have as much contact with the Bethany House sales department, I have been really impressed by their ability to keep Bethany House books in brick and mortar stores even though shelf space is shrinking. They've also adjusted to selling books online, working to be savvy, strategic, and even trend-setting in their internet sales efforts.

4. A network of other Bethany House authors. While I'm incredibly grateful for all of my writer friends (life wouldn't be the same without you!), I find that having a family of authors in the same publishing house has been incredibly beneficial. I've been able to turn to some of those authors with specific questions or advice that's been invaluable. We also have an email loop where we can encourage one another, share good news, and ask questions, and that's been a blessing too.

Obviously there are plenty of other benefits to having a traditional publisher, and I've just touched the tip of the iceberg (and haven't even mentioned the outstanding cover design team and all of the other dedicated staff that work behind the scenes!). Overall, I've found that my publisher is interested in helping me develop into a career author, not a one-book wonder. And they have the skills and ability to help make that happen.

Do you think there are still benefits to traditional publication? What are they for you? And if you're opting to self-publish, what are the biggest benefits for you?

Due to the Thanksgiving holiday (and my efforts to finish writing a novel this month!), I won't be posting on Thursday. I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving! See you back here on Tuesday, Nov. 27.

 

26 comments:

  1. Just like everything in this world, there are pros and cons for both 'sides'. Even though I'm pubbed by a small press, I'm still striving to take a step up the ladder. No bias for me. I'm open to it all. If a book is well-written, I really don't care how it got published at all. Hope you have a great break :-)

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    1. I remember before I was published, I hardly ever paid attention to who the publisher was of authors I loved. If someone had asked me the name of the publisher, I wouldn't have been able to tell them! It's amazing how much more attention I pay to publishers now! :-)

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  2. I'm so glad you wrote this, Jody. One of the things that has disappointed me lately with the debates (for lack of a better word) going on in blogosphere about traditional vs. self is that the conversations always seem defensive and finger-pointing in nature. I've been keeping an eye out for the posts written by authors about the good sides to tradtional publishing, and quite frankly, I haven't seen many.

    I don't think one path is bad and the other good. The choices are just different and they serve different needs of individual writers.

    I've really struggled recently with what to do with the manuscript I'm working like crazy to have 100% complete by year-end. Do I query? Do I hire a professional editor? The list goes on and on.

    In the end, my decision with what to do was based solely on ME. I had to look deep within myself and decide what was best for my long-term writing needs and goals.

    To answer your questions. YES! There are definitely benefits to traditional publishing that someone opting to self-publish will be giving up. Big benefits that you list in your post!! For me, the largest benefit to self-publishing is timing. The time to secure an agent and a publishing contract and get your book on the "shelf" can be two years or longer. And when a writer has been at it for a certain amount of time, and feels she has finally written a book worth reading, she's ready to connect with readers and start building a brand and an audience. And she wants to start that now, not later.

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    1. Hi Heather,

      You brought up a very interesting point about the timing. The timetable for securing a publisher and agent is a lot longer, that's for sure! Even as a published author, the time table I'm working on is much further out than that of self-published authors. In other words, I'm currently writing a novel that won't release until 2014. That's over a year and a half away!

      The key either way is to do the best possible job we can and make sure we're ready. And if we are, then that's what counts!

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  3. I'm still hoping to traditional publish. It seems to me, it's more like a partnership with others to work for a common goal rather than having the whole load upon your shoulders.

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    1. Traci,

      I like that word "partnership." I think that really sums up the process of traditional publication well. We're not working alone but rather with a team of experts. I've really benefited from my publisher's help in so many ways that I just couldn't have done on my own, especially as a debut author.

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  4. Having just started venturing into the world of self-publishing, I completely get where you're coming from! For me, while on the one hand it's nice to be in control of every aspect of my story; on the other, it would be so great to not have to figure it all out on my own. Having a fantastic team behind you is so important, no matter what you're doing!

    I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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    1. Thanks for chiming in with your perspective, Louise! I agree that even with self-publishing, an author needs to put together a team (beta readers, editors, influencers, etc.) that can help them with their book. We can't go it alone!

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  5. Now that I've self-published a number of books I can see the value of the benefits you receive from your publisher. I think it becomes a question of degree. I have a fear that a publisher would dictate changes and I would lose my choice and artistic freedom as compared to being part of a collaborative team but ultimately having the final veto. Or receiving 70% of the profit but having all the publishing/editing/publicizing work vs. receiving 5 - 12 percent of the book cover price. If you have attained that middle ground then I can understand that you find that a comfortable place to be.

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    1. Hi Cynthia,

      You know, I used to fear the "required" changes too. But now that I've been through several books with my publisher, I've realized that my publisher's "direction" with all the rewrites have been spot on. They know my readership much better than I do. They've been able to use their expertise to guide me and teach me how to be a better writer that will please a larger population of readers. Sure, it's meant that I have to compromise on some things that I've wanted in my stories, but overall, I've grown so much as a writer and sold lots more books! :-)

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  6. I don't think the dust has settled yet and may not for awhile. I think this next year will be another interesting one for us to watch and participate in as writers and readers. I'm hearing lots of different stories, both good and not so good, related to self-pubbing and traditional publishing. I'm going to try and focus on writing another good story, but I've fulfilled my contract with the release of my third book in January and will continue to market my Ravensmoore Chronicles.

    I keep thinking there may be opportunities to both forms of publishing. I do like the idea that if my agent can't sell my next book I can experiment with self-publishing it. It doesn't have to just sit and stagnate. I also like the idea of trying out a novella or short story. Time will tell. I think it's important for each of us to create in whatever way we feel led. I wish I were a really fast writer but I'm not and that hods me back a bit. My day job pays the bills. For those writers who are fast you have a multiple projects to get out there in different forms and in different genres. But gone are the days of big advances for many authors and though making money may not be a primary objective it is important to me and the well-being of my family. God bless us all.

    Happy Thanksgiving!
    Jill

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    1. Hi Jillian,

      Yes, I think there are benefits to both as well! I'm excited (and relieved!) that if I ever reach a point where my publisher can't renew my contract due to poor/low sales, that my career as an author wouldn't be over as would have been the case a few years ago. We can rest assured that we have other options available to us, which is really exciting!

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  7. As an indie, I like the idea of having control of my process. But for me, it was the choice between publishing on my schedule, or having to wait for the traditional wheels to turn. That being said, I wouldn't be opposed to partnering with a traditional publisher, as long as I could retain my digital rights. That would be a best-of-both-worlds scenario for me.

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    1. Thanks for chiming in, Robert. As the publishing world continues to adapt to all the changes, we just never know what might develop! It will be interesting to see what we're discussing in the next year or two. :-)

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  8. Like you, I admire self-published authors for their determination and their resourcefulness. But I also agree that good editors are important; if I do go the traditional publishing route, I will definitely value the opinion of the editors, because they will have more experience with this than I will.

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    1. I've found my editors' advice invaluable! I've learned so much from them about being writing so that I can please my readers. I still write the stories that are from my heart and that I enjoy, but in such a way that I'm also pleasing readers.

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  9. Amen! I love your publisher, too. And thanks for including our email loop and friendships in your list. I learned a lot from you on this blog before I had the courage to even comment on here. It's definitely a privilege to have the combined wisdom of the BHP authors available...not to mention all those nice folks in Minnesota helping us along.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

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    1. It IS a huge privilege to have the combined wisdom of so many authors only a click away! I've consulted other authors on every and anything! And they (you included!) have been an incredible support! So thank you, Regina!

      Wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving too!

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  10. Oh yes, I definitely think there are benefits. Happy Thanksgiving, Jody!

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    1. Happy Thanksgiving to you too, Jessica!

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  11. I've just completed a POD project for a friend, formatting text, preparing illustrations, designing a cover, etc., and that alone was a massive job. It's not something that will be marketed, but I have a much greater appreciation of the work that would be involved in self-publishing and know that it wouldn't be my choice.

    I can't imagine releasing a novel into public view without help from those with the expertise I don't have. It seems to me that to put in the kind of manuscript editing, cover design, marketing and promo direction a successful self-published book requires, would take just about as much time as going the traditional route, but with the added burden of me being totally responsible for the outcome. That's scary!

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    1. Hi Carol,

      It's great that you got to see the inner workings of a POD project. I get scared when I think about the amount of work involved in self-publishing. But I try to remind myself that any time we try something new, there's always a learning curve. So I'm sure that those who have taken the plunge are able to eventually do everything with more speed and efficiency! Although, I know for myself, I completely appreciate not having to shoulder everything, especially at this stage in my life.

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    2. I can understand Carol's feeling of being overwhelmed.

      However, for me it's not the time commitment that scares me off, it's really the lack of MONEY to do it right. I've seriously considered going the self-published eBook route, and not some flaky half-baked attempt, but something that was just as high quality as the best indie publishers put out.

      But lack of money's really the only thing holding me back.

      Something traditional publishing still has going for it are editors (Who do still edit, just not as they once did in the days the predate my birth) and illustrators/art director teams who ensure no book goes into the world with mediocre cover art (Even with ebooks, as much as I don't mean to sound superficial, nice covers still matter)and either of those requirements on their own costs thousands of dollars I just do not have.

      I'm still feeling out a few possible freelance editors, but finding cover designers who don't want the proverbial mint seems like a "Pie in the Sky" situation.


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  12. I think my heart will always long for traditional publishing. I may try self publishing some day, but for now I stick with my efforts to submit to an agent. :)

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