August 1st, 2012

Publishing Perils – Making the Choice, Part 5

Writers in the Storm welcomes Susan Spann, contributing guest for Part 5 of her Publishing Decisions series. If you missed Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, or Part 4 and would like to read that blog, just click on the one you missed.

by Susan Spann

Welcome back to our ongoing discussion of publishing options and how to choose between them!

Today we dive into the thorny thickets and plumb the pitfalls that sometimes distract an author from the proper path.

The good news is, you can avoid them if you know what you’re looking for!

As we’ve discussed in previous weeks, smart authors make choices by understanding their personal goals, preparing business plans, and engaging in realistic evaluation of the various publishing options.

By treating publishing as a business, every author can decide which options best meet the needs of the writer and his or her work.

Unfortunately, authors sometimes make decisions for other, less helpful reasons. Even experienced authors fall into these traps from time to time – and it’s important to keep the pitfalls on your radar to ensure you avoid them on your publishing road.

Let’s take a look at three common decision-making traps:

1. The lure of “big money.” Some authors make a living by writing, but the vast majority don’t generate sufficient income from publication to support themselves and their families.

Let’s repeat that for emphasis: most authors don’t get rich by writing. This is true of both traditionally published and independent (aka self-published or “indie”) authors, so money alone is not a good reason to choose a publishing path.

Yes, there are breakout successes in both indie and traditional publishing. Authors in both areas do get wildly wealthy from sales of their work. But smart authors know that you can’t – and shouldn’t – plan to be the exception.

2. Impatience, Frustration and Prejudice. Publishing is often a frustrating process, no matter which publishing option you choose.  The key is not letting impatience – or prejudice – lead you to an inappropriate choice.

Some authors grow impatient with the difficult, drawn-out nature of traditional publishing. Others mistakenly view indie and self-publishing options as inferior or unprofessional.

Don’t make these mistakes!

Many polished, professional authors enjoy successful indie careers.

And sometimes traditional publishing seems difficult because the author’s work isn’t ready for publication. A work that’s not ready probably won’t succeed in any field.

Choosing a publishing path is a business decision. Aspects of the various paths may appeal to you – or not – for various reasons, but successful authors decide on the basis of facts and concrete goals, not impatience or prejudice.

3. Peer pressure. Blogs, websites, and traditional media outlets increasingly debate the merits of traditional vs. independent publishing. Everyone has an opinion, and some of those opinions are voiced with a vehemence that discourages contradiction. It can be easy for an author to feel pressured to “choose a side” or pick a path on the basis of other people’s experiences or arguments.

Don’t fall into that trap!

Traditional publishing is the right path for some writers. Indie publishing fits many authors’ goals and needs. No path or choice is one-size-fits-all. Every author must make an independent decision on the basis of his or her individual needs and talents. The minute you let someone else’s opinion control your decisions, you’ve lost control of your publishing career.

That doesn’t mean “ignore everything you hear.” Smart authors listen, evaluate arguments on their merits (meaning factual content, not emotional impact), and determine whether and how each opinion fits with the author’s own experience, goals, and business plan.

All of these traps have a couple of things in common:

– The traps cut for and against both traditional and independent publishing, depending on the way you spin the issue.

This means a writer can fall for these traps regardless of the publishing path (s)he chooses.

– Each trap is based on emotion or “feelings” rather than logic and business sense.

This doesn’t mean “discard emotion altogether.” Wishes and dreams have a place in the planning process. The danger lies in allowing emotion to overwhelm common sense to the point where the author replaces reality with emotion or proceeds on the basis of feelings alone.

Writers are emotional people – we have to be, to convey realistic emotion on the page. Dreams are important. Without them no author would succeed. The key is learning to hold your dream close without letting it interfere with your business judgment, because (like it or not) publishing is a business too.  

By focusing on the proper factors: fact-based goals, a business plan, and honest evaluation of personal skills, resources and the needs of the works themselves, everyone can avoid these pitfalls and choose the proper publishing path.

Do you have questions for Susan about your decision-making path? Or comments on what you’ve heard or had to decide for yourself?

Susan Spann is a publishing attorney and author who practices in Sacramento, California. CLAWS OF THE CAT, the debut novel in her SHINOBI mystery series featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori, will be published by Thomas Dunne Books in Spring 2013. Susan blogs about writing, publishing law and seahorses at http://www.SusanSpann.com

Join us on Friday for the fifth in the Plot Fixer series by Kara Lennox.  And next Monday Shannon Donnelly gives us a lesson in subtext.

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  • […] Wednesday #PubLaw post over at Writers in the Storm, where I’m guest-blogging about publishing perils and pitfalls every author should avoid. We take a look at the “big three” hidden pitfalls: impatience, peer pressure, and the […]

  • Hi, Susan —
    Thanks for a great series! You are correct — how you publish is not an easy decision. I’ll share my story iin the hopes it will help somebody else.
    My first mystery, Leave a Good-Looking Corpse, was a prize-winner at the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference. I had an agent and an editor at a well-known pubisher who loved the book and wanted number two in the series, until she left the company to move to the west coast and get married. My agent placed the book with another editor (different house). A couple of months went by. My agent called and said, “She left the company to get married.” I said, “No, that was the last one.”
    It was both. I am not making this up.
    Leave a Good-Looking Corpse is dedicated to my father. He was ill; I ran out of time. So I did it myself and made the Xlibris bestseller list as soon as it came out. And yes, I made it in time. He got to see the dedication.
    Thanks again,
    James

  • Thanks for sharing this, James. This is exactly the kind of multi-level decision-making authors should use as a positive example of the process. You’re also great proof of the fact that the decision making process, and the need to remain aware and in control of the career path, doesn’t ever end.

    I’m so glad you were able to get the book published, that it’s doing well, and most of all that your father was able to see the dedication. There’s no amount of money, fame or success that equals his still being here to see your dream become a reality.

    • Thank you, Susan. From someone with your background, I really appreciate it. Of course, at hte time, when I was immersed in the situation, it didn’t seem like “multi-level decision-making,” it as more like “Oh, , what now?” I look forward to your next blog.
      Thanks again,
      James

  • Good points Susan. I can’t wait to hear more about the legal aspect of e-publishing, what we need to do protect ourselves etc. I’ve often heard that it’s not necessarry to get a copyright, for instance but that doesn’t sound like a sound business practice. I’m leaning toward indie esp after the conference but I need to know the legal dos and don’ts.

  • This series has been excellent. For myself, I am looking into not an either/or situation, but rather a hybrid–which seems to be more and more possible for authors. All too often, I think writers get hung up on that one book they are working on and don’t get the big picture of what’s best for their writing career. I’m trying to consider that now, before I get deep in one way or another. Thanks, Susan.

  • […] learned a ton from both her Author Business Plan series and her Publishing Decisions series. Plus, I attended her seminars on author contracts at last month’s WANACon. When I need […]

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