Update: Since I originally posted this article in 2009, I have had some success toward my goal of being commercially published. I have a reputable agent, Linda Glaz from Hartline. Two of my novellas will be released in November and December in e-book form through reputable commercial publishing companies that pay royalties. I also have a publishing company that requested a full read on my full length novel. Being commercially published takes time, but it can be done.
10 Reasons I’ve Decided to be Commercially Published
Reprinted from earlier post in 2009.
There are so many ways to become a published fiction author these days. Vanity self-publishing companies charge a fee to print a certain number of books. Then there are POD (Print on Demand) companies that will only print as many books as are sold. Some writers choose to go through a partnership publishing company where the company charges the writer a fee but agrees to do some marketing and editing of the book. There’s even a POD company that will set you up as your own publishing company. Then there are e-books. Most commercially published books are available now in e-book form. But some writers self-publish their books in e-book form through companies that charge a fee only if a book is downloaded.
Some of my writer friends have decided to go one of these routes, and they’re happy with their decisions. I don’t fault their choices, but I’ve decided to take the long hard road to become commercially published by a publisher who pays royalties, prints a run of books or sells e-books in a variety of formats, and has contracts with bookstores and e-book companies.
I haven’t made this choice because I’ve found an agent to represent me or a publisher to offer me a contract. I’ve sent my first novel to many reputable Christian agents. Some were interested enough to send me notes, some asked for an entire manuscript, but every agent has sent me a rejection. One of the biggest reasons many of them gave was the story I wrote was not what was selling right now. So I’m currently editing another novel to prepare to send it to the host of agents I’ve collected in my database.
Getting a reputable agent to represent you, and getting a commercial publisher to offer a contract is a long shot. Very few are chosen. So why would I want to go down this narrow road of rejection and heartache when there are so many choices out there?
10. I’ve learned over the years if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Self-publishing and POD companies make a lot of claims. They try to discredit commercial publishers by calling them “traditional publishers” and saying that by going through the self-publishing companies, you can make a lot of money. But I’m not buying it. I pray those that make the decision to go this route do their homework and don’t listen to the get rich quick promises.
9. Commercial publishing companies do a better job with printing the books. The cover, paper, ink, and editing all point to quality. Self-publishing companies and POD’s are hit and miss. They might do a good job printing, but more likely they won’t.
8. I want to feel good about my accomplishments. Commercial publication is a long hard road, but when I get there, I’ll feel like I’ve achieved something great through hard work and perseverance. I won’t feel the same way if I pay to see my novel in print.
7. I want to be known as a professional author. I want to have that reputation. To me writing is a profession and a calling. In most cases, self-published authors are thought of as amateurs even if they gain some level of success.
6. I want the name of a commercial publishing company on my book jacket. I don’t want someone to pick up my book, see the name of the company, and snarl up his nose because he knows it’s been self-published. I want the publishing company’s reputation behind my novel.
5. I want the resources commercial publishing companies have. Commercial publishers have copy editors and book designers. They have publicity people and sales representatives. They know what they’re doing. I want to participate in promoting my own novel. But I don’t want to have to do it alone. I want all of the resources a commercial publisher has including free copies of books I can give to influencers and advertisement on their websites and in their catalogues. I won’t get that from a self-publishing or POD company.
4. I want my novel to be in print at a bookstore. POD and self-publishing companies are quick to point out that their books are available on Amazon.com and in bookstore catalogs. That may be technically true. But almost every book is on Amazon.com. That’s no guarantee that anyone will find your novel. Amazon.com promotes books that sell, books that are put out by commercial publishers.
Catalogues that bookstores use have thousands of books available. Most bookstores have limited space and are more likely to go with books by commercial publishers. They have an added incentive for doing this because commercial publishers will take the books back if the bookstores don’t sell them. The bookstores have a win-win situation here. If they go with a self-published or POD book and it doesn’t sell, they are out the money they invested. It’s good business for them to only order commercially published books. Also they know the sales representatives of the commercial companies and are more likely to go with them. An author carrying a box of books under his arms is not likely to hold much weight with a bookstore owner.
I want my books to be in bookstores. I want to hold them in my hand and point them out to customers.
3. I want my novel to sell. Many self-publishing companies make claims about how successful their clients are. There are a few self-published authors that end up selling a lot of books. “The Shack” is one book that is frequently used as an example. But the chances of that happening are greater than the chances of being published by a commercial publisher.
Not every commercially published book will sell. Those that do sell will probably not be best sellers. But most best-sellers are commercially published books. Most moderate sellers are commercially published books. And most commercially published books do sell better than most self-published books. Self-published books that sell a hundred copies are considered successful. I want my novel to do better than that.
2. I have a lot to learn. I’m glad I wasn’t published by the first person I sent my manuscript to. If I had been, I would have had a lot of bad reviews. I’ve learned a lot about writing since. And because I didn’t take a shortcut to publication, I’ll continue to learn until I’m ready to be published.
I think I’m ready now. But maybe that’s because I don’t know about the one thing I need to make my manuscript a better story, something that will touch the heart of somebody, maybe even their spirit. I know that even though I think I’m ready, I need a teachable spirit. I’m willing to wait and learn.
1. I trust God. That’s sounds cliché, but it’s my number one reason for waiting for commercial publication. God directed me to write novels. Since then, I’ve been compelled to write.
He has given me the stories. He hasn’t dictated the words I should use or all of the plot points, usually just an idea in my spirit. It would be so much easier if He hadn’t required me to struggle to work with what He gave me. But any writer who tells you God wrote their novel through them is not to be trusted. God authored the Bible through men, but He hasn’t done that since. But He has given me the desire and planted the seeds of the story within me.
So no shortcuts for me. I’ll take the hard narrow road. Since God is directing me, and since He’s given me stories to write, He will help me to write them. And when the time is right, I can trust Him to direct my paths to publication. But in the meantime, I’ll work hard, and I’ll wait on Him.