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Self-Publishing vs Using a Publisher – The Joys and Frustrations

ruthcover smallerI’ve had the privilege of becoming a book author. I self-published my first book The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to get Sued, Fired, Arrested, or Killed last year (and published a revision of it this past summer). That book led to me getting a book contract with the American Bar Association to write Flash Mob Law: The Legal Side of Planning and Participating in Pillow Fights, No Pants Rides, and Other Shenanigans, which came out this summer and The Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers, which is due to be published in February 2014.

Both types of publishing come with their joys and frustrations. I love the independence of being an indie author but then the responsibility is on me to do everything (or find people to outsource to). On the flip side, I’ve had a mostly great experience working with my publishing teams, but that also means more cooks in the kitchen and having to play by their rules.

In regards to my next book, I turned the first draft in to my publisher in August with the expectation that it would be published before the end of the year. (I turned the first draft of Flash Mob Law in to my publisher in May and it was published in August.) I did not expect to hear in October that they wanted a major re-write. In the big picture, it was the right thing to do, but definitely required me to rearrange my calendar a bit. I busted my ass to get it done by Halloween so they could get it out, or at the very least get me a galley, by December.

I was frustrated as hell when I heard that wasn’t possible, especially after I worked so hard to keep things on schedule. How long does it take to format, copyedit, and print a book? It’s already cleared legal review and I know I can review edits in 24 hours if I have to. My publication date is only delayed by a few months and in the long run everything will be fine but I definitely had a few expressive moments while I was adjusting to that information.

Here’s my compilation of the joys and frustrations that come with being an indie author and having a publisher.

INDIE AUTHOR PUBLISHER
PUBLICATION DATE I pick it. They pick it.
WRITING My work. My way. They can require re-writes.
DEADLINES No one’s holding my feet to the fire but me. Hard deadlines.
COPYEDITTING I’m responsible for hiring a good copyeditor. They take care of it. I have 5 days after receiving a draft to approve edits.
COVER ART I’m responsible for hiring a graphic designer and describing what I think I want. They have a team of artists and I get to pick the final version from the options they provide.
MARKETING That’s my job too. They have a team for that.
EBOOK OPTION Of course! They say they’re going to do it.
PAPER OPTION I got frustrated trying to figure out CreateSpace and gave up. Available on the ABA website.
PRICE I decide ($3.99). They decide ($39.95).
ROYALTIES Monthly. Annually.
SALES I work for every sale. Minimum sales guaranteed.
MY WORK Never ends. Basically done once the final draft is done, except for reviewing galleys.
COPYRIGHT Guaranteed mine. Had to negotiate to keep it.

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There is no one right way to be an author but it’s good to understand what you’re getting into when you decide which path you’re going to take.

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