Friday, February 20, 2009

Traditional vs. Independent Publishing

There is a big debate going on in the publishing world today – “Should I consider self publishing?” Here’s my take on the subject -

I am the author of seven cookbooks that were published by a large publishing company, and two children’s books that I published independently. Notice I use the word "independent" to refer to my publishing method, rather than the word "self". Unfortunately, to most of the world, “Self Publishing” often seems to mean poorly edited books with skimpy illustrations, poor story lines and run-of-the mill covers. Unfortunately for all of us, there are some independent books that do fit this description. On the other hand, when I say that I am an “Independent Publisher,” I seem to garner more respect.

When my first cookbook was published by Prima Publishing Co. in the 1980’s, I thought I would just sit back and collect my royalties while happily writing my next volume. However, after the hoopla of the initial book launching began to wane, and the publisher directed his attention to his next featured attraction, I realized that if the book was going to be successful, I would have to step into the arena of marketing and promotion. And I did. I traveled all over the country as a featured speaker and guest on radio and TV shows. I visited schools, hospitals, bookstores and basically any place that I could arrange an event. The result was a total of seven very successful cookbooks and a totally burned out author.

Several years ago, after a break from the book world, I decided to re-invent my career. My degree in education and children’s literature was calling to me to re-enter the book world.

I thought long and hard about independent publishing. I knew that I would be solely responsible for marketing the book. However, I realized that I had to do this anyway with the traditional publishing. I had also learned something along the way that some independent publishers fail to realize: In order to compete in the book world, you MUST produce a high-quality product! So I formed a corporation and launched my own publishing company. I did mountains of research. I studied hundreds (maybe even thousands) of children’s books. I hired the best illustrator I could find. I hired a very talented graphic/cover designer. I hired an editor. I was very choosy about the printer I hired. I invested a lot of time and money so there was no choice but to do it right. Failure was not an option. Two years later, The Knot Fairy was born. Four months later, I was thrilled to order my second 5000-book printing. It’s now two years later and The Knot Fairy is into its third printing and has won seven children’s book awards. I released my second book, The Sock Fairy, in June 2008, and it has received four awards and is into its second printing. The Belly Button Fairy will be released in September. I am sharing this information to let you know that, yes, it CAN be done. And now, the two strong “ifs”:

If you do it correctly.

If you are willing to promote, promote, promote.

Would I recommend independent publishing? Yes, if you do it right. Let’s face it. As independent publishers, our books are judged more critically and held to a higher standard than the traditionally published books. Independent Publishing may be the wave of the future. Therefore, if we’re going to represent ourselves, let’s make our books the very best.


Mary Cunningham said...

You, Bobbie, are an inspiration! Dedication, hard work and a great idea made you the successful Fairy Lady!

Linda Austin said...

Good post, and congratulations on your fairy books! Many new authors don't realize that big publishers will drop their books in a few months if they don't hit big.

Morgan Mandel said...

You're right. An author needs to write a great book and go through multiple edits for a publisher.

Publishers don't typically do much to promote authors, so an author has to do almost every bit of marketing.

When all is said and done, the author shares the proceeds with the publisher.

Why not go for it all? Sounds like it takes a lot of work, but we're at least halfway there already. Hiring quality people to do the parts an author can't do is what a publisher does anyway.

Congratulations on a job well done!

Morgan Mandel

Alya said...

I love, love, love your blog. Beautiful work!


Fairy Lady said...

Thanks to everyone for your kind comments!