I'm not working with a publishing house on this book. There are a myriad of reasons for that. It amounted to a business decision. I did a lot of research, looking at both paths to publication. With the advances in technology, especially e-books and print-on-demand, there are more ways than ever to get your work in front of readers. David and I looked at the realities of all options, and ultimately decided to be our own publisher, and put the book out independently.
The realities of traditional publishing for a new, first time author are pretty harsh. You have to spend valuable time learning about how to query agents, in the hopes of finding someone to represent you. If you get lucky, you'll land an agent. If you're luckier, the agent will manage to broker a deal for you with a publisher. Your book will be one of hundreds (or even thousands) of books they publish that year. You'll have distribution in bookstores (possibly - if the sales person at the publishing house does a good job of selling your book, along with the rest of their catalog that month), but if your book doesn't sell well in the first several weeks, it will probably be returned (which actually means it gets shredded). You may have gotten a $5-$10 thousand dollar advance, but that's probably all the money you'll ever see from your book. If you're lucky and it sells well, great. But if not, it will be monumentally difficult to sell your next book to a publisher and you may find your career already dead in the water. But the publisher will still own the rights to your work (possibly for the life of copyright, depending on what your contract states), they may have right of first refusal and non-compete clauses in your contract, which severely limit what you're able to do next in your writing career, even if that publisher doesn't really want you anymore.
Traditional publishing has become a blockbuster-chasing industry. They know that 90% of the books they produce will be considered, by their numbers, failures. They throw a whole bunch of spaghetti at the wall and hope that 10% will stick. It has created an industry where the path to traditional publishing is littered with the corpses of writing careers from a growing group of mid-list authors who are cast off when their books don't perform according to the balance sheet of a huge corporation.
Is it really that bad?
For an established author who is selling well? Probably not. There are still some who argue the royalties traditional publishers pay is far too low (and I agree), but there are certainly authors who do well under the traditional system. I certainly couldn't say I would never work with a publisher. But the contract details would have to be fair, and new authors don't have enough clout to negotiate a fair deal most of the time. Aside from a group of small presses, most of traditional publishing is dominated by five huge, multi-national media conglomerates. They have a steady stream of hopeful writers banging at their door; they don't have much incentive to treat their talent well.
But aren't you worried about the stigma against self publishing?
Did you know there is a stigma? Or did I just tell you? Did you know some of the books you may have read might not have been published by a big company? It's quite possible, especially if you read e-books (not that you can't self publish print books - that's what POD, print-on-demand technology is for). The "stigma" against self publishing, where it still exists, is rapidly waning as more and more authors realize the benefits to publishing their own work.
I don't think most readers really care who published the books they read. Do you look for a certain publisher when you choose a book? Do you even know who publishes your favorite authors? Could you name the five big publishing companies? Before I started researching the industry, I sure couldn't.
Some people have the idea that all independently published books are poorly written and unedited. They haven't been "vetted" by the "'professionals," so they must not be of very high quality. After all, anyone with a word processor and an internet connection can publish a book.
That has some truth to it, to an extent, and I won't lie - there are bad books out there. But there are bad books coming out of the publishing companies too. And it is pretty easy to spot a poorly written, badly edited book. They tend to get shredded in the reviews, and if you don't notice poor reviews, just reading the book description and taking a look at the cover will tell you a lot. I think most people can see whether or not a book seems good based on those things, no matter who published it.
The truth is, whether there are bad books out there or not, they don't have anything to do with MY book. My goal is to make my work as high quality as anything coming out of a publishing house - or better. I'm working with an award-winning artist for a custom illustrated cover. I've hired a professional editor. I've taken the valuable feedback of beta readers and others into account, and I'll do everything I can to make sure I produce a professional-quality book, every time.
After that, it's up to the readers to decide.
By independently publishing my novel, I own the rights to my intellectual property - forever. I make decisions about content, editorial considerations, cover design and packaging, categories, metadata, pricing, publication dates and promotions. There is a lot to learn and coordinate. But it isn't rocket science. I'm partnering with professionals for the things that aren't my area. I'm learning how to do the rest. It is a big step, and a big responsibility - the success or failure of my career as an author rests in my own hands. But that's what I love about it.
At the end of the day, I took a look at my manuscript in progress and thought about one simple thing - what's my goal? My goal is to write great books and have the opportunity to put them in front of readers. Keeping the rights to my work, maintaining creative control and being able to determine the future of my career is worth the risk of putting this out for the world without the backing of a huge corporation. The internet has made that possible. Honestly, I don't think there has ever been a more exciting time to be an author, and I'm thrilled that I get to be a part of it.