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Pros and Cons of Mainstream Publishing and Self Publishing

As an aspiring novelist, I know that acceptance by a mainstream publishing house not only validates my ability to tell a story, but it announces to the world that I have arrived.

Unfortunately, the harsh reality is there are more authors writing quality novels, than there are traditional venues to publish them. Estimates provided by one of the panelists at the recent James Rivers Writer’s Conference (JRW), in Richmond, Virginia, indicated that there are approximately twenty thousand manuscripts submitted to mainstream publishers each year. About five-thousand of these are accepted for publication and only one-thousand are by new authors.

I’m sure it’s no secret that Steven King’s novel, Carrie, was rejected by thirty different publishers, and J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected fifteen times before being accepted for press. If either of these authors would have thrown in the towel, imagine how different the literary landscape would look today. Since I'm no Rowling or King, I wondered how many times should a manuscript be rejected by a mainstream publisher, before turning to an alternative venue?  The answer to this question depends on the endurance of the author.  However,  if you decide that enough is enough and you believe in your work, then maybe it is time to consider self publishing.

At the JRW conference I learned that there are pros and cons to pursuing a non-traditional form of publication. For instance, the recent economic downturn has made it difficult for many mainstream publishing houses to absorb the costs associated with marketing and publicizing new manuscripts. As a result, the expense is transferred to the individual author. Since novelists are required to take on the duties that were traditionally offered by their publishers, many have turned to self-publishing. This makes sense from a marginal standpoint, since the author is doing all of the work, they may as well pocket a bigger share of the profit. 

Although there are several self-publishing models to choose from (website listed below), one of the cons is  mainstream publishing houses still hold the monopoly on distribution to major book sellers. Regardless of the access the internet has given us, people still want to see the books on the shelves.  However, the distribution gap between non-traditional and mainstream publishing venues is slowly changing.  I recently learned that major bookstores like Barnes and Nobel frequently offer consignment to new authors. Whereby the store manager has the discretion to stock individual books on the shelves. By combining this sales outlet with the internet, a new author may have the ability to compete with a book sold by a mainstream publisher.

Note: If you are interested, the following is a link to self publishers:

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