There has been a lot of press lately about Barry Eisler and his "walking away" from a huge deal to publish his latest book, instead opting to self-publish it. This brings up some interesting questions when it comes to writing--do you try and "do it yourself" and hopefully maintain more of the profits, or do you let a publisher help you, but essentially leave you with pennies on the dollar.
Well, here's my take on the whole issue, for what it's worth. After all, there are pros and cons to both sides.
Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing
The obvious 'pro' to this is that you get to keep a substantial amount of the profits yourself, especially if you skip the printing and opt for e-books. Percentages can vary, but we're talking a HUGE difference.
You also have more control over creative input, such as designing the cover or deciding how to edit it (not that you shouldn't have a professional editor help you anyway, but you can 'put your foot down' if you have creative differences more easily). In a sense, you are the master and the final product will have to have your stamp of approval.
That being said, that also means that you get to foot the bill for that editing and design work and so hopefully you have some trusted connections because it can get pricey. Shop around and ask other authors for some advice. You'll want to study up a little bit on the whole process of what makes a cover successful.
You see, that's the main drawback of self-publishing: the work. Besides determining who your printer will be or getting things set up for an ebook, you're also responsible for any marketing that will take place which includes advertising, networking with bookstores for book signings and even trying to GET your books in the bookstores. You have to make up all promotional items such as bookmarks and posters yourself. This can all take away from that bottom line.
But if creative control is most important to you--and not necessarily the number of books you sell or the hours you'll put into selling them--then this could be the way to go. And to be honest, with the way the market is changing, the chance to have a breakaway best seller is getting better and better.
PROS AND CONS OF HAVING A PUBLISHER
I admit that I have to be careful here because this is the route I've chosen and to be honest, even though it's not a perfect system, it works best for me. By having a publisher, I may have less control over the finished product, but I know that finished product has a better chance of reaching more readers. My publisher sees that I get into all of the pertinent ads and bookstores, they send out the press releases and arrange for book signings. They make bookmarks for me and take care of all of the printing arrangements for my book. I also have an editor to help me out with the book itself, an art department to design the cover and a market department to see that it gets publicity. Not to mention the "clout" that comes from having a publisher--being "self-published" is akin to a "vanity press" where anyone can write anything and get it published. You don't have to "prove" yourself as much if you have a publisher to back you up.
But, like I said, I lose some of the creative control. If there are creative differences that you have with your editor, you may find yourself doing a lot of compromising. You may also never see the cover until it's actually on the book! That's why choosing a publisher is important and then developing a sense of trust with them. And if you don't think you're a natural salesman and struggle to talk about yourself, there may not be another solution, unless the only people you want to have read your book are family and friends.
So while not an in-depth analysis of both worlds, at least it's a hint as to what each entails. Good luck deciding!