Ilona Andrews: More on traditional vs self-publishing

Allan sent me a link to a recent post by Ilona Andrews, which certainly ties in to this particular series of blog posts about traditional vs self-publishing. Here’s the first post on this topic, here’s the one that links to Jennifer Crusie’s blog.

Here’s the one by Ilona Andrews.

As I read the article, I laughed a bitter jaded laugh. I’m going to send it to Jeaniene Frost so she might have a laugh. Update: I sent it and then we laughed on the phone in bitter solidarity. It was better than crying. As someone said on Twitter oncepublishing is a breeze. After the first four of five nervous breakdowns, I barely notice them.

Terms: Editor, publicist, etc – lovely people who help to make the manuscript into a book. Publisher – the corporate entity that employs them.

I laughed too, with recognition. Yep — that’s also how I would define “editor” vs “publisher.”

You are a contractor. Your value to the publisher is tied to the amount of money your book can generate. Their investment in you and your work will be minimal. It helps to lower your expectations. All the way down. You will know you are there when you scrape the bottom.

Then Ilona Andrews notes the things you can expect from your publisher, with rather jaded comments about most of these items. You can expect a cover, for example, but maybe not a good cover or a cover that is in any way related to your book.

There once was an author whose covers made her a laughing stock of the industry. Years later, the publisher decided to redo the covers. The author asked for 3 elements on the cover: a magic design, a red carnation, and some flames. The author stressed that all three elements were very important and even made a sample cover. The author received several mock up covers, which included: a pink peony, a white peony, a white lotus, a pink lotus, a carnation at an angle that made the flower unrecognizable, two asphalt roses left over after a volcano eruption, a still glowing rose, a melted-asphalt peony, and three asphalt roses.

And let me tell you, according to the publishers, if your books don’t sell, it’s completely your fault, but if they do sell, it’s 100% because of the efforts of the publisher. They will take full credit whether they lifted a finger to help or not.Should you traditionally publish? Yes. I still reccomend trying. Two reasons.

One, the self-published field is very crowded. You have a lot of content being churned out, some of it by ghostwriters, some of it poorly edited, and now some of it is written by AI. An “author” can write 100 books via AI, upload them all to KU, and it might take an average reader 30 pages or so to figure out what’s going on. Meanwhile the “author” got paid for all those read pages. The discoverability is very, very low. It’s easier to stand out through the traditional publisher.

Two, it [traditional publishing] is a learning experience. They don’t just give out book contracts like candy. Your writing must be good enough to qualify. It will make you a better writer. Once you are in, if everything goes well, you will get the benefit of the NY editor with decades of experience. Learn from it, apply it, and when you build your audience, take full advantage of your earning potential by going self published.

Overall conclusion: Ilona Andrews is famous enough and enough of a bestseller that traditional publishing is a better choice for them. They note that POD can’t meet their demand for print version of their books. But they also note that they’re not quitting self-publishing either. This post is definitely an indictment of publishers, which I think is definitely well deserved; but there’s also a lot of comments about how great the editors can be, which I also think is well deserved.

Anyway: one more take on this issue, and I guess I should figure out how to tag posts by topic in this newish version of WordPress and start a tag.

Please Feel Free to Share:


3 thoughts on “Ilona Andrews: More on traditional vs self-publishing”

  1. One of my husband’s friends started with self pub, then spfbo got them enough attention to get a deal from a traditional publisher. I’m interested to hear their take after they’ve had some time to experience the publishing world.

  2. Last I heard, he was still very excited about book tours and movie options and stuff, so he was getting the favorite child treatment – hopefully it stays positive.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top