Traditional vs. Indie Publishing

I am a multi-published author. I am under contract with a small, traditional press, Pix-N-Pens, the nonfiction arm of Write Integrity Press. I currently have one book I have authored, three I have co-authored, and am contracted to co-write four more under this line. I also have one indie published book and another that barely missed getting a contract with a large traditional publisher, but in the end, it too is in the process of being published independently. So, I have some first-hand knowledge and experience with both types of publishing which I will share.

Differences Between the Two: 

Traditional publishing means that the author does not pay for any of the costs of publishing his or her book. She has a contract with a publishing company allowing them to publish the book as she agrees to split royalties with that company. It is more difficult to get a book traditionally published because the publishing company is pretty selective in the books /authors they choose. They must believe that the book they agree to publish will sell enough for them to at least recoup the money they spent on the publishing process.

There are several types of traditional publishing companies: large press, small press, and boutique presses. Large press are companies like Thomas Nelson, Harper Collins, and such. Boutique presses are usually medium-sized presses that cater to a specific niche audience. Small presses are just that—small, but traditional in that they do not require any payment of any kind from the authors they publish. These also vary in types of publishing with small press most often using print-on-demand (POD) technology.

The most important thing about traditional presses is the wording of the contract an author is asked to sign. Read your contract carefully! They all differ in many ways, including how, when, and what percentage of the royalties they will pay their authors. But even more important than the royalties in my opinion, are the rights you as the author will keep or give up to the publisher.

The book I co-wrote that was a near miss for a large traditional publisher, got picked up by a Boutique publisher but their contract stated that they would own all rights to the book. This differed from what they had told us on the phone and had we not read the contract carefully, we might have signed our rights of ownership over to this company believing the contract was what they said it would be when we spoke with them. As it turned out, it was not a contract we could sign, and we walked away from that offer. By that time, we were tired of dealing with publishers and decided to move ahead with indie publishing of that book.

With Indie publishing, the author assumes all of the responsibility and costs of publishing her book. Because of this, any person can indie publish a book, but the quality of that book will vary greatly depending on how carefully the book has been written, edited, and packaged. If you choose the indie route, I have a few suggestions.

1) Write the best book you can and make it consistent in its word count with traditional books in the same genre. (For instance, my small press requires that nonfiction books be at least 40,000 words. When I see a nonfiction half that size, I almost instantly assume it was indie published by someone who did not know the market standards.)

2) Pay for a professional editor.

3) Pay for a professional cover.

Pros and Cons of Each: The pros of indie publishing are that the author has complete control of the writing and publishing project and he or she will also receive all royalties. The cons are that usually having more than one set of eyes on a book during the publishing process makes the finished product a better book, especially when some of the people working on it are professionals.

The pros of traditional publishing are that the book is usually a high-quality product because of the many people who worked on it and usually the market reach is larger. This is true even for small presses since most small presses do make marketing efforts and the book will reach a larger number of readers than if it’s all up to just the author. The cons are that the author makes less per book and has less control over the publishing process.

So, which do I recommend? It really differs from book to book. I am extremely happy with the small press for whom I write. But I am signed under its nonfiction arm so when I wrote my first novel, I decided to go the indie route and have been happy with that too.

In the case of my other indie book, I think it would have been nice if that large traditional publisher had not decided against publishing it after six months of considering it extensively, but I really don’t know since we didn’t go that route. It may not have been a good experience after all. What I do know, is that walking away from the faulty contract offered to us by the boutique publisher was absolutely the right thing for that book.

Why didn’t I just pitch it to my small press? Again, the reason for that lay in the book itself. It is different from the other nonfiction I write for that small press and I did not think it was a good fit for them. So, yeah, there really isn’t one “right” way to publish. Much depends on the circumstances you as an author are facing and even the content of the book itself.

Click to Tweet: Interested in becoming a published writer? Know your choices up front. Here’s a look at the different types of publishing by author, Harriet Michael via @InspiredPrompt.

Writing Prompt: Story Starter! Using the above picture for inspiration, start a story. Maybe it’s going to be a short story, flash fiction, or an epic novel. We want the first sentence. 🙂

How it All Began

Harriet E. Michael

Many authors and writers will tell you that they have wanted to become a writer since childhood.

That is not my story.

For me, it all began with a crisis in the life of someone I love. My friend faced the challenge of her life and I found myself walking beside her, praying and wanting to understand prayer better.

As I pondered the topic of prayer, I happened to be reading in the book of Psalms in my personal devotions. I noticed something about prayer. The petitions the various psalmists make to God are almost always centered on God, rather then their needs. If you look for this trend you will find it there, and throughout the Bible.

If someone prays: “Help me because ___,” or “Answer my prayer because ___,” the reason stated usually has something to do with God rather than the psalmist. (Because of one of God’s traits, like His love, or faithfulness, by His power, or for His glory.)

An example of this would be asking God to heal someone because He is the Great Physician, full of loving-kindness, or because He is faithful and answers His people when they call on Him, rather than because of whatever issue you may be dealing with, or pain you may be suffering.

This discovery was a “Wow!” moment for me which prompted me to conduct my own personal Bible study, from Genesis to Revelation, looking at all the instances of prayer I could find. I kept a journal as I did this.

Four years later, I had a book written.

The manuscript was named a finalist in a national contest, “The Women of Faith” (2011). The manuscript won me a writing contract with Pix-N-Pens Publishing (PIP), the nonfiction arm of Write Integrity Press. Once the book was published, my friend Shirley Crowder wrote a study guide for it, which won her a contract with PIP as well.

IMG_0487 prayer book and study guide

Shirley is a lifelong friend of mine. She lived across a dirt road from me in Nigeria. Now, she’s a Biblical counselor and also leads Bible studies with women’s groups. When she read one of the first copies of my book, she whipped up the study guide for it, fully intended for use only in her own personal ministry. She sent it to me for my approval and I loved it, so forwarded it to my publisher, who also loved it. She contracted with Shirley to publish it.

After that, Shirley and I decided to do some co-writing. To date, we have a four-book series on prayer—Prayer It’s Not About You, Study Guide to Prayer: It’s Not About You, Glimpses of Prayer (a devotional), and Prayer Warrior Confessions (an anthology compiled and partially written by us). We are also under contract for a 5-book devotional series, only one of which is currently out—Glimpses of the Savior.

Harriet with Shirley Crowder, signing a writing contract!

… and it all started with adversity—a crisis, pain, anguish as I stood by a hurting loved-one. God is in the business of turning ashes to beauty. That is exactly what He did when He turned my friend Shirley and me into authors.

Click to Tweet: “…it all started with adversity—a crisis, pain, anguish as I stood by a hurting loved-one. God is in the business of turning ashes to beauty. ” Harriet E. Michael via @InspiredPrompt #MarchMadness #amwriting #giveaway

Today, my loved one is doing well, and my book is blessing many. Since its publication in May 2016, several groups in various parts of the US have used this book and study guide for their Bible study. In fact, this month, a Sunday school class of around 30 people are just beginning a Bible study using it.

It can be used in a group setting or for individual study. Here is the link to my author page where you can purchase these books or any of the others that Shirley and I have collaborated on: Harriet’s author page.

“Glimpses of the Savior” – Now Available

Final_Front_coverGlimpses of the Savior:
50 Meditations on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year expanded 2nd edition with 50 devotionals is available today!

In early November we get busy preparing for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year, and we often forget the real meanings of these celebrations.

Let’s guard against this by preparing our hearts to seek God as we focus on His Word. Thanksgiving is a time to give God thanks; Christmas is a celebration of the Savior’s birth; the New Year brings new beginnings. As we go about doing the things the Lord has called us to do during this busy time, while remaining focused on Him, we catch “glimpses of the Savior” and biblical truth in the things we experience and observe.

These devotionals are based on memories of holiday celebrations in Africa and America.

Today (Tuesday 9/4) only, get the Kindle version for just 99¢

The authors, Shirley Crowder and Harriet E. Michael, are lifelong friends whose parents served as missionaries in Nigeria, West Africa. Their friendship has spanned across two continents, myriad states, and many, many years.

Finding Jesus Among the Celebrations and Decorations

Available on Amazon in Print and Kindle versions.

Follow Shirley at: Through the Lens of Scripture, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter
Follow Harriet at: Harriet E. Michael blog, Amazon, and Facebook

InspPrmpt-give-away

Do you Know your Rights?

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I am an author, but I’m also a multi-published freelance writer. In fact, I got my start in writing by freelancing small pieces such as articles, devotions, stories for anthologies, etc. I have been freelancing successfully since 2010 and now have somewhere around 200 published pieces in numerous publications. I also teach workshops on freelancing at writers’ conferences. When I do, I always start with a brief lesson on writer’s rights. Understanding the different types of rights is so important!

These rights are true regardless of whether you are negotiating a contract for a small piece or a larger work. It’s always good to know what your contract says; what rights you are selling the publication / publisher and what rights you are keeping.

Types of rights:

First Rights also called First American Serial Rights (FASR): If you sell a publication First Rights, it means you are selling them the right to be first to publish the piece. (In other words, you are telling them that it has not been published before, and you will not allow it to be published until after whatever time stipulated in the contract. Contracts differ on this—many say one year after the date it appears in their publication, others say six months, and a few say it can be published again immediately after the date it first appears in their publication.)

When you sell first rights, after the time stipulated in the contract, the rights revert to you as the author and you can use it any way you like (you can post it in a compilation of your own, or sell a reprint to it.)

First rights can only be sold once—the first time it is published.

Reprint Rights sometimes called Second American Serial Rights: If you sell a piece that has already been published, you are selling the new publication reprint rights, i. e. the right to publish a reprint of your work. Not all magazines will purchase reprints and those that do often pay less. Not always though; my highest paying article the first time for .25 a word (it was a 1500 word article so that came to $380), the second time as a reprint for another $375 to a magazine that paid just as much for reprints as it did for 1st rights, and has sold two more reprints since then (for $75 & $240) and I’ll sell it again if the opportunity presents itself.

You can sell reprint rights as many times as you can find someone to purchase them. You own the rights to the piece.

One-time Rights are a little tricky. They work more like reprint rights in that the writer owns the rights to his or her piece and can sell them as often as possible. Some well-established writers sell these because there is a demand for that writer’s work. Most publications do not buy these, though. Most stipulate in the writers’ guidelines what kind of rights they are willing to buy, and it is usually first rights, reprint rights, or all rights.

All rights or Exclusive Rights: I generally caution against selling all rights or exclusive rights to a piece. If a magazine buys all rights that means they will own the piece if the writer is willing to sell it. Personally, I do not ever sell all rights to my work. It feels to me like I am selling my babies. They are mine, created from my head and though I am happy for someone to publish it, I do not want that entity to then own it. I want to own my own work! All rights you sell only once, because then it is no longer yours to sell. Selling all rights do, however, tend to pay more and some writers are happy to sell them.

Work for Hire is a term that also refers to the kind of rights a writer will have to a piece. It means the publication has hired you to write for them. Therefore, that publication owns whatever you write. Many journalism jobs are work for hire—where the writer writes for that newspaper, or magazine and as such, writes whatever that magazine wants them to write, and the magazine then owns the content.

I do take some work for hire jobs. I have taken and will continue to take assignments from a couple different devotional magazines. These assignments are considered work for hire, so I do not own the devotions I have written for them. The two I write for are Open Windows (Lifeway) and Reflections (Smyth & Helwys) These are the only instances where I give up ownership of anything I write.

That’s it in a nutshell. Usually you find the rights a magazine wishes to buy in their writers’ guidelines.

Click to Tweet: From @harrietemichael Do You Know Your Rights? What you need to know about writers’ rights. @InspiredPrompt #devotional #writer


Writing Prompt: Write why you would or would not be willing to write on assignment where the publication keeps the rights to your work.

‘Twas the Night before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the world, the people continued as they always had with no idea of the event—the advent—that would happen the next day. In the streets of Jerusalem, the people did not think they needed a new king. They served Caesar and he was the most powerful man on earth. The people didn’t think they needed a savior. They obeyed the Roman laws and were not in trouble that they needed saving from, as far as they knew. And the people in Jerusalem and elsewhere could have cared less what was happening in an obscure little town called Bethlehem.

But what happened in that little town the next day changed the trajectory of history… and changed the lives of so many throughout the years, including you and me. Except for that event, we wouldn’t be celebrating the Christmas season today. But more importantly, we would not be looking forward to spending eternity in heaven with God.

For in that obscure place, the next day, Jesus, God’s own Son, came into the world as a tiny baby. A tiny, helpless baby who looked just like any other baby with ten little toes and ten little fingers, and needed a mother and father to take care of him.

No, most of the people living at that time didn’t realize the magnificent event that occurred in that little town of Bethlehem.

But the ancient prophet, Micah knew what a special place Bethlehem was going to be in history. He foretold it so many years earlier when he said in Micah 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

Click to Tweet:  Twas the night before #Christmas @InspiredPrompt

Writing Prompt: Write about something you are too busy to notice this Christmas.

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