I’m not published.

Yet.

But what do I mean by “published?”

I mean out there. My work is under my name and available to buy. But this, these days, can mean one of two things.

No, I am not published traditionally. But neither have I self-published either.

It is my goal to be published before I’m 30. But which way am I going to go? Luckily I’ve researched both avenues heavily… but I’ve still not made up my mind. If you’re in the same boat as me, well, let’s take a closer look at traditional publishing.

This is probably what most people think of: book tours, signings, merchandise, film rights… a lot of that happens under the magic of Traditional Publishing. But not always. Most of the top names (J.K. Rowling, Stephen King etc) are published by a big publishing house (e.g. Penguin Random, Simon & Schuster, Bloomsbury…). But let’s be real here: how many of the other authors on the list of authors a publishing house represents do you really know of?

Not that many I’m willing to bet. But publishing houses really do have a LOT of authors under their wing. And they need them to sell and sell big. So it’s not uncommon for them to take on what is currently selling, what they know will sell, and play it safe. So don’t be surprised if your high fantasy elf drama is rejected by Penguin Random. You’d probably be better off trying to submit to Hodderscape.

The other thing with traditional now is: they rarely take unsolicited manuscripts. Yep, that’s right – you need an agent. And most agents, sorry to say, are already oversubscribed. Who knew that wanting to be a writer was such a common profession? Well, it is. Most of us learn to write when we’re tiny, don’t we? Most of us have some imagination. And all of us love stories.

It’s no great secret that ‘writer’ is one of the most coveted professions in the world. But to actually get to be a published author, recognized widely, with a huge film deal? Not as common as you think, really. Once you start to get into these ‘writerly circles’ you’ll find out that more people are published in anthologies, magazines, quarterly publications, than are taken on by the Big Five.

I’m not trying to discourage you here: many people will be successful with this route. If you really don’t want much creative control over the format of the book, the look, the cover art, and you’re willing to compromise on quite a lot and make the plot a little more mainstream and a little more cookie cutter, then this route is definitely for you. This is for the people who want to:

  1. Write the manuscript.
  2. Edit it.
  3. Get an agent.
  4. Get it published.
  5. Get the money.

I also know people who are associated with large publishing houses and they do well out of it – they get great deals, have great agents, and generally make a pretty sweet penny out of this. But none of them are ‘just writers’. They’re doing other things to make ends meet (things which are far more lucrative anyway).

I’m not saying it’s a bad road to take – but to me it is a little bit like selling your soul and honestly, I’ve always been the type of writer who wants lots of control over my creative property. So, if you’re like me, part two might be more your thing…