Friday, April 25, 2014

What's Your Publishing Personality?

Last month I attended Left Coast Crime, and I've been thinking more about an interesting discussion that took place during one of the convention panels I was on, Alternative Paths to Publication.

The focus of this panel was the ups and downs of self-publishing vs. traditional publishing. The five of us on the panel had each published both ways. Chuck Rosenberg and I started our writing careers self-publishing and moved to traditional publishing contracts, whereas Cindy Sample, Claire Johnson, and Barbara Hodges are currently self-publishing after previously having publishers. (If you're reading this blog, I'm guessing you already know my story and how it evolved -- if not, you can click those links.)

Left Coast Crime Alternative Paths to Publication panel:
Gigi Pandian, Cindy Sample, Claire Johnson,
Barbara M. Hodges, and Chuck Rosenberg. 
An interesting theme emerged in our panel discussion: much more than our situations, it was our personalities shaped how we felt about being involved in different aspects of publishing.

It wasn't simply a matter of each of us assessing our goals to decide what type of publishing was best for us (though goals are still  important). Instead, regardless of what we each wanted to get out of publishing, it was the way in which we approached tasks that mattered most.

Cindy and I were the starkest examples. Where she absolutely loves being responsible for every last aspect of producing her books, I hated that part of publishing when I was doing it.

Now that much of the stigma of self-publishing is gone, what remains is authors making the right choice for their own circumstances--but a lot of that "right choice" has to do with what a person enjoys doing on a daily basis.

I could never be as successful as Cindy at self-publishing for a gazillion little reasons, all of which have to do with control and responsibility ("control" being the positive spin on "you're-responsible-for-every-single-thing"). Cindy is currently responsible for every aspect of producing her books, just like I was when I formed Gargoyle Girl Productions to publish Artifact in 2012. I learned so much about publishing by being my own publisher, and for that I'm thankful. But I learned even more about myself. Sure, it can be great to have control over exactly what your cover looks like; but it also means you're responsible for making that vision happen, including all the little details you never imagined were part of producing a cover. I learned that I'm not someone who enjoys being in control of the never-ending list of tasks associated with producing a book--I want to focus on writing the next one!

Artifact's book covers:
Gargoyle Girl Productions (left),
Henery Press (right).
I'm an incredibly organized person, but that wasn't enough. A comprehensive list with due dates is no good if you procrastinate on the tasks you don't want to do--and procrastinating was what I did with 90% of the things that had to be done. It didn't matter that I had the skills to pull of being my own publisher. What mattered was that because I didn't enjoy the non-creative side of the writing business, the mental drain was hurting my writing. You bet I jumped at the chance to work with Henery Press and Midnight Ink.

I should note that it's true authors often bemoan the fact that they need to publicize their books in addition to writing them, but the promotion you do as an author with a publisher backing you is nowhere near the amount you need to do without a publisher behind you.

There are many resources for writers considering what type of publishing is best for them, and the times are changing quickly, so I'm not going to go over nuts and bolts of either type of publishing in this post. Instead, I'll leave you with the best advice I gave give you: be true to yourself, and the right answer will emerge.

I'm getting ready for Malice Domestic, where I'm looking forward to many fascinating conversations with readers and writers over the long weekend. If you'll be there, be sure to say hello!



  1. Interesting idea. I chose self-publishing primarily because I expected a long trajectory for being discovered, since my books don't fit genre categories well but hover in the edges of several. I suppose that choice does go with having a personality that likes to make all the decisions. . Your advice when I first made that choice was really helpful. As for marketing, it's certainly less fun than writing, but I think of it as a dance I'm learning very slowly. Once I know the steps it'll swing

    1. I'm so glad my earlier advice helped you, Amber!

      And yes, I agree personality shouldn't be the sole factor in making the decision, but it was really interesting how much it did impact how *happy* we each were with our decision ;)

  2. Great analysis Gigi. The fact that I ran a large company in my prior life made it easy for me to deal with all of those indie decisions. And there are a lot to be made. And it's possible I have a micromanager personality:-). Someone needs to design a publishing personality type questionnaire.

    1. It was an eye-opening panel discussion, Cindy! You and I had talked before, but never in this moderated setting where our responses made our feelings so clear.

      I think maybe you're that *someone* to write that publishing personality type questionnaire ;)

  3. You've hit on a useful way to advise writers working on that decision, Gigi.

    I ran my own small business for almost 30 years (just me - consultant) and when people would ask for advice about going out on their own, the best advice I could give was:

    How comfortable are you with ambiguity?

    Their answer to that question was critical because when you're on your own you never quite know when the next paycheck is coming in, when the company you're doing business with might decide to fold and not pay you, or try to cheat you and pay only a portion, etc. The individual who is uncomfortable with all that shouldn't strike out on their own without some means of supporting themselves outside of the business - or they'll drain all their mental resources on worry.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Claire. I never especially liked freelancing, and love my day job, so it makes sense I wouldn't like running my own one-woman publishing company.

      You've got it exactly right: It was the mental drain I didn't anticipate when I was my own publisher.

  4. Your posting is an honest look out how we might go about choosing our path to publication. For me, I didn't want to spend years searching for an agent, and then waiting for the agent to find a publisher, and then again, waiting for the publisher to get the book to market. I wanted to get my book in the hands of readers and chose the Indie route.

    So, like you I did everything. I created my own imprint, purchased ISBNs, obtained the library of congress number, created the cover, my own website, marketing.

    In the end, I was asked to do a one day workshop about becoming an independent author for my local SinC chapter. One of the most striking comments from my workshop was from a traditionally published author who said she now had a real appreciation for just how much work her publisher does. This is exactly why I haven't closed the door on publishing traditionally.

    Interesting post...wish I had been at the conference and your panel.

    1. Kelly, it's true I now have SO MUCH RESPECT both for self-published authors and for publishing house teams. There's so much that goes into producing a book, I'm in awe when people like you do such great things with it.

      I gave a similar talk to my local SinC chapter last year. After hearing from me how much went into self-publishing, some of the attendees were really excited to have a roadmap to get started -- but some decided it wasn't for them. I love that people have so many options these days, so we can all do what's best for us :)


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