Guest blog: Gail Z. Martin

Once again this year, I accepted Gail Z. Martin's invitation to be part of her Days of the Dead blog tour. In this guest blog post, she elaborates on traditional publishing vs small presses vs self-publishing.


Getting Published—One Goal, Many Routes

By Gail Z. Martin

Over the course of my career so far, I’ve published with a Big New York and Big London traditional publisher, various small presses, and gone indie (self-pub). Right now, my books are an active mix of all three paths, and I’ve never been happier. Which is right for you? That depends.

For many authors, they consider ‘making it as a writer’ to mean published by a traditional publisher and available in bookstores. That’s certainly still possible, although the average advance is lower than it used to be, and publishers now begin relationships with authors expecting it to only last for a few books (unlike the long-standing ‘mid-list’ stable of writers who might spend decades with the same imprint). Nearly all of the traditional publishers require an author to be represented by an agent, and want to know that the book is already completed before extending a contract—particularly for a writer without a track record.

Working with a big traditional publisher comes with bragging rights, and can check something off the bucket list. It’s validating, and an ego boost. You won’t have to worry about arranging for editing, proof-reading, cover design or formatting because the publisher handles all that. Of course, you also won’t have any say in those matters, either. Hate the cover? Too bad. Disagree with the editor? You may have very little ability to dissent, even on changes that you feel substantially change the story. You’ll owe 15% of everything you earn on those books forever to your agent. As far as royalties go, depending on your contract, you’re likely to get about 10% - 15% of the price of your paperbacks, and 25%-40% of ebooks and audiobooks, after you’ve earned out any advances, and you’ll be paid twice a year. Big publishers also keep an additional percentage of your earnings back in case your books are returned by stores. You’ll also still need to do most of the marketing for your book because the little bit the publisher will don’t won’t be enough.

Small presses still cover the cost of editing, proof-reading, cover design and formatting, but may offer you more input and listen to your suggestions. Advances are unlikely, or will be very small. Royalty percentages will be about the same as with the big traditional publishers, but without an advance to recoup, your royalties usually pay from publication date. You’re likely to get paid either quarterly or twice a year. Since bookstores don’t tend to stock books by small presses, you don’t have to worry about that reserve against returns percentage. Many small presses accept unagented submissions, so you get to keep that bit extra, too. You’ll need to do most of the marketing.

Indie publishing requires a commitment to the business side as well as the creative side. You’ll need to track all of your sales and royalties for tax purposes, as well as your business-related expenses. You’ll still need to hire and editor and proofreader, as well as a cover artist and possibly a formatter. This can quickly add up to thousands of dollars, but skimping on these pieces is likely to make the book look unprofessional, which hurts sales. You’ll make larger percentages on the print and ebooks (depending on the price of the finished book), but you’ve also got bigger expenses to recoup. You now have to do all of the marketing. On the other hand, you can choose/commission your cover art, you aren’t forced to make editorial changes you don’t agree with, you can bring out books as quickly as you want, and you can write whatever you please since there is no gatekeeper to approve your proposals. Amazon pays monthly, although KU and other circumstances may affect that.

Right now, my backlist is with the original large publishers, our new audiobooks are under contract to a large audio production company, we have three series under contract with a small press, and we publish everything else indie. We love the freedom of being indie, but we also value the things we learned working with the big publishers and the support of our small press publisher. Experiment and find your own best mix!

What’s new? Plenty! Sons of Darkness (Night Vigil Book 1) and Inheritance (Deadly Curiosities Book 4) are now on audiobook. Monster Mash and Creature Feature are the newest Spells Salt and Steel books. Witch of the Woods and Ghosts of the Past are the newest in the Wasteland Marshals series, and Black Sun is the latest Joe Mack Adventure. Coming soon: Fugitive’s Vow (Assassins of Landria Book 3) and Reckoning (Darkhurst Book 3).

My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with brand new guest blog posts, giveaways and more! You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Get all the details about my Days of the Dead blog tour at

About the Author

Gail Z. Martin writes urban fantasy, epic fantasy and steampunk for Solaris Books, Orbit Books, Falstaff Books, SOL Publishing and Darkwind Press. Urban fantasy series include Deadly Curiosities and the Night Vigil (Sons of Darkness). Epic fantasy series include Darkhurst, the Chronicles Of The Necromancer, the Fallen Kings Cycle, the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, and the Assassins of Landria. She and co-author Larry N. Martin write the Spells Salt and Steel, Wasteland Marshals and Joe Mack Shadow Council Archives Adventures. As Morgan Brice, she writes urban fantasy MM paranormal romance. Series include Witchbane, Badlands, Treasure Trail, Kings of the Mountain and Fox Hollow series.

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