Chapter 3: Methodology
This study intends to explore the benefits and flaws of traditional publishing and self-publishing, comparing them to each other. It will seek to answer four basic questions: 1) what are the benefits and flaws of traditional publishing, 2) what are the benefits and flaws of self-publishing, 3) what can an author do to help his or her own book, and 4) how can an author avoid being exploited? Since this is a broad field, with many different opinions, perspectives and options, this study will be limited to the market of fiction. Though financial elements are important, success will be defined as “any process of publishing which results in a book the author can call an accomplishment, rather than an embarrassment.” This study seeks to determine some of the most important factors of either publishing option and present them so that individual authors can evaluate them against their own skills and circumstances, and make the choice that will be most effective for their unique situations.
Plan of Action
- Consult a variety of secondhand sources from individuals in different parts of the industry.
- Interview knowledgeable individuals within the publishing industry to determine the flaws, virtues and requirements of various types of publishing.
- Collect first-hand data by surveying writers and others in the publishing industry on their choices, experiences and opinions.
This study will be primarily qualitative, using a descriptive approach to determine both general opinions and insider knowledge of the publishing industry. A general questionnaire will be used to gather data on what most writers have heard, experienced, chosen or would recommend to other writers. This will be through an online survey in order to make data collection and analysis simpler. The people approached will primarily be members of online writing groups with varying levels of skill and experience. In addition to this survey, knowledgeable individuals within the industry will be interviewed on their experiences in more detail.
1. What are the benefits and flaws of traditional publishing?
To understand the process of traditional publishing, experienced and successful authors will be interviewed. These interviews will be conducted through email exchanges, with the timing dependent on the author’s schedule. The interview questions would focus on points like 1) What are the greatest benefits of having your book published traditionally? 2) What are some flaws of this method? 3) What is your experience with self-publishing, and your opinion of it? 4) To whom would you recommend either choice? and 5) Is there anything you know now that you wish you had known when you were first starting? The average interview will contain 10-12 questions, in order to balance the intake of relevant information with timeliness.
2. What are the benefits and flaws of self-publishing?
In order to gain insider information on self-publishing, successful self-published authors will be interviewed about the experience of creating, preparing and marketing a book. As above, the interviews will be conducted in whatever remote method is most effective for the interviewees. The questions would also be similar, but would include further questions of 1) how much should most authors try to do themselves, rather than hiring others? 2) What subtypes of self-publishing exist and what are their merits and problems? 3) Is self-publishing more like being an entrepreneur than a writer for most? The length of the interviews and number of questions will be approximately the same.
3. What can writers do to help their own books?
In order to explore what an author needs to do for his or her own book, a book designer or book shepherd will be interviewed, asking 1) What are some common mistakes inexperienced writers make? 2) What are a few basic ways an author can help his or her own book, aside from writing? 3) What do authors need to know in order to sell their books? 4) What would you typically recommend, traditional publishing, self-publishing, or another option? If such an individual is unavailable, the self-published authors will be queried on these subjects to see what has worked for them or those they know, and even the traditionally-published authors may be able to provide useful information.
4. How can writers recognize and avoid exploitation?
The final interview will be with a writer with experience identifying and labeling exploitative agents and presses. This interview would cover questions like 1) What are some common “red flags” that new writers should be aware of? 2) With the new blurring of the lines in the industry in recent years, what do you think of self-publishing? 3) How do you see this affecting the publishing industry in the near future?
Organization and Analysis of Data
Each section of this paper will focus on one of the four main questions, with the interviews supplying relevant information in quotations. They will be accompanied by references to other sources gathered in existing research, in order to balance their perspectives. The data collected from the general survey will be arranged into charts, simplifying them into sliding scales of positive and negative experience with the two primary publishing options, and referenced in each of the four main sections as they become relevant. The charts themselves will be contained in the appendices for the curious.