It wasn't a hard decision. Today, the odds of an unpublished author, however brilliant, with no pre-existing name recognition landing a traditional publishing deal are about the same odds as Hillary Clinton winning the Presidency.
Even if I were inclined to seek a traditional publisher, the list of drawbacks is much longer than the list of advantages. First, finding an agent might take six months or longer. Then, my agent might take another six months or more to find a publisher willing to take a chance on me. The time to publication from acceptance to released book is typically another year. That means two more years would pass before my book would see the light of day.
Even if a publisher signed me to a deal, the terms would be onerous: small advance, punishing royalty rates, and no leverage. Meanwhile, the publisher would no doubt request a raft of changes to the book before agreeing to publish it. I'd have no right to choose or influence the cover image, the marketing copy, or the design of the book. They would call the shots; I'd have less power or influence than the in-house publishing interns.
So to sum up: A traditional publishing deal would grant me scant profits, no control, and an unacceptably long time to publication. So why would any author, famous or not, seek out a traditional publisher? For all the resources available today to the self-published author, trad-pubs still offer three avantages: 1) editing and design resources for which the author otherwise has to pay out-of-pocket; 2) the ability to get your book into brick-and-mortar bookstores; and 3) marketing and promotional support.
Look deeper, however, and those so-called advantages disappear. First, there are plenty of reasonably-priced editing and design resources available to the self-published author, and the increased royalty rates for every book sold will, if the book is successful, more than cover those costs. Second, the odds of a publisher successfully getting my book on the shelf at Barnes & Noble next to the two hundred copies of Game of Thrones they already stock are still quite small; I'm much more likely to sell more e-books through self-publishing than I'd sell hard copies through B&M stores. Third, most trad-pubs are more interested in how you, the author, are able to help them market and promote your book than they are interested in spending their own money to market you.
So, self-publishing it is. Shit is getting real: this week I incorporated my LLC and opened a business bank account, which means I'm now in business. My book is being professionally edited, a kickass designer is working on four interior illustrations, and I've joined the Alliance of Independent Authors to learn from successful self-published authors from around the world. It's going to be an interesting ride. To those who have followed me on my FB author page and/or on this web site, thank you-- I hope you enjoy taking this ride with me.
Rick Ferguson is the author of The Chronicles of Elberon fantasy trilogy. Rick is also a globally recognized marketing expert with appearances in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Advertising Age, Fast Company, the Globe & Mail Canada, the Guardian UK, the Financial Times India, MSNBC, and the Fox Business Channel. He has delivered keynote speeches on marketing principles and best practices on six continents. He is also master of time, space, and dimension.