For what it's worth...
There’s a lot being said about one of my publishers now. You can find any number of topics on the matter with a quick look around the interwebs. I’m not goint to discuss the situation as-is, because honestly, I don’t have as much to lose as some others if things go the way people think they will, and I don't have anything new to contribute to the conversation. But it did get me thinking on a subject that comes up frequently among authors -- one that's gained momentum over the past few years. Self-publishing. As an author, the one thing I want is for my works to be represented in its best light, and failing that, the rights to said works returned to me so I can reassess and regroup. I’m not a big earner in any capacity. As I’ve said before, royalties are not why I write. I write because I’m a writer. I care about the stories. I want them to be cared for wherever they land. Others write because writing is their livelihood, and some lucky bastards get to do both—write for the love of writing and because it’s their livelihood.
What grays matters is when works of passion (take that however you want) become company assets...because that's what they are. In most cases, your work is not personal to anyone but you; there are horror stories everywhere of what has occurred on the business end of publication—stories to make any author stop and reconsider the relationships they’ve forged and the decisions they’ve made.
It's enough to make some people really champion self-publishing as a solution. While self-publishing absolutely has its benefits, it’s not feasible for all authors. The route you choose should be based on your professional and personal needs, as well as expectations. I have two self-published works now, and I love that they belong to me, but the hard truth is to do self-publishing right, you have to do a lot of work upfront. You also have a time commitment and promotion/marketing that falls solely on you. That’s not for everyone.
Me? With little exception, I’d rather allocate that time to writing itself, because the time I do have is so preciously limited. That's a choice I've made after weighing the pros and cons and changing my mind half a dozen times. I first intended to self-publish the Sinners and Saints series, but I realized that it made more sense for me personally to partner with a publisher to share the workload. Others look at their work and make a completely different decision based on experience and personal circumstances. In the end, do what's right for you. If things fall apart from there, at least you know you went in with your eyes open. Nothing sucks worse than revving your engine only to slam into a previously unforeseen brick wall.
I won't lie, signing away your rights to something you poured more than your heart and soul into is intimidating, and not a decision anyone should take lightly. When I first entered the world of publishing, I didn’t imagine that there would ever be a situation where I’d regret signing with any company. I was so green. To me, like to so many young authors, the dream of being published was enough.
Your work deserves the best. If you do go the traditional publishing route, talk to authors, reach out, get their stories, their experience, and really consider their advice. If someone warns you about Publisher X, don’t dismiss the claim. Ask why. Investigate. Authors support other authors, even if that support comes in the form of advising you to turn down a publication offer. We have our reasons, and sometimes the best decision you can make for your work is to say "no."
Educate yourself. Be defensive. Don’t settle.