Publishing: What You May Not Know, But Need To
You’ve written a book. Now you want to publish it and you face a big question: Do you look for a publisher or publish on your own?
When they think of book publishing, most people picture the traditional model: a publishing house signs you to a contract, gives you a nice advance, takes your manuscript, turns it into a finished book, and puts it in bookstores. This is royalty publishing, so called because you receive royalties for each copy of the book that sells.
Royalty Publishing: A royalty publisher buys the rights – often with an advance against future royalties – to produce a book from a provided manuscript. The publisher edits, designs, prints, and distributes the book at its own expense, and pays the author royalties as the book sells.
Though the traditional model is under increasing market pressures and is changing by the day (for example, some publishing houses are doing away with advances), there are many advantages to choosing this route. Prime among these advantages: you pay nothing to have your book brought to market, and a publishing deal with a traditional house confers status on you as someone who has “made the cut.”
Disadvantages include potentially lower earnings when compared to self-publishing. That’s assuming you’ve successfully battled your way through what can be a long and arduous process to get noticed and signed with a publishing house in the first place.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is self-publishing. The benefits of publishing on your own are significant: You’ll have greater earning potential, complete control over the project, you can publish quickly, and you’re guaranteed to get your book in print.
Self-Publisher: A self-publisher is an author who finances, produces, markets, and sells her own book. It does not necessarily mean that all the work is done by the author, but does mean the author contracts directly with editors, printers, and other specialty service providers for the pieces she cannot complete on her own.
Successful self-publishing, though, is not an easy route to take. A finished book you can hold in your hand is not the same thing as a book that will sell. It takes real effort, dedication, time, and money to create a marketable product and tell the world about it.
Between royalty publishing and self-publishing lies a third option called subsidy publishing. Subsidy publishing can be a minefield for the unsuspecting author who either confuses it with royalty publishing or thinks it is self-publishing. It is neither. Many subsidy publishers will play up this confusion by calling themselves a self-publishing company or a publisher, perhaps hoping you will assume the latter means royalty publisher.
Subsidy Publisher: A company that makes money both from charging authors for production costs and from keeping a portion of sales revenue.
If you have to buy copies of your own book and still only receive royalties on these copies, you’re dealing with a subsidy publisher. (If you have truly self-published, you do not receive royalties from anyone.) Two more telltale signs that you’re dealing with a subsidy publisher and not self-publishing: Yours is not the name registered on the ISBN, and you had to sign a contract giving someone else rights to your material.
In case you think any discussion of subsidy publishing versus self-publishing is a case of quibbling over semantics, think again. The difference could kill your book. The pricing model offered by most subsidy publishers will effectively lock you out of the majority of bricks-and-mortar retailers, as well as sinking any chances you have of making bulk sales to groups and associations.
Do your homework before you publish. Know what each of the three models – royalty publishing, self-publishing, and subsidy publishing — truly entails before making a decision about what’s right for you and your book.
You can start by downloading An Author’s Guide to Publishing Options, a free report that includes details on each of the three publishing models plus a 10-question quiz to help you identify the model best suited to your goals.