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Posts Tagged ‘self-publishing’

Best Posts on Book Publishing Options

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Publishing a book is easier now than it’s ever been—but it’s still not easy. So many options, so many variables. How do you choose?

To help, we’ve pulled together some of our best and most popular posts about publishing options.

You might also want to grab a free copy of The Author’s Guide to Publishing Options. Take the 10-question quiz inside and see where it points you.

And if there’s a burning question you still can’t find the answer to, you can always pop a note into the question box.

Best Posts
Let’s start with a review of the three main publishing models: royalty (traditional) publishing, self-publishing and subsidy publishing.

Amazon has recently made big moves into publishing. Amazon is a royalty publisher but with some definite advantages over the usual model.

Is one publishing model better than the other? These posts give food for thought.

What Do You Want to Know?

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Ask us a question about content marketing or self-publishing a book. No need to leave your name if you’re shy. We’ll answer in a blog post.

Barry Eisler Reveals Details of Amazon Publishing Deal

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Barry EislerRemember Barry Eisler? He’s the bestselling thriller author who in March turned down a $500,000 deal with St. Martin’s Press in favor of self-publishing.

Last week, at Book Expo America, Eisler announced he’d just signed a deal for Amazon to publish his next book. The traditional publishing crowd sniffed their disapproval over his perceived turncoat behavior.

But as Eisler points out, the point wasn’t to self-publish. The point was to get the terms he wanted. Along came Amazon offering those terms, so he took them. In Eisler’s words:

“…it’s the terms that are important to me, not the means by which I achieve them. If these terms are a destination, self-publishing is undeniably an excellent vehicle for getting there. But it isn’t the only vehicle. And if another vehicle comes along that offers all these terms, plus a substantial advance, plus a retail wing that can reach millions of customers in my demographic… then, as a non-ideological businessman, I’m going to change rides.”

In a recent conversation with fellow author Joe Konrath, Eisler revealed some of the details that drew him to sign with Amazon:

  • An advance “comparable” to that offered by St. Martin’s
  • “Much better” digital royalties (one source says 70%)
  • “Comparable” print royalties
  • A three-month turnaround from submission to release
  • Full control over the title and cover art
  • No DRM on the e-book
  • E-book released first, followed by paper

This deal shows that Amazon, as a publisher, is poised to cause major industry disruption, coming to market much faster and sharing royalties more equitably than traditional publishers, while bringing huge distribution and marketing muscle. Great news for authors, not so great for the old guard publishers.

The full conversation between Eisler & Konrath is a tremendously long but fascinating perspective on the current publishing industry and the changes that are occurring.

How to Build Success into Your Non-Fiction Book

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

construction sign

On the self-publishing journey, there’s the production of your book and there’s the marketing of your book. Two separate things, right?


How you create your book will have an impact on your marketing efforts. If you miss an important registration detail, fail to follow an industry norm or make it difficult for readers to find you, your marketing becomes that much more difficult.

While producing a great book doesn’t automatically guarantee sales success, a book with sloppy production values is hobbled right out of the gate. Here are some tips for building success into your book from the beginning.

Spend time on the title
Coming up with a great title isn’t easy, but it’s worth working on. Too many first-time authors try cramming a 25-word synopsis of their book into the title. They end up with titles that are insufferably long, hard to understand and impossible to remember. Yawn. Titles are usually very short, sometimes just one or two catchy words. The subtitle then picks up the job of describing the book in a bit more detail—but still use only five to eight words or so.

Hire a professional designer
People really do judge a book by its cover, even when it’s just a thumbnail. Whether people are browsing a shelf at their local bookstore or clicking through, whether they spy a copy of your book on a friend’s coffee table or reach your website from a tweet, the first they’ll see of your book is the cover. So much rests on the image your cover conveys that it’s foolish to risk a poor impression. Hire an experienced professional to design it. Can’t afford it? You can’t afford not to.

Register your book
Every book needs an ISBN. (Without one, you can’t even sell through Amazon.) Also register your book with your national library, whether that’s the Library of Congress or the National Library of Canada, and invest in having Cataloguing-in-Publication data created. These registrations ensure your book looks professional and is discoverable.

Remember the formula: If p, then e
Despite what you may read, print books aren’t in danger of disappearing anytime soon. Plus, print books still work best as gifts or client premiums; having something tangible to hand out is crucial to making the right impression. So it makes sense, most of the time, to plan on a print edition. Just don’t overlook e-books altogether. It’s so easy and inexpensive to spin off an electronic edition from print files that it should be an automatic part of every author’s publishing process. The more ways people can access your book, the greater the chance of a sale.

Edit your book well
Editing is last on the list, not because it’s least important, but because it supports everything else. You can have an outstanding title, a kick-ass cover and multiple available formats, but if people read your book and find the content stinks, you won’t go far.

  • Fill your non-fiction book with helpful information, not promotional copy. People don’t want to pay money to read a long brochure.
  • Keep it tight. If you can tell readers how to solve a problem in 200 pages instead of 300 pages, do it. If you can explain the topic in 100 pages, consider a shorter format, like a Kindle Single. Avoid padding just to hit a page count.
  • Watch your stale date. A book is no small project so it’s best to create a product you can sell for years to come. As much as you can, avoid information that changes frequently. Instead, focus on timeless principles and point people to your website for information that needs regular updating.
  • Hire a professional editor. In fact, hire a couple. At Highspot, we employ up to four different editors on each book because we know that fresh eyes at every stage of the process—from developmental editing through copyediting and printer’s proofs—help us catch more mistakes.

When self-publishing, it pays to think about your book like a traditional publisher: how can you get the best return on your investment? In a hypercompetitive market, give your book a fighting chance with top-notch production values, then market it as the great product you know it be.

Would You Turn Down a $500,000 Book Deal?

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

The blogosphere has been buzzing in the last month with news of two high-profile authors and their publishing choices.

On the one hand:
Barry Eisler, a bestselling thriller author, just turned down a $500,000 deal with his traditional publisher, opting to self-publish his next book instead.

On the other hand:
Amanda Hocking, an author who’s already made millions selling her self-published novels, has chosen to sign with a traditional publisher for a $2-million contract.

What gives? One successful author turns down a lucrative deal with an established house in order to self-publish, while a successful self-published author chooses to sign up with an established house. These seem like opposite strategies.

But both Eisler and Hocking have their well-considered reasons.

Hocking says it’s not about the money for her.

“Let’s be honest – if I self-published the Watersong series on my own, I could probably make $2 million within a year or two. Five years tops. I am fully aware that I stand a chance of losing money on this deal compared to what I could make self-publishing.”

Instead, Hocking’s looking for distribution muscle and mainstream exposure.

“Having large distribution is part of the reason why I wanted a deal, and part of that is having books in stores… I am getting an increasing number of emails from people who go into bookstores to buy my books for themselves or friends or family members, and not only does Barnes & Noble not carry my book, they can’t even order it for them. People are requesting my books, and they can’t get them.”

“I want to be a household name. I want to be the impulse buy that people make when they’re waiting in an airport because they know my name.”

Eisler feels ‘legacy publishers’ are out to lunch when it comes to the digital revolution. He wants the freedom to publish faster, charge what he considers optimum prices for e-books ($.99 to $4.99) and keep more of the revenue.

“I just don’t want to be part of an industry that doesn’t make sense, that’s fighting change rather than taking advantage of it. I want to make money by giving readers what they want, not by seeking ways to deny it to them.”

Hocking wants print books in bookstores. Eisler wants to focus on e-books.

Eisler says authors are leaving money on the table. Hocking says she doesn’t care about the money.

So who’s right?

They both are. Publishing with a traditional house has its benefits and its drawbacks. Same with self-publishing. One isn’t awful while the other is virtuous. It comes down to knowing what you want from your book and your writing career, having a realistic understanding of what each publishing route can offer, and choosing the one best suited to your goals.

Need help deciding? Try the 10-question quiz in our free Author’s Guide to Publishing Options. We profile both royalty publishing and self-publishing, along with the potentially tricky subsidy publishing model, laying out the pros and cons of each.

What Dwindling Shelf Space Means for Self-Published Authors

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

bookstore with closing signs

The business of print publishing — producing physical books and shipping them here and there — has taken two more serious blows in the last month.

H.B. Fenn, Canada’s largest book distributor, filed for bankruptcy on Feb 3, leaving major publishers like Macmillan in the lurch.

Borders, the second largest book chain in the US, filed for bankruptcy on Feb 16. Though the company hopes to restructure and emerge with a pulse, it has set about closing more than 200 of its current locations.

These announcements are simply two in a long string from the past year, including the dissolution of Canadian publisher Key Porter and the closure of indie bookstore after indie bookstore.

The economics of moving print books across the country and around the world are becoming increasingly untenable. It’s relatively expensive to create, ship and store physical books, and with already razor-thin margins, traditional publishers, distributors, and booksellers are feeling the pinch.

But what does it all mean for you as a self-published author?

Physical space for selling books is decreasing
Sobering fact: Your book has less than a 1% chance of being stocked in an average bookstore. With shelf space dwindling, competition for what’s left is fierce. You think it’s hard getting your self-published book into a bookstore now? Expect it to get even harder. The thing is, while mainstream bookstore distribution is great if you can get it, for a lot of business authors, it’s not the only game in town.

Exploit other channels
You’ve got all kinds of other sales channels available to you, such as back-of-room sales at speaking engagements, bulk sales to special interest groups, direct sales to your client base, and online sales through Amazon. Use them.

Lock in your digital strategy
Yes, a print book still confers the most cachet, which is important for the freebies you give as gifts to clients and contacts. But don’t neglect the e-book market — it’s booming and will only continue to grow. At the very least, make sure your print book is available on all the major e-reading platforms. It’s not hard to do.

And start to think about ways you can establish your e-book as the premium gift. How about giving top prospects an e-book reader skinned with your book cover and a link to a free download of your book?

The print book market will be around for quite a while yet, but it will get increasingly harder for self-published authors to get distribution through mainstream channels. Pursue that distribution if you like, but don’t let it be your only or even primary strategy. Multiple channels for reaching readers are your best insurance.

CIP Data: What Is It and Why Should Authors Care?

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

A Cataloguing-in-Publication (CIP) data block contains information about a book and its topic that’s used by librarians and booksellers. The data block is delivered in a prescribed format, and can’t be changed or re-formatted once issued. The data is placed on the copyright page of your book, along with the ISBN and other bibliographic data.

Sample data block

Does Your Book Need CIP Data?

Technically, CIP data isn’t required to publish and sell a book. Amazon, for example, wouldn’t reject your book because it doesn’t contain CIP data. But since every traditional publisher acquires CIP data, a book lacking the data block screams amateur effort.

You definitely need CIP data if you have any intention of selling your book to libraries, since they are its primary users.

How to Acquire a CIP Data Block

In the United States
If you’re a self-publisher, especially one producing your first book, you’re not eligible to receive CIP data through the Library of Congress. (To qualify, you must have at least three published titles.)

Not to worry, however. In the place of CIP data, small publishers can use PCIP (Publisher’s Cataloging-in-Publication) data. It’s exactly the same data except it’s produced by an independent cataloguer instead of the Library of Congress. Expect to pay a small fee of $60 to $150 to have the data created.

To find cataloguers, Google search PCIP data, PCIP cataloguing or similar terms.

Highspot recommends
Adrienne Bashista is a librarian and small press owner who creates PCIP data blocks for $60. Find her at

In Canada
CIP data is issued free of charge by the National Library of Canada. All publishers based in Canada, including self-publishers, are eligible.

To apply, visit the Library website and complete the form. Your application will take about 10 days to be processed.

Subsidy Publishing: Managing The Minefield

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

row of books where one stands out
So far we’ve discussed self-publishing and royalty publishing, and why you might choose one over the other. There is, however, a third option: subsidy publishing.  Easily confused with both royalty and self-publishing, subsidy publishing can be a minefield for unsuspecting authors.

Subsidy Publisher: A company that makes money both from charging authors for production costs and from keeping a portion of sales revenue.

If you find yourself wondering if your “publisher” may in fact be using the subsidy model, here are a few defining characteristics:

  • Authors are issued an ISBN that identifies the subsidy publisher—not the author—as the publisher of record.
  • Authors are asked to pay for design, layout, and printing.
  • Authors may also be asked to pay fees for marketing, advertising, or other expenses.
  • Despite paying for their own production costs, authors are only paid royalties, rather than earning full sales revenue.
  • Sometimes the subsidy publisher retains the rights to the material.

Another area of confusion is Print On Demand (POD). If you assume POD is a publishing model, we’re here to burst the bubble. POD is simply a method of printing. It’s an alternative to a full off-set press run where many copies need to be printed at once for cost-effectiveness. Some royalty publishers use POD on occasion. Self-publishers can also use POD and still be truly self-published. Keep in mind that if a company tells you they are a POD publisher, you know only what technology will be used to print your book and nothing about their publishing model.

Download 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.

Ready to learn more about subsidy publishing? Let’s look at the pros and cons around money, creative control, credibility, and the chances of being published.

For a fee, a subsidy publisher lays out your book and designs a cover. These services are generally sold for a price lower than the cost of contracting directly with a designer (as you would do if self-publishing). However, the templates you’re offered are limited, and are also shown to other authors. You’re not getting a custom design that helps you stand out from the crowd.

Royalty payments from a subsidy press are generally 25-50% of the book’s full retail price when sold through internet sales channels. If a customer buys through one of these online stores, you receive your royalty payment. The catch comes when you try to sell your book to other outlets, such as bricks-and-mortar bookstores. First, you have to buy your books from your subsidy publisher, which could easily cost $7 or $8 per copy. Say your retail price is $14.95 — bookstores usually want a 40% discount on the retail price to stock your book. A distributor or wholesaler will take another 10-15%. That means you need to sell your books to the distributor at a cost of $6.73 each—but you can’t because it costs more than that for you to buy them.

With subsidy publishing, you can’t give the bookstores and distributors the discounts they need, so you effectively lock yourself out of those markets. And forget about book clubs, catalogs, corporate sales and other bulk selling opportunities, because the discounts they receive are typically even higher.

Creative Control
Subsidy publishers often acquire the print rights to your work in their contract with you. That means you cannot self-publish or submit the book to a royalty publisher until the contract is finished or broken.

Remember that a subsidy publisher is the publisher of record for your book. That might not be such a problem except that many subsidy publishers have horrible reputations with the mainstream book trade. Come out with a book under the label of a well-known subsidy publisher, and many people won’t touch your book with a ten-foot pole. While there are gems printed through subsidy publishers, there’s also a lot of junk. Reviewers and other book trade professionals don’t have time to dig through the dump for a treasure, so they ignore everything.

Chances of Getting Published
As with self-publishing, chance doesn’t factor into it. If you pay the fees, you’ll get a book.

If you want to publish simply for the sake of having a book in print, and you aren’t worried about selling through bookstores, subsidy publishing can be a fine choice. For example, if you have a family cookbook you’d like to print for 50 of your closest relatives, a subsidy publisher would be a great fit. However, if you’re serious about selling a lot of books, getting mainstream reviews, or building credibility in the publishing world, consider another route.

Subsidy Publishing: Pros

  • Good for limited run books that won’t be sold through traditional channels
  • Guaranteed to be published

Subsidy Publishing: Cons

  • Poor credibility in the industry
  • Poor pricing model locks you out of many sales channels
  • You are not the publisher of record
  • You may sign away ownership of your own material
  • Limited design and layout options

Publishing: Are You Traditional?

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

row of books where one stands outRoyalty publishing (a.k.a. traditional publishing) means a publishing house signs you to a contract, gives you a nice author advance, polishes your manuscript, turns it into a book, and puts it on shelves. This model gets its name because the publishing house pays you royalties on each book sale.

But before you get stars in your eyes about author advances and royalties, there are a few things to know. Advances are just that—an advance against future royalties. If your book doesn’t sell enough the advance will be the only money you receive from your publisher. And the reality is that most authors could never live on advances alone, even if they were signed to one of the big publishing houses.

An article in a December 2008 issue of the National Post noted advances you might expect from a royalty publisher:

  • $10,000 to $30,000 from bigger players, such as Random House or HarperCollins
  • $5,000 to $15,000 from mid-sized houses, such as Thomas Allen & Son or Douglas & McIntyre
  • $1,500 to $5,000 from smaller presses, such as Cormorant or Coach House

Ready to learn more about royalty publishing? Let’s look at the pros and cons around money, creative control, timing, sales and marketing, credibility, chances of being published, and working with agents.

With royalty publishing, your financial investment is practically nil. Your publisher foots the bill for editing your manuscript, creating the cover design and layout, printing, shipping, warehousing, and other expenses. But your earnings with a royalty publisher are low. Typically, a publisher pays royalties of anywhere from 7 – 10% on the book’s retail price, and an agent takes 15% of the royalty. On a $20 book, you’d earn $1.60 per copy sold. If you sold 10,000 books, your payout would be just $16,000.

Creative Control
When you sign with a royalty publisher, they buy your print rights. As your book’s owner, your publisher has the final say in major decisions, such as the title and cover art. Your publisher also decides how long your book stays on the market and when it goes out of print. These are all decisions you many not agree with, but will have to live with.

Royalty publishing is not speedy. From pitching your book through to launching it in stores could easily take a couple of years. Timing a book release to coincide with another event, such as the launch of your new business venture, a new product, or a speaking tour, is not always possible. If you want to get your book out as quickly as possible, the royalty model may not be for you.

Sales and Marketing Support
With royalty publishing, your publisher secures distributors and gets your book into bookstores. The publisher sets pricing and discounts, negotiates with suppliers, issues invoices, and processes returns. In short, they manage the business side of selling your book. But marketing your book is another story. The bulk of most publishers’ marketing budgets go to the house’s well known and bestselling authors. The dilemma of how to become a bestselling author without marketing support is generally up to the author to resolve.

Royalty publishing is a vetted art. Long before a book becomes a book, a team of highly specialized reader-editors has judged it worthy of being committed to print. It’s true that your publisher’s name doesn’t typically factor into a consumer’s decision to buy or read a book. However, there are people who care who your publisher is and they are people it pays to know—distributors, wholesalers, booksellers, and reviewers. Self-publishing carries something of a stigma in the traditional book trade. Being published by an established house will eliminate that particular hurdle.

Chances of Getting Published
Getting signed with a royalty publisher is tough. Budgets and staff are being slashed nearly everywhere. If you talk to editors, many will say they’re looking for fresh new voices and that they like to take chances on books. They will also say they have to be realistic. Publishing is a risky, low-margin business for the royalty houses. They might take on publishing three or four unknowns out of the multiple thousands of manuscripts they see every year. If you pursue a royalty publisher, be prepared for rejection slips.

Working with an Agent
Most of the big publishing houses have closed their doors to unsolicited manuscripts due to the incredibly high volumes they receive—according to one estimate, between 3,000 and 5,000 manuscripts per week. That means if you want to be published by one of the bigger publishing houses, you’ll definitely need an agent. While some smaller publishing houses will accept manuscripts directly from the author, a good agent’s expertise can be invaluable when it comes to negotiating a contract. We’ll talk more about finding and working with an agent in an upcoming post, so check back soon.

Royalty Publishing: The Pros
o Requires little administrative attention
o Requires little to no financial capital
o Avoids stigma often attached to self-published books

Royalty Publishing: The Cons
o Earning potential is much lower than with self-publishing
o Can take a long time
o Publisher controls the details
o Manuscript may be rejected

Next up: A look at subsidy publishing and what all the confusion is about.

Publishing: What You May Not Know, But Need To

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

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.