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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.

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.

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 Does It Take To Get Published By a Large Publisher?

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Kristina Holmes, literary agent

Today’s publishing industry operates in an incredibly dynamic environment. The “Big Six” publishers (Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Penguin, Hachette, and Macmillan) are finding themselves on rapidly changing ground, most notably with the appearance of the game-changing e-book. While many in and outside of the industry continue to speculate about “the death of the publishing industry” – here’s a recent piece in the New York Times — chances are that, at least for now, large conglomerates aren’t going to keel over and die.

So, while we enjoy what is perhaps the “old age” of traditional book publishing, what does it take today to work with a major publisher and are they a viable option for you?

As a non-fiction literary agent, I receive several hundred queries from writers every month. Maybe one or two are publishable by a major NY publisher. And yet most of these writers are hoping for that very thing. Clearly, there’s a disconnect.

What aspiring authors often don’t know is that large publishers are working on a rather, well, large scale. They expect book sales to be in the tens and even hundreds of thousands of copies. Furthermore, today’s publishers are typically providing less marketing and publicity support for their books. That means the responsibility falls on the author to sell their book, and to sell it in droves.

For many writers, perhaps particularly those that are right-brained creatives (for example, memoirists), figuring out how to promote their book can be a rather distasteful aspect of publishing. For some, it’s as if their brain doesn’t quite grasp the world of business or marketing, while others simply don’t want to “play the game.” It’s important to note that pursuing a large publisher isn’t for everyone. (And that’s okay! There are many options available in publishing today.)

Having said this, aspiring business authors are often uniquely positioned to work within the model of commercial publishing. They already operate in the world of business, so it’s not such a far stretch to understand how to develop the business of being an author.

If you’re thinking about pursuing a large publisher, consider the following questions:

  • Do I have a developed platform? If not, am I willing to develop one before seeking an agent or publisher? Ninety-three percent of published books don’t sell more than 1,000 copies. Major publishers know this and are extremely skeptical about the size of authors’ platforms and the likely conversion into book sales. An editor at HarperCollins told a colleague of mine that they can’t consider an author whose audience is less than 10,000 people. This actually struck me as quite low for a major publisher.
  • Do I have a truly unique idea? Hint: Get some feedback about your book concept. Your polling audience should include several people that are well-read and understand the dynamics of commercial publishing, such as published authors, publicists, and editors. Seek the advice of people who operate in the world you want to be in.
  • Do I have the passion and determination to work on this book for at least two to three years? It takes an average of one year for your book to hit the bookstores from the time you sign a contract with a publisher, sometimes longer. Authors wear many hats pre- and post-publication, from writing and editing, to promoting their book in a variety of ways. Once the book is published, you’ll want to stay with your efforts to promote the book.
  • Do I have financial resources to help me write and promote the book? Some authors can do a lot with a little money, so don’t let a lack of money alone stop you. However, things like creating your own website, traveling for media opportunities, or hiring a publicist or social media consultant, do cost money. Don’t depend 100% on your advance to pay for these expenses. Have your own funds to contribute as well.

If you answered yes to some or all of these questions, you may be in a great position to be published.

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Kristina Holmes is an agent at Ebeling & Associates Literary Agency, where she represents a range of non-fiction.

For more insight into what it takes to work with an agent and land a publishing deal, join Highspot for a free teleclass with Kristina on October 28. Full details and registration here.