The writer-publisher – part 29

In publishing, you get what you pay for

The goal of becoming a writer is to get your ideas into other people’s heads and you hope that eventually you will make enough money that you can write for a living.

The goal of traditional publishers is to make money selling books and that means signing up authors with reputations for selling tons of books. Can you begin to see a disconnect between these goals? This is why new authors collect rejection slips for years and years with little possibility of getting published.

The POD publishers have a slightly different business model. They will take on unpublished authors, help them design a book, design a cover and provide various amounts of advice and support for the new author. The books these authors write rarely sell many copies, so POD companies make money by charging the author substantial fees for all of the support and advice they provide. Most of these companies provide the ISBN number for the author, which means that they, not the author, own the rights to the book.

There are also some relatively new companies that help new authors through the hurdles of getting a book completed and designed and published. These companies position themselves as author advocates and they often use POD companies to print the books. For the new author who wants someone else to take care of all the nitty-gritty details of producing a book and has the money to pay for it, this may be the optimum solution. These author advocates appear to do a lot of handholding for the inexperienced writer which is good, but they are probably the most expensive solution of all because the author has to pay for the handholding she or he gets. The upside is that the new author gets more support from this approach than from any other.

If you become a publisher, you have total control of your book and its distribution. You can get your book to market in 90 days or less at a cost that is entirely under your control. It is a course of action that places the greatest demands on your creativity and determination. I happen to feel that it is incredibly satisfying to self-publish, but it is not for everyone.

I took this direction and chose to do everything myself, which meant I became a book designer and a publisher and paid a printer to  print my book. It meant I was exposed to the risks of doing enough things wrong that I might not have a book that would sell. It made me scramble to learn the ins and outs of today’s publishing and forced me to learn enough about printing to create a book that could be printed and would look right. It was also the least expensive way I could go as a new author.

Selling your book once it is published

Whether you are published by a big New York publisher, by a POD company, or publish your own book, as a new author you will be creating most of the book sales yourself.

Once a book is accepted by a publisher, the author’s work really begins. In almost all cases, the author is responsible for generating book sales, and this means not only book signings but finding channels which will carry and sell books.

As a new author, if you are not a blogger, you are essentially invisible. You can hire a PR firm and run ads in all of the right places, but it takes an enormous amount of money and effort before a distributor will be carrying your new book into Barnes & Noble or any other book store. You will have a much better chance of getting your book into Amazon.com than into national chain bookstores. You can get your books into local independent bookstores, but you will be carrying them there yourself.

You will need hundreds, perhaps thousands of copies of your book to give away to reviewers. If you are dealing with a POD firm, you will have to purchase these giveaway books at 40% – 85% of the retail price. As a self publisher, I figured these books into my business plan. I have given away more than a hundred books and may eventually give away a thousand. This is in addition to the tens of thousands of free downloads of the book in ebook format.

None of this is rocket science and Dan Poynter lays this all out in his book, The Self-Publishing Manual, which I am going to finish some day. There is so much data in the book that it takes forever to read. I find myself reading a few pages and getting enough information to keep me busy for weeks. The time to read books like this is before your book is published. Once your book hits the streets, you will have you hands full promoting it.

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0 Responses to The writer-publisher – part 29

  1. Bronwyn says:

    Have you ever checked out Making Light? They post quite a bit about writing, publishing, and spotting publishing scams.

  2. David, you took on a monumental task and have offered such valuable insight to other aspiring authors, you could go into the book advice business! Seriously, you are very right on all counts.

    POD is not the answer to everyone’s prayers. It is a better way to get published. However, author advisors, as we call ourselves at WME Books, work as partners with authors, in developing the book, producing the book, and marketing the book.

    Without that last piece, as you say over and over, the book is invisible to the rest of the world. Not many writers care to be invisible. At WME Books, we care about the author and their work. The fees we charge include marketing — because we feel it’s an important part that often gets overlooked by the author (who is sure everyone will want to buy and read her wonderful new book) and by many POD firms, that just don’t want to do the work, without charging an arm and a leg.

    Here’s an interesting development: traditional publishers are slowly moving to a print on demand model, to save costs on book returns.

    Meanwhile, to all the authors who read this truly marvelous blog, pay close attention because David is giving the best advice, and offering the best account of how to write your book…in the 21st century.

  3. Thom Singer says:

    David-

    Great points. The marketing will make or break a self published book. I am about to find out….as my book is about to go to the printer.

    And yes, Dan Poynter’s Self Publishing Manual is wonderful. It is worth much more than he charges for the book.

    Still lovin’ your blog.

    thom

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