The Many Roads to Publication
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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

The Many Roads to Publication

Now let's take a look at all the publishing options and see how they compare.
 
1. Traditional Big-6 Publisher (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, Random House, Simon&Schuster):
  • Yes, they will lend great prestige to your book, and they will do the heavy lifting of editing, design, promotion, and distribution.
  • But, you will lose most of your control over the book, and their royalties tend to be very low in order to support all their services.  In addition, you first need to have an agent, and you can expect them to be extremely selective in what books they publish.  They will always support an already-contracted author before someone whose work is untested.

2. Small Publisher:
  • Yes, there are thousands of them in competition, and most will be willing to read your manuscript without an agent.  They also tend to be quite supportive of their authors.
  • But, they have only limited funds, and sometimes limited knowledge of the publishing business. Quality can be "iffy." You will have to do most of your own promotion and selling.

Vanity Press:
  • Yes, they may offer help with editing and layout, and they probably will not turn you down, no matter how bad the book really is.
  • But their pricing is often out of line, and they will require you to buy the whole print run and then distribute and sell the books on your own.  How big is your garage?  Can you sell 5000 copies to your friends? You do NOT want to do this!

4. Print-on-Demand (POD):
  • Yes, they, too, will not reject you, and their books are usually of fairly high quality.  Plus, you do not have to buy any books before they are sold.
  • But they, too, carry a high price tag, and book stores will not take a chance on their books because unsold copies cannot be returned.  Authors who go with some POD companies fail to sell a single copy.

5. Do-It-Yourself:
  • Yes, this method gives you total control over your book because you are solely responsible for EVERYTHING! You also get to keep all of the profits..
  • But, how much do you know about editing, cover design, page layout, bookbinding, marketing, and distribution channels? Poor-quality books do not sell, no matter how good the content may be.

Independent Book Producers (CreateSpace or LightningSource):
  • Yes, these two companies are reliable, fast, accurate, and helpful.  They succeed because CreateSpace works with Amazon, while LightningSource is a subsidiary of Ingram, the largest book distribution company. If you can do the preparatory work yourself, they will print, bind, and distribute your book at no cost to you. They also offer complete publishing services, from editing to advertising if you need help, although these services come at high cost.
  • But while their royalty rates are quite high, up to 75-80% if they sell your book out of their own online store or as an ebook, their sales at regular brick-and-mortar bookstores are dismal because books are not returnable (the old POD curse). And if a store does manage to sell one of your books, you'll need a magnifying glass to find the royalty.  CreateSpace just sold a copy of my $17.95 "The Road to Frogmore" through a bookstore order, and my share came to $0.18 -- yep, that's 1%!

7. Ebook Publishing:
  • Yes, there are a lot of advantages to this style.  Ebooks sell well these days, and although their prices are low, they make up for that in volume.  By selling only ebooks, you completely avoid the costs and headaches of production and distribution.  It's also easy. Amazon will walk you through the Kindle conversion and Smashwords.com provides complete instructions on how to format  your computer file to suit all the other ebook channels (Apple, B&N Nook, Sony, Kob, etc.) Even if you need formatting help, you can hire it for well under $100 a book.
  • But, there are people out there, still, who want to hold a book in their hands.  You may be one of them; authors often need the satisfaction of holding their books in their own hands. And bookstores are not dead yet.  Can you hold a book-signing or a launch party for something that only exists in the ether? Putting your book out only as an ebook keeps many people, including reviewers, from fully appreciating it.

There you have the choices. My choice was  a combination of #6 and #7.  I have used CreateSpace to produce my last four books and have been entirely satisfied with the results. They have also handled my ebooks on Kindle.  For the other sales channels, I turned to Smashwords, and as a result, Barnes and Noble now sells almost as many of my ebooks as Amazon does. Of course, as an indie writer, i still had a lot of work that only I could do.  So next week we'll talk about how and why independent  authors need to think of themselves as a business.

ADDENDUM: Today I ran across a publishing column by Penny C. Sansevieri in which she took up the fight to make independent publishing a norm rather than an afterthought.  She ended with this challenge:

Welcome to the revolution. If you're just showing up to the battle we welcome you, if you've been here for a while we're grateful that you're still here and for those of you still uncertain, still thinking that you'll wait it out and see if you can get a big name interested I wish you all the best. Just remember, while patience is a virtue there's nothing in the world like seeing your work in print, your words on a page bound and ready to find readers. And ask yourself: are you waiting because you really want a big name behind your book? Or are you waiting because you're not sure your book is good enough? There's only one way to find out.