Publishing, Self-Publishing, Independent Publishing, Love Publishing, Traditional Publishing, Vanity Publishing…
Stop your head exploding – just read this.
Publishing is actually a very simple concept, however, you may find yourself a tad confused reading about all the different types of publishers. Like a lot of things in life if you look a bit closer you’ll find it all has to do with Money.
First let’s group the publishing labels into two groups.
First group: Someone else pays, i.e. not the author. In this group goes ‘Traditional Publishing’
Second up: You pay, i.e. the author. In this group goes every other one: Self-publishing, independent publishing, love publishing, and vanity publishing.
With “Traditional Publishing” someone else pays, this means the monetary risk is not on the author but on the publisher. The publisher owns the rights to the book! This has a number of benefits (if the system is working well): the author writes… which is their skill. The publisher: edits, proofs, designs, prints, distributes, promotes, and sells… which is their skill, the publisher has a team of people with various skills and experience, who will all work together harmoniously promoting the book… ideally.
In economics, I learnt a little rule that says ‘Risk=Reward’ which is true. In this scenario, authors have little financial risk and will receive a small royalty for each book sold often 5-10% of the cover price. Perhaps $3 from a $30 book.
Problems with this model:
It relies on publishers to ‘gate-keep’ and decides which books are published and not published, this is a difficult task. There are many examples of books that were rejected by many publishers such as Harry Potter and Animal Farm. The business model publishers have causes them to be inclined to take on projects that are ‘guaranteed winners’ and stay away from projects that are more risky or unusual. This is perhaps not very good for the diversity of published books or our culture! So problem 1, is publishers can’t always tell which books should be published.
Problem two is they might not have the same passion for a book as an author. This means the author may have to do promotions themselves. But they won’t really be rewarded for this beyond their standard royalty.
This leads you to why you may prefer to pay for your own publishing… i.e. self-publishing, where you as an author do all the work, pay all the bills, own all the rights, and keep all the profit. Some people choose to self-publish others are forced to because no one will take a risk on their book and publish it.
Why do authors choose to self publish:
- It is my book, I wrote it, I will have to promote it… I may as well keep all the profit. (independent publishing)
- This book is an expression of myself/my thoughts that I don’t want to significantly modify to meet market demand. (self-publishing)
- I want to do this for love, not money. (love publishing)
- My book is awesome, I am awesome, the publisher didn’t accept it because he is an idiot… what do 15 years of industry experience mean anyway? The editor wants me to change things but I disagree because I am awesome, the designer had one idea for the cover but I had a more awesome idea… wow… living with myself is a great privilege. Wow, I am going to make so much money, that will show everyone (vanity publishing).
I have tried to match a common term with the motivation, but it doesn’t really matter what you call it. What does matter is that you understand your own motivations, remain true to them, and check your expectations are based on reality and not fantasy. Note: check your expectations are not based on fantasy.
There are several things you should look for in choosing the companies and individuals you work with to bring your book to life. Most importantly is that their goals and expectations match yours. If you’re publishing for love you don’t want someone pushing commercial expectations.
There are a variety of publishers in the big bad world that are referred to as ‘vanity publishers’ some companies to watch out for are companies that promise you a traditional publishing experience and big sales… but are not prepared to take the risk, instead, they charge you through the eye. If I were you I would not be signing up for expensive promotional programs, or anywhere where someone promises you riches and fame.
Secondly if you’re publishing independently you will need to take a bunch of risk and responsibility yourself…. if someone is offering you a deal that seems too good to be true, they are probably deluded or deluding you.
Seven steps of publishing
Who is in your audience, who are the people that the organisation or you are connected to? What problems do they have, what solutions would they like, how would they like to solve the problem? i.e. problem could be: I hate my life – the solution is read this novel you’ll forget about your life. Or I really want to know how to not get ripped off by mechanics – solution 101 ways mechanics rip customers off and how to avoid them.
Create a solution. Do the research, write the book, draw the diagrams, take the photos. (there are heaps of books on writing and courses on writing – it is not my area of specialty so I will keep my mouth shut).
Copy editing, here everything is allowed. Delete this character, move this chapter here, change the order of this, alter the plot… Copy Editors is one stage that could add the most value to your book – let them, don’t not listen out of arrogance.
Cover design. and Text Design. More important than most people realise… When anyone buys a book they are basing that decision on three things: the book’s reputation, what it looks like, and the 200 words or so that they actually read.
Proofing after typesetting for typos, grammar mistakes that slipped through.
Make sure your book is printed to book shop quality.
Marketing and Sales. Books don’t sell themselves… you will have to engage your audience, promote to them, and have a distribution channel: independent book shops, a webshop, or other channels such as mail order, petrol stations, amazon, etc.
The seven steps of publishing need to be done for every book. I can’t stress this enough, these seven steps must be completed. They actually always are completed for every single book just sometimes terribly completed by people that didn’t even realise what they were doing.
If you are published by a traditional publisher they will take care of the majority of them, as an independent publisher you need to ensure each one is completed to a professional standard. Have a look through the list and work out:
- which items you can do.
- which item a contact you know can do.
- which items you need to pay a professional to do.
There is nothing wrong with doing it yourself or phoning a friend – just make sure you don’t compromise the quality of your book. Every step can derail your project. If you have a message or a story worth telling tell it right!
Thanks, and as always please get in touch if this sparks any questions.