The Case for Self-Publishing by David Thiel
The “Getting Published” Dream
I have been writing since I was a kid. The “getting published” dream has never wavered. It looks like this:
…I finish my manuscript and fire it off to agents. (Hard work, but I stay with it and eventually I submit it to the right person—then everything changes.) My agent sends it to a publisher and the publisher starts sending me huge checks. There are book signings with hundreds of fans who have waited hours for me to arrive…and I spend my days writing and meeting my adoring public. (Me and Stephen King, right?)
Having finished my Stokers novel, I began to question my dream. Did my expectations have anything to do with reality? I decided to examine the publishing world. Here is the path I followed along with some of the resulting “realities” I learned about along the way:
1) I prepare a blizzard of query letters, in accordance with Writers Digest guidelines. I persist until I find an agent who believes in me, a first-time novelist.
2) The agent submits my book to publishers. All my research says it’s not just about the book. It’s also got to get to the right publisher at the right time. And it’s got to be a publisher who is open to taking a chance on a writer without a track record. But while we’re fantasizing let’s say my agent finds the publisher at the right time. I have a contract offer. I do a happy dance. What’s next?
3) I go through the contract process. I find out that writers with no publishing history don’t have any negotiating muscle. I learn the publisher can change the title of my book. He can change my words in that novel without my permission or participation. He can demand rewrites…and I find out I won’t own the rights to my baby anymore.
(At this point, the dream of being published would still be so strong that I’d very likely put up with most of this…just so I could hold my book in my hand and say, “See what I wrote? See? I’m a writer!”)
4) I wait an estimated 18 months to 2 years before my book hits a single bookstore shelf. Does the publisher have to publicize it? Nope. In fact, chances are he won’t. Why should he? Think about it—is a publisher more likely to spend money promoting the latest John Grisham novel, or my first unknown attempt?
If you do your own research, you’ll learn it’s likely that the publishers actually expect authors to promote their books—on their own—and at their own expense. Hmm , I think. I can do that. After all…we’re all on the same team, right?
5) Let’s talk about that team for a second. Industry standards allow for author royalties between 3% to a maximum of 7.5% of the cover price for a paperback. This means that on a book selling for $9.95, I will be paid somewhere between 30 and 74 cents per book. Where did the rest of the money go? To everyone else: the publisher, the distributors, the bookstore, the agent. They will all take their portion of the remaining $9.20 cover price.
Is that fair? I mean…it is my book, right? Is that teamwork?
6) How about eBooks? There are no printing costs…so my royalty should be higher, right?
Simon and Schuster recently examined this exploding market and decided that a 25% author royalty was too much. They reduced author royalties to 15%. (http://ereads.com/2009/03/s-follows-random-in-reduction-of-e-book.html) That means that my earnings go up to $1.49 and the publishing world takes the rest.
7) And there is more… Should my book go out of print, and I want more copies, I cannot get more if the publisher refuses to print more. Case closed.
I decided to think hard about whether or not I wanted to continue chasing the dream of being published…
…by someone else.
Decide Why You’re Writing…
If, like me, you want to make your living (or a portion of your living) from writing, break down the numbers and see if they make sense…and cents…to you. After two years, your book is finally on the shelves beside hundreds of other books. It sits there quietly. How many books can you reasonably expect to sell? How much money will you actually make?
Commercial publishers expect you to promote your book. Fair enough. A book is a product and it needs to be sold to the public. So, an author will go out on his or her own dime to promote their book…and earn between 30 and 75 cents on each sale.
I agree there are other costs involved. I agree other people need to be paid for their work. But let’s get serious here. It’s my book, my idea, my writing, and my time and money have gone into promoting it…and for all that, I make a maximum of 75 CENTS per sale?
In short, I lose 92.5% of the cover price on every book I promote and sell?
The harsh reality is that the publishing world doesn’t care about your book. And why should it? Publishing is a business. They care that a book sells and makes money. There’s no shortage of talented hungry writers out there…so it’s more cost efficient for them to toss out a book, see if you can make it “fly” – and then put some of the money you’ve made for them back into promoting your book. Does that make sense?
Decide Who You Are Working For
It’s taken me nearly a year to write my book. Thousands of hours have been poured into it. I want people to read it…and, yes, I’m expecting to make some money from it.
So let’s say that I publish it on my own: self-publish. (I hear you. Self-publishing is an industry built on vain no-talent retried school teachers who want to tell the world about their family tree, right?)
Stay with me for a minute longer. I’m almost done.
The Publishing Industry is Changing
The way people purchase and read books is changing. That means the entire industry is reinventing itself. And that means wonderful opportunities for you, the author.
Modern readers download entire novels onto Palm Pilots and iPhones and Kindles and Kobos. They listen to audiobooks in their cars, while they drive to work or take walks. They’re not buying exclusively at bookstores anymore. They’re making purchases online at places like Amazon, which grossed over six billion dollars in the fourth quarter of 2009 alone.
Writers were once at the mercy of publishers. Not any more.
YOU can sell your self-published novel on Amazon. Your novel can be formatted for use on electronic devices…and yours can be the next audio book the customer sees. The market is now wide open to enterprising new writers.
Your book can be stocked and ready to go through a POD publisher…one of the greatest resources available to the self-publishing entrepreneur.
“What’s a POD publisher?”
First royalty cheque
POD stands for “Publishing on Demand.” This means a printer prints your book with full color covers only when one is sold. It means you do not have to stock 2-thousand very expensive copies of your book in your basement or garage. As you sell a POD book, you pay for it. Sell one…buy one…get it? You will never be out 20 or 30-thousand dollars for an initial print run
With a POD printer, you set your book up one time and then order additional copies forever.
Caution: Publishing on Demand can be a racket. You could wind up signing all your rights away, paying huge “set-up” fees, paying outrageous costs per copy and then going out to flog your book anyway. And you’ll be working to recoup the money you’ve poured into set-up costs, printing and administrative fees.
How can Creeping Ivy Publishing House help you?
Do you have a great novel? A great self-help book? A collection of photographs that could be turned into a great book?
If so, we need to talk.
Creeping Ivy Publishing House deals with Lightning Source. They’re the biggest POD publisher in the world. They don’t work with individuals, they work ONLY with publishers. Like us.
And that is good news for YOU!
Here’s a different sales model. Let’s say that each copy of your book costs about $9 to print. (We’re talking a larger size paperback here…say 6” x 9”.) Let’s say that you wind up paying 20% of that to Amazon or the book store hosting your signing. Let’s say you market the book for $19.95.
Publishing Cost: $9.00
Amazon/Bookstore commission (20%): $3.99
Publisher Percentage (7%): $1.40
Total Cost per book: $14.39
Your profit: $5.56
While $5.56 may not sound like much, it’s a whole lot more than 75 cents…and it’s a real figure.
Yes, you must go out and sell your book, but that’s what you would have wound up doing anyway.
You’re selling for yourself.
And you are making a ton more money.
Could a major publishing house and contract still be in your future?
Self-publishing doesn’t necessarily preclude being picked up by a major publisher after your work has been published. The Shack by William P. Young was a self-published work. Here is more on authors who self-published.
Are you the kind of writer who wants to take control of their book? Who wants to profit from your own work?
Consider Your Options
You’ve lavished a lot of time on your book. It’s got your blood and sweat, your creativity and your talent in it. You’ve sacrificed to take it this far. We’re writers and artists, too. We understand.
There are a dizzying number of options available for taking your book to market. You could self-publish, you can go for a vanity press, you can do POD on your own. The choice is yours. However, are you really up for all the research and hard work? Wouldn’t it be nice to go somewhere for help?
Creeping Ivy Publishing House is a “one stop” option for the entrepreneurial author.
1) We offer editing support. Every writer needs a pair of supportive objective eyes that will take a final look at your manuscript to help you make it the very best it can be.
2) We offer front cover photography and graphic art. People respond to great visuals. A great cover will encourage people to take a chance on your book; it gives a customer a reason to pick your book up and look through it. Give your book a fighting chance. We have very talented graphic artists who will design your cover. Sample designs HERE!
3) We offer readers who will give you honest feedback. Where does your manuscript work? Where doesn’t it make sense? Does it hold a reader’s attention? Our readers are great people with wonderful hearts and a passion for reading.
4) We offer complete book formatting. We will format your novel so it can be used in a variety of “eBook” formats, which you can then sell on your own. Remember, if you design your own website and sell the book through it, you retain 93% of the resulting sales revenues, less formatting costs. (Seven percent goes to Creeping Ivy as your publisher.)
Now doesn’t this sound better than 75 cents?
5) Turn your manuscript into an audio book. Audio books now account for 10-15% of the publishing market. We have professional narrators ready to record your book into audio format. Again, you retain 93% of all audio sales, privately marketed, less production costs. Americans spent 29 billion dollars on audio books in 2006 alone. http://web.utk.edu/~wrobinso/561_lec_audio.html
6) We offer website design assistance, too. Today’s authors must have their own websites. We will show you how to set up your own site.
At Creeping Ivy Publishing House, we’re all creative people: writers, artists and designers…committed to bring new exciting voices to market. We understand how important your book is to you.
We specialize in Thrillers, Mysteries, Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror, and Apocalyptic fiction. We’re interested in innovative photography books. We will also look at well done “How To” or “Self help” books. That’s it. Do not send us anything outside of these genres.
Does this sound like a match to you?
Send us a query letter and we’ll get back to you via email about your submissions. In two pages or less tell us about your project; tell us about your dreams.
If we think your idea is a good fit for us, we will contact you with a request for more: a synopsis, an outline, or the entire manuscript.
Our consultants will make suggestions ranging from cover art to the full packaging of your manuscript for digital, print and/or audio markets.
Remember, it is in our best interest to work with you to help you build the finest product possible since we want you to be a success. That way, we both win.
Do we charge for our services? Yes, and you will find our fee schedule HERE.
Use as few or as many, or ALL of our services. You will be glad you did.
Self-publishing is hard work. Lonely work. Wouldn't it be nice to work with a team of people like yourself, who understand, and who will care about your work, too?