If you read my post this past Sunday, you know I said some very negative things about becoming a writer. Not that I wanted to discourage anyone who has real potential, but to challenge would-be authors to realize the fact that writing a book is a lot of work. And completing a rough draft is just the first of many milestones on the road to publication–or oblivion.
Today, I want to talk about some of what’s involved in having a book published the traditional way–as compared with self-publishing. With two novels published and a third coming out on November 25, I’ve had experience with both large and small publishers.
Although there’s a huge difference between the two, the goals of each are the same: to turn out good books and make money doing it. It would be foolish to criticize publishers for trying to make a profit; what good can they do anyone if they go bankrupt? I understand that only 20% of the books published today are sufficiently successful to pay for pay for themselves–and to pay for the 80% that are not.
No publisher–large or small–has found the secret to publishing only winners, but the larger companies don’t seem to be as willing to take a chance on newcomers as the smaller ones. So smaller presses are often the way for a new writer to go until he’s well established…and sometimes far beyond that if his experience with that company has been good.
Probably the biggest difference between the large publishers and the small ones is financial. Releasing a book costs many thousands of dollars. The larger publishers have deeper pockets, and they’re willing to spend what’s needed if they believe in a book, no matter how unpredictable the outcome may be.
Smaller publishers can’t afford to take as much of a chance. They must get as much mileage as they can from a much smaller money pool. No matter how much they believe in each book and hope and pray it will be a winner, they must keep their costs to a minimum.
Many small publishers now use POD (Print on Demand) to save the cost of printing and warehousing multiple copies of a book that may never sell. POD allows the smaller publishers to print one book at a time–as needed. The cost per book is higher, but if they can keep the word count of the books in their catalog at a reasonable level (for example, a maximum of 80,000 words), the cost isn’t more than most readers are willing to pay.
The larger publishers provide perks the smaller ones can’t afford. The most obvious are advances (an advance is like a salesman’s draw on commission) and free promotional copies of the book.
But the smaller publishers can offer authors appreciably higher royalties and allow the author to purchase copies of his book at a considerable discount. Moreover, their authors have the advantage of knowing their books will never go out of print. Not with each book existing only electronically somewhere rather than taking up valuable warehouse room.
My experiences with a larger and a smaller publisher have been good. Despite their differences, both turn out quality books, and that’s the bottom line. For me, anyhow.
Any questions? Comments? I’d love to hear from you.
I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.
“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”–check it out HERE. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.
Be on the lookout for my next novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, which releases on November 25. Check it out here on Amazon and pre-order a copy if you like.