For a writer that wants to see their book published, they can follow either the self publishing route or the traditional mainstream publishing approach. With self-publishing, there are a number of variations on the theme as described in this article, ranging from doing everything yourself, to handing your work over completely to an outsourcing company or various middling approaches with some use of external self publishing services.
(1) Mainstream publishing is the traditional approach to getting a book published. This route to publishing is hundreds of years old and consists of a writer, or their agent, sending a manuscript to an established big-name book publisher in the hope that the readers and evaluators at the company will like their book and offer them a publishing contract. For most writers on this journey, a rejection letter would be the likely outcome, if you were lucky you might get an evaluator’s comments on your rejected manuscript as feedback. For the fortunate few who are accepted, a contract is offered along with a royalty typically in the range of 10% to 15% (sometimes based on the cover price, often based on the discounted price to a bookseller). An advance is often offered on anticipated earned royalties in the future which can vary from a few hundreds or thousands of dollars to millions of dollars for mega-authors or exceptional first-time authors with a best-seller to offer. The great advantage to the writer of mainstream publishing is that they can leave the production, design and marketing of their book to the professionals in the publishing house. Happy days.
In recent years, self-publishing has rocked the foundations of the big publishing houses. As the term ‘self publish’ indicates, the writer takes ownership of getting their work published and can choose a number of paths on the road to the eventual printing and distribution of their book.
(2) The least demanding route to self-publishing for the author, but the most expensive, is the total outsourcing approach. A writer contacts one of the many independent self publishing companies, almost exclusively web-based, and agrees a contract with them whereby, for a hefty sum ranging from many hundreds to thousands of dollars, the writer hands over their work (usually by emailing it) and lets the outsourcing company get on with the publishing. Cover design and page design for the book are left entirely in the hands of the professionals with often limited input from the author. Marketing and sales of the published book is left to the company along with arranging any publicity, distribution channels and allocating and registering the ISBN. Some outsourcing companies now also offer book promotion through Twitter, Facebook and other online social networks. Royalties to the author are usually more generous than with mainstream publishing and can rise to around 80% of the net profit. Notice that some of these contracts require an author to purchase hundreds of copies at their own expense.
(3) The most demanding route to self publishing is where the author takes all responsibility for the page and cover design, obtaining the ISBN, marketing, sales and publicity along with printing copies of the book. Clearly, this is also the least expensive approach offering the greatest royalty, which can be 100% of the net profit if the author arranges printing and then sells the copies through various channels such as eBay, website promotion and local sales.
(4) A hybrid way of self-publishing books is where the writer uses one of the free-to-publish websites such as lulu.com or blurb.com. The writer, on this path, designs the cover and book interior themselves but purchases the ISBN or marketing services from the website company. Or the writer may purchase the whole package: including book and cover design, ISBN, marketing and channel distribution. The author is still mainly responsible for local sales and using such promotional tools as Twitter or Facebook to promote their book sales. Royalties are often at the high end of around 80% net profits and paid to the author by the free-to-publish website company but still allowing the author to purchase copies of their book at print cost for selling locally or nationally by the writer at the cover price.
(5) A variation on the hybrid approach to self-publishing, and one in which the writer of this article has most experience, is where an author engages a self publish service-provider to design the cover and book interior, allocate the ISBN and then use the free-to-publish websites to self-publish their book on their behalf. In this case, the writer pays the self publish service-provider for services rendered – which will be much less than in option (2), typically around $300 to $400. Note that authors are encouraged to provide input to the cover design and the book design. Complementary copies for the author may be part of the arrangement between the two parties. Once the book is published, the service-provider then hands-over the web-based storefront, leaving the author free to manage book orders for selling locally or nationally. At that point, the author is in full charge of receiving royalties from the free-to-publish website and of the marketing and promotion of their book – although the service provider might also offer marketing and promotional campaigns (on social networking sites) to help the author with sales. Royalties are at the high end of around 80% net profits and paid to the author by the free-to-publish website company. Notice that the service-provider does not share in any royalties or book sale monies. A storefront, hosted by the free-to-publish website company, is an important tool in this approach and is under the full control and ownership of the author, the service-provider then has no input (unless requested by the writer) into the management and operation of the self publishing operation.
Each of these approaches to getting your book published has its own attractions and drawbacks for would-be authors wanting to see their book published. Clearly, writers must weigh-up their options and then take those first steps along what will surely be an exciting, and hopefully profitable, publishing journey: welcome to this brave new world.