by Narelle Atkins
The current publishing environment provides many opportunities and different avenues for writers to pursue publication of their books. The digital revolution has changed the way publishers conduct their business. Authors can now publish independently (indie) and sell books directly to readers.
How can writers negotiate the myriad of options in the changing world of publishing? Which publishing option is best for their career?
The answer is it depends. The first step is to understand the definitions of the different publishing models.
An author is paid royalties by a publisher who contracts their book. The author may be paid an advance against future royalties. The author does not pay any money to the publisher for book production, distribution or any other expenses incurred by the publisher.
Traditional publishers are selective regarding the books they contract because they are bearing all the financial risk. They need to ensure the books they contract are marketable and have a readership otherwise they’ll go out of business. The bestselling authors make the majority of the profit for traditional publishers.
Subsidy and Vanity Publishing
An author pays money to a publisher who contracts their book. The book contract may require an author to make upfront payments or pay for a specific aspect of the book production process. Authors may be required to purchase a minimum number of copies.
I’m going to talk more about subsidy publishing later in this post.
No matter how fancy the website or how alluring the promises, the bottom line is vanity publishers make their money from authors rather than by selling books.
Vanity publishers are not usually selective regarding the books they contract. Their upfront author fees mean they don’t take on the financial risk because the author fees will often cover the book production costs and provide a profit margin.
Vanity publishers have no incentive to produce high quality books. Their books often have little or no editorial input from the publisher and limited, if any, effective distribution in the marketplace. Authors usually carry all the financial risk under a vanity publishing arrangement.
Self-Publishing and Independent (Indie) Publishing
An author publishes their own book and is in control of all aspects of the book production process. The author assumes the financial burden and risk of publishing their own book. The author is responsible for editing, cover art, marketing and distribution.
There is a difference between buying a ‘self-publishing package’ from a publisher and independently (indie) publishing a book. Next Monday I’ll talk more about the evolving world of indie publishing and the opportunities for writers who choose to self-publish their books.
Under a subsidy publishing arrangement, an author chooses to share the financial risk of producing their book with the subsidy publisher. The level of risk and financial burden borne by the author can vary widely. In a subsidy arrangement the author financially starts from behind. They need to sell a certain number of books to recoup their initial investment before they actually start turning a profit.
In a pure subsidy arrangement, the publisher operates as a non-profit organisation and provides low cost publishing services to authors. In this instance, it’s possible that a subsidy publisher could produce a print book at a lower per unit cost than an indie author would pay by contracting identical services.
How can writers make an educated decision on whether or not they want to pursue traditional publishing or subsidy publishing or self-publishing (indie)?
If profit is an important objective, writers need to ensure they can produce a quality book and recoup their investment if they pursue an indie or subsidy arrangement by having the ability to hand sell books. For example, have a speaking platform or a pre-existing niche market with guaranteed book sales.
NARELLE ATKINS writes contemporary inspirational romance and lives in Canberra, Australia. She sold her debut novel, set in Australia, to Harlequin's Love Inspired Heartsong Presents line in a 6-book contract. Her first book, Falling for the Farmer, will be a February 2014 release.
Narelle is a co-founder with Jenny Blake of the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance (ACRBA). http://acrba.blogspot.com
Twitter: @NarelleAtkins https://twitter.com/NarelleAtkins