By Kenneth Shumaker
Issue 007 (Part One)
June 9, 2017
What are the pros and cons of various publishing formats?
- Author is responsible for all aspects of work
- Author is responsible for all your own costs
- Author controls all rights to the work
- Author can earn 4% to 100% royalties on net sales depending on sales distribution and vendor channels route taken
- No agent needed
- Supported publishing
- Guided work with the publisher
- Publisher looks after printing and distribution
- Author is responsible for all fees
- Shared control of aspects of publishing (varies with publisher)
- The author may need to lease rights to the publisher for agreed terms
- Author earns from 4% to 65% of either net or gross sales, depending on arrangement
- Typically, do not need an agent
- Traditional publishing
- Most publishers assign all tasks in-house, except most marketing and promotions
- Most publishers cover most costs except marketing and promotions
- Some publishers offer a cost sharing but then offer higher royalties or other benefits
- The author may have to relinquish some or all of their rights
- Publishers tend to purchase rights or lease various rights of the work
- The author can earn 6% to 65% royalties on gross sales
- Some publishers offer advances or other benefits
- Usually, need an agent to acquire entry to most publishers
Today there are almost equal advantages and detriments to self-publishing and traditional publishing, while the supported publishing gets a stiff bad rap from both sides. This is not to say that all the different publishing formats condemn each other. Some people utilise and support all three formats. These are termed the hybrid published authors, or publishers. And they take a lot of flak for fence sitting.
Myself, I’m hybrid, as I’ve dealt with all three publishing formats. I’ve been traditionally published twice, I self-publish my work, and I’ve been supported published. As well, I own a supporting desktop publishing business. With this mixed bag of experience, I may be one of the few who can speak (from experience) from on top of the fence.
Traditional publishing, gets top marks from some of those who break its barriers and squeak into the houses, getting published. Through perseverance and hard work, mixed with a ton of luck, some manage to make some money and/or fame. Basically, besides the writing and submitting manuscripts to the publisher, all the author has to do is the marketing, putting in the effort that is agreed upon with the publisher. Some publishers may still pay a small monetary advance to strong, promising authors. But the advances have reduced significantly to just a mere few thousand dollars. And the author has to realise that they receive no royalty payments until that advance is paid off. Also, with traditional publishers, royalties are paid on gross of sales after expenses are deducted. So, if you sign for a 12% royalty, you do not receive $1.20 of each $10 of sale, you receive 12% after expenses are deducted. A book selling for $10 could gross you $0.86 or less on a 12% royalty. You are also expected to do almost all of the promotions and marketing after the launch and the release. You are responsible for building your own branding, etc. Also, most publishers now expect you to have your author brand and a social presence established before they’ll sign you on.
Royalty payments tend to range from 4% to 12%, but may be as high as 24%, depending on predicted sales of your product and your marketability. This is because the publisher has to recover the thousands of dollars they spent getting your product ready for distribution and market. Once your advance is paid, you may receive your royalties quarterly, if enough accumulate.
Supported publishing generally entails a publishing house who guides you, distributes, and prints your book. They organise all the editing, book cover design, formatting, and so forth for fees. Benefits? You, as the author, don’t have to hire the people to do the work or know what needs doing. You don’t distribute to vendors or organise the printing of your product, and you don’t have to collect the sales from vendors, etc. But you pay fees, or a fee. With most reputable supported publishers, you keep the rights to the work, or they may lease just the rights you want them to have for the length of term you’re willing to lease to them. Some help you with marketing and promotions, for a fee.
Supported publishers pay you a royalty, usually much higher than a traditional publisher, as they’ve already recovered most of their costs from you. However, they still have expenses in regards to distribution and to vendors for the term of your lease or contract. So, they keep part of the sales to recover their costs. Some pay royalties on net sales, some on gross sales. The typical range for royalties varies significantly, based on your brand, marketability, and your product. The royalties, usually based on gross of sales, range from 10% to 45%, and as much as 65% in extreme cases. The author may be paid quarterly, once enough royalties have accumulated, depending on the arrangement you make with the publisher.
Self-publishing gives the author the ultimate control of the publishing, as well as total responsibility. No one else is responsible for any aspect of your publishing. The self-publisher is in charge of deciding what aspects of the publishing they will hire out. You receive no help unless you ask for it, and even then there are no certainties in receiving help. If you succeed, you reap all the rewards, except for what you parcelled out in getting the product published.
Royalties? You reap what you sell minus expenses. It varies from distribution type and vendor, being as high as 100% of net sales to as low as 4% of gross sales. It’s up to you how you distribute and to which vendors. But realise that some types of vendors and some markets are restricted and closed to self-publishers. Some markets are still reserved only to traditional publishers even today. You’re 100% responsible for marketing and promotions. You get paid depending on the schedules of the vendors and distributors and your arrangements with them.
Then comes the issues of accolades and awards. Most prestigious awards are reserved for traditionally published authors, but there are many opening up to self-published and supported published authors now, though these authors find it much harder to break into awards and accolades.
(Continued in part Two)