Dan Poynter, DanPoynter@ParaPublishing.com
The Book Writing-Publishing Revolution Why Authors No Longer Need Publishers
More and more authors are being gored by their publishers and some authors are doing something about it.
There was a time when the big (New York) publishers held the keys to book publishing. Only big publishers had the funds required and could provide access to bookstores. Times have changed. Today, book wholesalers and distributors move the books into bookstores for all publishers, large and small. And, most books are sold outside of bookstores anyway.
It used to be that publishing was an expensive and time-consuming undertaking; few authors could afford to invest in their own work. Today, offset printing techniques and 43 specialized book printers across the US provide top quality production at very low prices. Depending upon page count, trim size, quality of paper, print run, etc., your book will probably cost less than $2 per unit to print.
Typesetting used to cost several thousand dollars and take months to accomplish. Today's author writes on a computer and sets the type with a laser printer.
Whether you sell out to a publisher or publish yourself, the author must always do the promotion. Publishers do not promote books.
Publishers put up the money, have the book printed and use sales reps to get it into bookstores but they do not promote the book. The author must do the promotion. The problem is that most first-time authors think the publisher will push the product. Once they figure out that nothing is being done, it is too late, the book is no longer new (it has a quickly-ticking copyright date in it) and is being remaindered.
"If you publish yourself, you will make more money, get to press sooner and keep control of your work," says Dan Poynter, author of The Self-Publishing Manual, How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book. He explains:
Money. Typically, the author gets a royalty from the large publisher of 6% to 10% of the net receipts (what the publisher receives) , usually on a sliding scale, and the economics here are not encouraging. For example, a print run of 5,000 copies of a book selling for $20 could gross $100,000 at retail, but an 8% royalty on the net (most books are sold at wholesale) may come to $3,200. That isn't enough money to pay for all your hours spent at the computer. The chances of selling more than 5,000 copies is highly remote because, after a few months (there are three, four-month selling seasons a year), the publisher takes the book out of print. In fact, the publisher will sell less than the amount printed because some books will be used for promotion while others will be returned by the bookstores, unsold.
Only two people make money on a book: the printer and the investor.
If you invest the money in your manuscript, you can make up to four times what you would get from a publisher in a royalty-nearly 35% of the list price. Authors should invest and profit from their work.
Time. It is a sad fact of (book publishing) life that most publishers take 18 months to turn your manuscript into a book. This means that even though most of the books in the bookstore have a current copyright date, the information is over two years old. For many quickly-evolving nonfiction subjects, this delay is unacceptable.
Control. Once you turn your manuscript over to a publisher, you lose control. They sometimes decide to save money by leaving out some illustrations and they often change the title and lose the theme of the book. If you want to maintain control, you will publish yourself.
Should you self-publish? Would-be author/publishers should be cautioned that self-publishing is not for everyone. Writing is an art, while publishing is a business, and some people are unable to do both well. If you are a lovely, creative flower who is repelled by the crass commercialism of selling one's own product, you should stick to the creative side and let someone else handle the business end. On the other hand, some people are terribly independent. They will not be happy with the performance of any publisher, no matter how much time and effort are spent creating and promoting the book. These people should save the publisher from all this grief by making their own decisions. You must understand all the alternatives so that you may make an intelligent, educated choice. "Over 95% of all authors should take control of their work and publish themselves," says Poynter. DanPoynter@ParaPublishing.com
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