Writers desire to be published above all else and to enjoy the benefits that a publishing house can offer; but as we know, this can take a long time to achieve and some of us aren’t very patient. I’m confident I will be published soon and am sure my writing, as well as my bank account, will benefit from working with professionals in the industry. In the meantime, however, I want to make my writing available to a growing base of readers and have, after much soul-searching, decided to experiment with self-publishing. I appreciate this route is unlikely to provide the financial rewards and global exposure I hope for, and it won’t put my novels on the shelves in your local bookshop, but the journey may prove rewarding in other ways and who knows I may even learn a little of how the publishing side of this business actually works. This journey begins here.
The publishing business
Let’s face it, publishing is a business and writing, in its various forms, the product. To understand where self-publishing fits in, I first set out to understand how the publishing business works today, or more specifically how the price you pay for my book actually breaks down. After some searching I came across the following graphic and this helped get my head around the process. It also provides an interesting comparison with the self-publishing approach; although I’m not sure if these breakdowns are correct, as it appears to suggest, on a £5.99 book, I’d earn around £2.80 and the print-on-demand-printer would earn (charge) around £3.19 per book, compared to the traditional printer who earns around £1.00 a book. Does that sound right to you?
Sourced from CompletelyNovel.com. Shows share of the retail cake based on a 200 page perfect-bound paperback selling at £5.99
As Writers we might feel a bit hard done by in seeing so little for our efforts (around 15% of the retail price), but then let’s face it – we are not experts in all areas and need the help and services of others to get our books onto the shelves.
In case you need reminding, below are the roles of these key players.
Agents are your representatives and act on your behalf to find the best publishers and negotiate the deal. They get paid when you sign and earn a commission from your work, so the more successful I am, the happier they’ll be. I need a great agent and am open to offers.
The publishers are the guys who take your precious ‘final draft’ and turn it into the book, e-book, audio CD, film, or TV programme that you buy. Their role includes:
- Editorial – altering structure, copy-editing and proof-reading
- Design – creating a front-cover, designing additional marketing material
- Production – text design, typesetting, printing
- Sales – to bookshops, supermarkets, internet retailers
- Marketing – promotions, advertising, reviews
- Publicity – reviews, features, author interviews, book signings, readings
- Rights- negotiation of film, television, translation rights
Let’s face it, we all want a respected publishing house to sign us, and pay us to write; but how many writers actually get what they want?
Distributors and Retailers
I suppose without these guys you would find it very difficult to actually buy my book; but with the advent of e-books and print-on-demand services their role is changing and like music stores their future is less certain. Unlike music however, I believe most people still want the physical item, I know I do, so I suspect these guys will be with us for years to come; although that said I will probably experiment with e-books myself to see where this takes me.
A number of successful writers have self-published at some point in their career. They include: Margaret Atwood, William Blake, Ken Blanchard, Robert Bly, Lord Byron, Willa Cather, Pat Conroy, Stephen Crane, E.E. Cummings, W.E.B. DuBois, Alexander Dumas, T.S. Eliot, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Benjamin Franklin, Zane Grey, Thomas Hardy, E. Lynn Harris, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ernest Hemingway, Susan Hill, Robinson Jeffers, Spencer Johnson, Stephen King, Rudyard Kipling, Louis L’Amour, D.H. Lawrence, Rod McKuen, Marlo Morgan, John Muir, Anais Nin, Thomas Paine, Tom Peters, Edgar Allen Poe, Alexander Pope, Beatrix Potter, Ezra Pound, Marcel Proust, Irma Rombauer, Carl Sandburg, Robert Service, George Bernard Shaw, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Upton Sinclair, Gertrude Stein, William Strunk, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoi, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman and Virginia Woolf.
So, in taking this self-publishing route I’m actually in very good company – that makes me feel better.
In my next post I’ll discuss the process of self-publishing and the approach I’m taking.
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