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Methods of Publication
I have been published by a traditional publishing house and a vanity house. Presently, I am what some might describe as an ‘independent self-publishing author’. Actually, I define myself as an ‘independent publisher’ holding all my publishing rights as well as managing editorial and marketing services for multi genre writers in various media.
Let me explain to you what all that means. Indeed, anyone wanting to be published nowadays really needs to know the market place and what publishing is all about. So I hope the following ‘depictions’ are useful to writers engaged on the various journeys I outline herein.
Moreover, you need to know what happens to you!
Whilst we discuss book formatting later in this work, I ask you at this stage to accept that you have written and self-edited your first novel and you are now ready to publish.
There are three methods of publication in the publishing industry open to you today.
The Traditional Publishing House Method. - Non-paid publishers.
These publishing houses, or companies, are sometimes referred to as ‘commissioning’ publishers.
This method of publication does not charge an author to publish a book. Moreover, the company pays the author and commissions the work.
How do I get published by a house like this is the obvious question.
To be published by a traditional house (non-paid ‘commissioning’ publisher) the following applies. An author will have sent dozens if not hundreds of query letters and synopsis to various traditional houses in the country of their residence, and possibly elsewhere. Their office or workplace will be full of negative replies and an in-tray wondering where the unanswered letters are. Many of the manuscripts and paperwork that have been sent off have not been returned. They rest in a slush cupboard somewhere. No-one knows where.
Eventually, a manuscript is sent to a company and is accepted. The company is likely to be a household name and publishes well known authors on an international scale. A lucky author will probably have a literary agent who represents them to the company and negotiates a commission for the individual before the work is purchased from the author by the publishing house. The agent takes a predetermined percentage of the commission from you as their fee. This can be anywhere between 10% and 20% and usually covers everything from domestic sales, foreign sales, and cinematographic rights (film and television). At this stage, I’d recommend the author joins the most reputable Society of Authors and takes advice on contractual law and agreements being put in place. The author will receive a sum of money for the work evaluated as the attainable market value. Indeed, they ought also to receive commission from bulk sales. These sums of money will probably be sufficient to sustain the author’s financial stability but I recommend advice is sought and that all contracts are examined with a fine tooth comb.
In my experience, such companies are looking for writers who are young or early middle aged since the publishing company will require them to enter into a contractual agreement and write for them over many years to come – possibly, for example, a decade or more. An editor will be appointed to work with the author to develop their work and ensure they keep to timescales laid down by the company. The work will be reviewed by household names prior to publication and their names may well appear on the book cover. A media exposure campaign will be launched to promote the work. It may commence 12 months prior to the author’s first publication. By then the author may well have other manuscripts in waiting and a ‘buzz’ is evident in literary circles. Such authors are almost certainly expected to write a series of books featuring the same characters. Attending book signings, talks, lectures, events and book fairs across the country – possibly across the globe – will become the norm. The bigger the company, the more likely the author is to quit their day job. Here, an author has the potential to become a household name and their books will fill the shelves of many bookshops all over the nation. Indeed, possibly the world. A good, well established, reputable traditional house enjoys multiple contracts over the globe with outlets selling books. The lucky author will only have to write them since their work will be translated into dozens of languages and will be a huge success. Such authors often develop excellent typing skills and the ability to glide their ten digits across a QWERTY keyboard without so much as a misplaced pause. They become full time experienced typists as well as writers who often know Microsoft Word - as well as Open Office Writer or a similar word processing programme - inside out. Such authors write to order on a daily basis and at length. Of course, there is always an exception, but many may not have any other computer skills to boast of since the focus is obviously on word processing.
Social media accounts in these circumstances are seldom used but an author will be advised when to post events relative to an authorship, forthcoming publication, or event. Updating readers becomes the norm at very specific time slots but unlike the mass of independents, an author in this tradition is able to spend more time writing and less time self-promoting.
Copyright in the work is always retained by the author in this tradition but it is accepted that the traditional house will have marketing rights, distribution rights and quite possibly digital rights. Such an author is ‘locked in’ to this company for years to come and will be subject to a contract. It is as if the company were the author’s employer and, as such, the author is more or less an employee.
My advice is to take care, think about how you intend to progress your authorship if possible, and really do look for good advice. For example, I recall a contract in which the author would receive a commission for his first work provided the individual concerned signed a contract in which they allowed the right of first refusal of their next work to the said publishing company. It sounds great and this insertion in a contract is quite common and not at all unusual. It makes one believe that they really do want the author to be in their stable for years to come. One might now expect to write a series since that company quite clearly wants to be the first to accept the author’s next blockbuster. The reality is that the work might fail despite the nature and persuasion of this very traditional house. Or it might be a runaway success. At the end of the day the publisher still has to convince readers to buy your books. And, as all writers know, that isn’t always as easy as it sounds.
The point I am trying to draw out for you is the importance of understanding and dissecting a contract. In the standard ‘Rights of first refusal’ section of a publishing contract there is often no mention of a time frame whatsoever. If the company runs into financial or legal problems, or falls out with the author over some area of the relationship, the author may have inadvertently given them ammunition to use. The publisher can take the contracted work as ‘Right of first refusal’ and then spend a year or two mulling over whether there is a market for it. This is because the author didn’t negotiate and insist upon a timescale that served the interests of both parties simultaneously. The contract in this instance is one-sided to some degree and my little story serves as an alarm call to those who are offered a contract. Don’t shout it out to your friends on twitter until you’ve negotiated something that will work for all parties concerned.
During this time, of course, an author is still under contract to the publisher. The author can write as much as they want but their publisher has the rights of first refusal. The author cannot publish anything until those ‘Rights’ are dealt with. Meanwhile, another publisher you’ve contacted sends your latest work to a dozen companies and they all want to bid for the next manuscript. A telephone auction is set up and the highest bidder with the best terms will win. But the author’s hands are tied because that very first publisher holds the Rights to first refusal.
Think well, take sound advice, and tighten that first contract to the best of your ability simultaneously respecting both the needs of the publisher and the needs of yourself.
Book cover designs? Not a problem. They will all be done for you by your publisher.
There are few writers who attain the status of this first methodology that I have described. Being commissioned paid authors in this tradition does not necessarily make them great authors or good writers. It does mean that they have a unique story to tell that has a specific market value. You will see ‘one book’ celebrities and non-fiction works enter these traditional houses and a sense of great achievement is apparent. Ghost writers may well be engaged to write a celebrity’s life story. Only the reader defines the greatness of a writer – aided, of course, by a corporate marketing and global distribution team.
I often think these books are like houses in an estate agents window waiting to be sold. The great ten-bedroomed mansion in five acres with an outdoor swimming pool and helipad has a niche market for only a few. A three bedroomed semi- detached house with space for a garage and a front lawn represent the mass market. Where does your book lie?
An author can expect Royalties if they are lucky enough to be engaged under contract to a commissioning house. Royalties often range between 10 and 12% of the recommended retail price (R.R.P). One such example of ‘Royalties’ is as follows:-
For a hardcover perfect bound novel selling with an R.R.P OF £15.00, you can expect between £1.50 and £1.80 per book sold. An advance in these circumstances is likely to be one third of the first print run total royalties. So, if a book enjoyed a first print run of 20,000 copies and is to be sold with a recommended retail price of £15 and the author was to receive 10% royalties, then the total sum payable to the author when all copies are sold would be £10,000 (10% of £15.00 x 20,000 ÷ 1/3). NB Research in the UK suggests that the current sum of £10,000 represents an average commission paid to a first time author (about $16,000) (From this sum an author will be expected to pay commission to their literary agent). However, an author should not expect this to be the norm since advances vary greatly between books and publishing companies. It is explained here as a simple example for authors.
Prior to digital books an author could realistically expect an advance of £25,000 - £50,000 average. Publishers are obviously influenced by a literary agent and an author’s pedigree. The more established authors are likely to command larger advances. The problem for an author wanting to achieve this methodology of publication is that they need to get out of the slush pile. Unpublished authors send their unsolicited manuscripts to a publisher. If unsolicited material is accepted they end up in a slush pile where publishers’ readers sift through to identify work of interest to them. When this occurs the work is referred to an acquisitions editor who reviews the manuscript. If they like it they forward it to the editorial staff. The work then needs an editor to back and support that manuscript and convince other staff to invest in the title. The process is obviously influenced by the size of the publishing company and the number of staff employed therein. It’s fair to say that this is potentially the most rewarding route to take for a would-be author. It is certainly the longest as the process might take a year or two from the acceptance of a manuscript to final publication. Unfortunately it is recognised that only two or three manuscripts per ten thousand are selected for eventual publication.
If an author is successful they will not have paid the company one penny to be published in this methodology but the company will have paid the author. This is the top of the scale. There are some truly brilliant writers to be found in this tradition, and also some very disappointing ones.
It’s worth recording, at this stage, that this is the elite end of the market. Indeed, one might suggest that authors in this tradition were once unpublished independent writers who have attained a standard set down by a particular commissioning house. The proposition exists that authors using this methodology are the best writers on the block today. Many might agree with that proposal whilst others would argue against it particularly as the march of the independents gains impetus and more options to publish are available to authors across the globe.
Yet my experience involves editing and formatting books and other written media and, as such, I have read and edited many a book over the years. Writing technique and discipline on the keyboard seem to be lost by many writers too keen to rush into the publishing world without thinking things through. Some writers promote themselves as a best seller and expect to make a sustainable income within weeks of publication. Plots are often hastily put together and don’t always stand up to scrutiny, and the structure of sentences is often disappointing. I often recommend that authors should become readers first, develop an extensive vocabulary, and then practice writing before rushing into ‘writing the work’. Full length novels need to be plotted and crafted correctly before the real writing starts and I have seen some evidence to suggest this is not always the case. Some independents can improve significantly, but then so can some colleagues published by more traditional methods. Be assured, however, there is much strength in the world of independents and we, of whatever methodology, can always learn from each other. But the march of the independents is well underway.
The evidence for my remark lies in public knowledge available on various publishing websites and in the printed press. Put simply, many commissioned authors in the tradition described are jumping ship. They have made their name and have a huge following. They don’t need the international publishing house brand anymore. They are a household name and have crafted a brand of their own. They are the brand, not their book titles. What’s more, they have cut out the middle man. We will discuss pricing criteria later but consider the 10% royalties that I focused upon when advances and commission were discussed in a recent paragraph. Now consider that a book sold in the Kindle amazon store, for example, is also subject to commission payable to the author and the publisher. Where Amazon retains 30% of the retail price the publishing company receives 70%. From the 70%, the publishing house covers production costs at all levels – from editing to book cover to formatting and distribution etc. - and then pays the author. The author in this tradition can expect to earn between 10 and 12% of the retail price of their book. By removing the middle man - the publishing company - and self-publishing the book the author retains the entire 70%. (They save money again because they may well not have an agent at this stage). How do they jump ship? Put simply, they decline to renew their publishing contracts when they come up for renewal and go their own way. They now earn 70% commission not 10%. The section headed ‘Rights of First Refusal’ has been dealt with by those experienced enough to negotiate their way out of the clause.
At this stage I am going to populate this work with the notion that many such authors in this tradition, together with their associated publishers, often reveal that independent authors never sell more than one hundred eBooks in their entire career. Of course, this doesn’t name or challenge any particular individual or business enterprise but it does summaries a prevalent attitude that needs to be contested. For example, at the time of writing, seven independent self-publishing authors have sold in excess of one million eBooks each. Furthermore, there are ‘independents’ who have sold thousands of books, not one hundred or so.
In my opinion, many independents let themselves down by publishing atrociously written, poorly formatted books that ought to have been abandoned at birth. Far too many independents rush to publish below standard work, and far too many publishing companies are only too keen to assist them to publish such work.
The perception exists that many established authors and publishing companies refuse to accept or recognise the march of the independents. Why on earth would they applaud such a movement when it threatens the existence of their cosy relationship within the industry?
So, here we have the bizarre situation where a growing number of commissioned authors are now ‘contract free’ and are using their experience and knowledge of the industry to self-publish. They now often call themselves ‘self-published independent authors.’
If you were to research literary agents you would discover the same applies. As readers move swiftly to purchase a wide variety of electronic reading devices we sadly watch a growing number of book stores close across the country. Libraries, hit by the economic recession, have cut back on the number of books being bought to fill the shelves, and, as a result, there are less literary agents available. The publishing companies are in turmoil, have not yet truly discovered an antidote to the march of the independents, and are casting away staff in a way never before experienced. Moreover, it’s now quite regular to receive an unsolicited invitation from an independent literary agent on the internet, particularly if you are a member of an authors’ group or network arrangement. Where once you had to write to them they now write to you with an invitation to submit a manuscript to them. Whilst I do not doubt their expertise and commitment, the fact remains that independents do not necessarily need either a publishing company or a literary agent to publish their work. Such ‘independent’ literary agents are merely using their skills to offer representation of your abilities to companies within their sphere of operation. This is a decision based problem for every author as to which road to take and which methodology of publication to employ.
At the time of writing, this methodology is dominated by the ‘Big Six’ of global publishing. They are Simon and Schuster, HarperCollins, Random House, the Hachette Book Group, MacMillan Publishing Company, and the Penguin Group. Whilst ownership of these companies is vested in interests specifically founded in America, Britain, Germany and France, there is no doubt whatsoever that these highly successful businesses are well and truly global concerns in every sense of the word. Between them, they have proprietary rights over dozens of smaller imprints or smaller publishing houses and they are an intricate part of the corporate world in which we live.
Paid Publishers in the Traditional House Model. i.e. The Vanity House:-
Here, the author meets the total expense of book production – or part thereof dependant on the relationship and agreement between the two parties. This is also known as vanity publishing. It is sometimes also known as ‘Co-operative Publishing’ or ‘Partner Publishing’ since it relies on the formation of a partnership and co-operation from the author prior to publication. It is extremely common to see these companies define themselves as part of the mainstream of traditional publishing. I suggest many an author hooks up with such companies in the initial belief that they are going to pay a large upfront commission or offer life-changing commissions on each sale made. The reality is that this part of the industry relies heavily on the word ‘vanity’. Writers are vane enough to desire to be published - I was - and publishing companies in this tradition are eager to help them reach that mutual plateau of aspiration. Some companies I have experience of are excellent. They scrutinise work by self-published authors, appoint an editor, refer the product to a marketing team, arrange proper distribution, and publish the product in expectation that the work – over time – will deliver a profit to the parties concerned. Or, at worst, break even. They rely on a model that recognises the ability of the writer and the probable market value of their work whilst reaching an agreement with the author as to production costs. That said, it is also the case that there too many companies in this tradition who survive on the very word ‘vanity’ and will happily publish substandard work in order to sustain their livelihood and capitalise on the desire of the author ‘to be published’.
Often, when I see a loud sustained and gloriously happy declaration in social media that an author has been published by a third party I shudder. Moments later, a brief check on a retail site often leads me to challenge and confront the very existence of ‘vanity’. Of course, what vanity houses have done is deliver a much needed service to those wishing to be published. A gap between methodology one – authors who are paid to write a book – and methodology three – independent self-publishing authors – is clearly identified. This tradition adequately places the meat between the sandwich. I merely implore authors to tread warily when dealing with companies in this tradition. Some are excellent, some are unscrupulous, and vanity dictates that authors won’t always tell the truth about their dealings with some companies.
In this methodology query letters are also sent directly to a publisher or literary agent and are referred to as unsolicited submissions.
To be published by a vanity house sees an individual joining the vast majority of authors on the block today. The vanity house method has many similarities to that of the traditional non paid house. But it also has well defined differences. For example, an author responds to an advertisement ‘accepting submissions’ or approaches a company of their choice to publish the work. One seldom sees the word ‘vanity’, ‘co-operation’ or partnership in the company’s profile but you will occasionally see that they ‘self-publish’ authors. Other times one will merely see that they are a publishing company and it will occur to an author that they adopt a ‘traditional house’ image. In today’s digital age they may have a strong presence on the web and an author will eventually decide to put their faith into one of them. The author has usually tried over a fairly long period to get a literary agent but they have explained that an author must have a publisher from a traditional house – or a company aspiring to be a successful traditional house. The author tries to get a publisher only to be told they must first have a literary agent.
Confused yet? Most authors get confused too.
An author needs to be aware that there are many literary agents who will represent them directly to the vanity house model that I speak of – often for a fee. In any event a decision is made to jump off the roundabout and abandon trying to interest either a commissioning house or a literary agent. The author then decides to take the bus on the journey to an independent authorship because they are running out of time and want to be published.
They are writers. They are vane.
An editor may or may not be appointed to work with the author. Reviews may or may not be organised. A deal is suggested to the author and laid down for examination. In this depiction, the author accepts it. Many never read these agreements properly and some don’t understand what they are reading. But they are vane. Aren’t we all?
There is a defined need to take control at this point. Royalties are still payable by some vanity houses. So, if you invest £10,000 into the publication, distribution and marketing of your book, you really do need to know what they will do for you and how much you will receive for each book sold.
My experience is that at the top end of this market you may get one third of the R.R.P and this will help you to plan an investment, a budget, and anticipate realistically what your return might be. At the lower end of this market my experience is that the company will publish you, market and distribute in a minimalistic manner, and abandon you as they move on to attract further clients. Breaking even in this methodology is not guaranteed since the quality and reputation of some of the companies you find ranges from excellence to under-achievement. An author needs to compare and contrast competing companies in this tradition, examine costs, distribution and marketing, and make a decision which reflects their investment and what return they might realistically expect from the numerous companies engaged in this activity.
To summarise, on this journey you retain copyright. Your (vanity/co-operative / partnership) publishing company prints the work for you, usually issues you with an ISBN, (International Standard Book Number) and takes over the distribution rights for you. In some cases, your manuscript is converted by the company into eBook format and you lose the digital rights relative to your work. Potentially, you are left only with copyright. I suggest it has low value without the accompaniments mentioned: distribution and electronic. The company may market your book to outlets they have agreements with and ensure that it has an internet presence. Yet once it is published they may lose interest and you will have to market the book – over the longer term – yourself. In my experience some companies have excellent reputations, deliver good deals, and showcase your work online for you over a long and sustained period. Such companies seek to build a lasting relationship with an author that is financially beneficial to both parties. Experience and research will lead you to them. You need a social media account(s) and the ability to make good use of a computer as you begin an internet campaign to market your book with the help of your vanity publisher.
Be aware that ISBN means International Standard Book Number. It is a unique number, almost like a fingerprint, that is assigned exclusively to your book. Where your publisher does not provide you with an ISBN remember that you can buy a small batch of ISBN’s for your own use. You must have an ISBN to be listed in the Ingrams Catalogue and be searchable on the library base. If you do not have an ISBN your book will not be available to library buyers.
There is a defined need to differentiate between an ISBN issued by Smashwords, an ASIN issued by Amazon, and an ISBN bought from an agency such as the Nielsen UK ISBN Agency. An ISBN issued by Smashwords, for digital books only, can be used on the Smashwords site and nowhere else. An ASIN is a number assigned by Amazon and it is for use on the Amazon site only. An ISBN bought from an ISBN agency such as Nielsen UK can be used anywhere. At the time of writing, Nielsen offer for sale 10 ISBN’s for £126.
Confused? Mystified? I don’t blame you. Nothing is easy when various companies are in competition with each other and have their own procedures. The issue is further complicated when an authorised entity such as Nielsen quite correctly offers a global ISBN that can be used anywhere. Indeed, if you plan to offer your book in print you will need an ISBN from Nielsen in the UK and the Bowker ISBN agency in the USA. In addition, if you intend to offer your books for sale in a book shop you will also need a barcode. Whilst most printers operating today in the ‘print’ market will include a barcode in their transaction it may be comforting to know that you will find links to barcode providers in the Nielsen and Bowker sites.
Publication in this tradition can be by specified print run or by a print on demand system that is elaborated upon in method three.
On this journey an author will have paid the company for the privilege of printing, publishing, marketing, and distributing their book.
They will not have received one penny from the company because companies in this bracket do not deliver commission to authors. They sustain their business from the sales of an author’s book and the fees that they levy upon their authors. Authors will learn of companies who let down their clients and of those who represent their clients well. Vast numbers of authors will tell you they are published by a traditional house but it is important to differentiate between the two models. If an author selects this method of publication they should have the ability to compare and contrast different market products before finding one that is suitable to individual needs. To do this properly, in the digital age, an author must be computer savvy and have the time and patience to commit to a period of research. Such individuals can ask for advice from friends and other authors but, at the end of the day, one must be prepared to make the decision as it is your money that is being invested, not theirs.
At the time of writing some of the better known houses in this tradition include Author House, Blurb, Create Space, Lulu, Lightning Source, Trafford, Vantage Press and Xilbris. All these houses are noted for their presence on the web and are worthy of further investigation. Some of the houses also provide ‘print on demand’ services which we shall cover shortly. The important thing, I suggest, is to recognise that each individual company offers different terms and conditions to the customer. It is therefore clearly down to an individual to research an ever-changing market place and secure the best deal for themselves. The aforementioned list is by no means exhaustive but included here as a flavour of what is available.
I was lucky.
When I published with a vanity house they marketed the book solidly at the Frankfurt Book Fair, Waterstones, throughout the UK, and in the USA at various independent and branded bookshops. I even saw the book for sale in Japan and various parts of Europe. Of course, that’s common place now with Kindle, Nook and Kobo, but I’m talking of the printed age and not the digital age. eBooks had not arrived on the scene at that time but I received 33% of the R.R.P of the hardback novel priced at £15.99 so I knew how many had to be sold and how much I needed to make to break even. I broke even in three years and made profit thereafter. When the contract with the vanity publisher ended in 2012 I made the work available in electronic form. I made some minor adjustment to the work but decided to leave it much as it was. Yes, my writing skills and style have evolved considerably since 1994 but the book is a constant reminder to me of where I started and from whence I came. It is still selling today. This does not make me clever or a great writer. I use much of this tale to suggest to new authors that a business perspective is needed to secure a successful authorship. These are decision-based problems that suggest to an author that they need to be focused on their intentions from the word ‘Go’. A degree of determination, marketing aggression, and commitment never goes amiss. And I’m going to firmly lay down the word ‘backlist’ in the hope that you recognise a book published in 1996 is part of an author’s backlist in 2012. This is crucially important when marketing your product.
Books never die. They always require marketing whatever their age.
The ‘self-publishing independent author’.
Actually, I prefer to call this methodology the ‘independent publisher’ and I shall make an argument for that title as I develop this discussion and suggest that there is a subtle move from self-publishing authors to independent publishers taking place.
Self- publishing is exactly what it says on the tin. It is the publication, by the author, of a book without the involvement of an established third-party publisher. By that I mean, the book is privately printed and brought to market in either eBook format or printed form. The author is completely responsible for and is in charge of the entire publication process. This includes everything from designing the cover, the interior content, formatting, price, distribution, and marketing. Much of what occurs here is completed by the author but there is also the ability of the author to outsource some of that work to companies offering associate services.
But note the subtle difference – the author outsources selected work – the author is ‘driving’ the project in hand not a publishing company. In methodology two the publishing company drives the project and there is an expectation that the publishing company will deliver a service in return for an investment. In this tradition – in its purest form – the author is clearly the creator, driver, and project manager, and the investment is undeniably more flexible and determined by how much the author wishes to invest.
Let me explain to you my concept of how close an independent publisher can be – or not – to a self-publishing independent author.
In this methodology an author has researched the market, spoken to other writers and authors, read articles in local and international publications, and forged close relationships with creative people and independent publishers locally and across the globe over many years and by various methods. The author in this tradition is completely focused on the sales of works. There is a clear ability to select and instruct a printing company to print work to a particular specification. Such an entrepreneur will always retain copyright. Legal notices in published books will cite act and section of the law and carry the correct copyright symbol. There’s no loose suggestion of ownership. It is clear who owns the work. An air of professionalism will embrace the work and there will be an acknowledgement of the book cover designer or illustrator’s copyright.
Determined authors, I suggest, need to spend time copyrighting their work properly because it distinguishes them from others and legalises their work. Such an author in the UK may declare a legal and meaningful assertion in their work by quoting the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1998 on the copyright page. Making this page stand out from the others at the beginning of your book is important and I advise that this page needs to be cleared of all other unnecessary clutter because it is quite clearly a legal page. But copyright is far from simple. Authors in the UK may also wish to use the facilities of the UK Copyright office where work can be registered and held for a period of years as a legal entity to be produced to a court in the event of legal proceedings. This sounds perfect until an author discovers a number of spelling mistakes in their published eBook and decides to remove it from a retail platform. In so doing, the copyright is null and void since the new edition does not enjoy copyright unless the procedure is repeated. For this reason, an assertion under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act seems to be the most popular. Books published in America can be copyrighted at the Copyright Office in Washington and in Canada at the Intellectual Property office.
In this third methodology the author truly retains all rights because they will never sign them over to any other party. The author is responsible for all printing elements relative to the book – the cover, the size, the interior format, legal notices - and so on and so forth. Indeed, the author will probably edit the book themselves or have a long established relationship with an individual capable of editing to a high degree. They are responsible for marketing the book and are free to negotiate how and when they pay their printer. The author is in fact now the publisher and may choose a ‘print on demand’ function, or they may choose a ‘print run’ determined by them. Irrespective of their choice, the author is quite clearly in charge of the budget.
The independent’s knowledge of the industry is comparatively vast in this methodology because they have been through the mill. Such ability enables them to sell their work to selected outlets of their choice. They have identified buyers at libraries and physical stores and ensured that they will place the book on the shelves before they actually arrange for them to be printed. Indeed, consider an author’s role here. Theses authors have bought their own ISBN’s if necessary and are able to assess how many books are needed to print relative to the number of customers they have. They are entrepreneurs. This is no longer a hobby for Sunday mornings and an occasional afternoon with a local book club discussing what they might be writing next month. Such meetings may well still occur and be most beneficial but now these authors run their own business and make decisions based on knowledge and practical viability. Their books appear in multiple formats on various sites. They are available in print, electronic, and audio format.
Indeed, such authors sell their printed books to people they know personally. They tour their region delivering talks to new and emerging writers and readership groups. Many of them have a strong social media presence built up over a long time and on their terms. Such individuals are proficient in all areas of computer function. They are able to format eBooks and printed books into various retail platforms of their choice and upload them to retail sites of their choosing. They sell to long established customers across numerous retail platforms.
Since the author is in charge of their budget they will have reached the conclusion that they can publish their book for a miniscule amount or an amount set by them and no-one else.
At the time of writing one of the most popular ‘print on demand’ companies is called Lulu but many companies operating in methodology two above also offer ‘print on demand’ functions. Moreover, a conversation with a printer in your place of residence may well take you to a facility where a print run or print on demand agreement can be agreed at local level and to mutual advantage. Remember, once again, don’t forget to compare and contrast products in the market place.
There are many choices to make when deciding upon the journey of an authorship. There are many right roads to take but there are some wrong ones to follow. Authors can do it cheaply or at great expense. Writers should never put themselves into a position whereby they have allowed themselves to be taken in by the industry. As an author builds and determines their independent authorship over the years they should be prepared to take on more knowledge and research the inner soul of the industry.
Read and research industry newspapers, blogs and articles, and compare and contrast varying reading material to find the ones that you can subscribe to and acknowledge as prime leaders in the industry. Sort out which is an advert and which is a fact based article
Eventually, you will scan articles and remind yourself that you are aware of that route. In a fairly short but considered time, you can become very knowledgeable about the industry you are about to join. Seize the opportunity to improve your research capabilities by entering words like publisher, publishing, publishing industry, business, marketing, sales, development, market share, Kindle, Kobo, Sony, Apple, eBook, printed books, retail books etc. into the search box that your internet browser provides. You will find hundreds of lists of companies and blog sites that no longer exist. Some exist only for a short time. Some are here today and gone tomorrow so I am not going to waste your time by delivering a lengthy list to you.
The choice is yours. The trick is to follow the path that suits you and one that you are happy with and have a degree of control over.
Crucially, once an author has chosen which methodology to follow and has published their book – the dream ends irrespective of whichever tradition applies. Or rather, to be more precise, the book has been published. The objective has been achieved. One can sit back in the sure and certain knowledge that the work is available to the masses for decades to come. A satisfied author will even be able to give it away for free if they wish.
The only defined need to proceed further is to strive for a regular long term income. If the objective of publishing a book is achieved then an author doesn’t really need all the baggage outlined in Authorship Demystified. Is the mission accomplished when the book is published?
Or does the author have a need to develop long term revenue?
When you reach that decision you may actually reach the cross over point that subtly slides you from the classification of self-publishing author to that of independent publisher.
I suggest that line is crossed when an author considers themselves a business owner. At that point they are able to invest in their business as they decide and not when others decide. They will never receive payment up front for a book to be written, but then again, they will never pay a publisher to publish their work for them. The objective now is to deliver a professional service to the reader in return for an income of some worth. Such authors hire experts to fill the skill gaps that they do not feel totally competent at. These may be editorial services or book cover designers, for example, but they will work to the author’s supervision, at their pace, and under their direction. They will have budgeted for their participation and it will be costed in the publishing operation.
If you take this route, you will no longer be a self-publishing author. You will be an independent publisher. To summarise this classification, you are still vane because you are a writer but now you understand how to beat vanity.
In my writing career, I have experienced all three methodologies. In any of the three described above you will be able to look into the mirror one day and proudly say…
I am an author.