There are three main ways to self-publish a book. But how to decide which way to go? What’s the difference between a small independent publisher and those online publishing companies? What is true independent publishing? What are the pros and cons of each?
It’s a big hot mess out there, and one wrong move could cost you your rights, royalties, both, or worse, so I want to lay it all out for you side by side in black and white, easy to understand.
Within these three models – small independent, online, and true independent – there are many variables, but this guide will give you what you should know in order to make the right decision on what publishing model is best for you. (Additionally, another powerful tool to help inform your decision is a simple Google search: “Reviews on ____ Publishing Company” will go a long way in protecting and informing yourself.)
Small Independent Press (Includes “Hybrid publishing”)
Pros of publishing with a small independent press
- They will accept almost anyone
- They know their way around the system, so it’s easier for you to navigate the learning curve.
- Small independent publishers also lend the facade of prestige. But be aware: they offer you nothing you cannot do yourself.
Cons of publishing with a small independent press
- They’re usually a ma & pa shop, and while we all love ma and pa, they have no money and quite often go out of business
- This is a bad financial model for authors, as it’s nearly impossible to make any money. From publisher to publisher, royalties vary anywhere from 7.5% to 50% of the wholesale price of the book. The 50% is what you generally get from these “hybrid publishers” or “royalty share” models. Oy, please don’t fall for this.
- While you might keep your copyrights, you do not keep your sales and distribution rights.
- You still pay upfront; they do not pay an advance on royalties.
- You are signing a contract that has no end date. Post publishing contracts have no end date. It’s like a marriage, where there’s a start date but no finish date, and you can’t get out of it without a lot of screaming and crying and lots of cash to attorneys.
Online “subsidy” Publishers
A subsidy publisher is also known as “vanity publishing,” or pay-to-play publishing. Anyone can publish their book with this model because they have no selection criteria. These “publishers” do not purchase your manuscript, but rather, you the author pay for the cost of publication. Generally, in this model, you maintain your copyright, but please make no mistake; the books are owned by the publisher and remain in the publisher’s possession. The publisher distributes the book under its own imprint, and the author receives royalties.
Pros of publishing with online “subsidy” publishers
- They’re a one-stop shop. They can take care of your editing, cover, layout and distribution.
- They know their way around the system, which makes the learning curve easier for you.
- You get a say in the creative process. (Where in the traditional publishing world, you don’t.)
Cons of publishing with online “subsidy” publishers
- While you do keep your copyright, you do not keep your sales and distribution rights. They are publishing under their own imprint with their own ISBN, which means you do not own 100% of your rights.
- You pay through the teeth for any small revision. (The standard fee for this model is $250 for a revision, whether it’s a simple typo or an award that you’d like to display on the cover.)
- You are entering a publishing contract that is very difficult to get out of – if you can at all.
- The service providers (editor, cover, layout) are less experienced. In this model, you simply choose a template design for your cover and layout; they are not custom designed with the collaboration of a professional.
- Another way they make their money is by inflating the cost of printing. They will charge you 2.5 to 3 times the cost of printing compared to, say, Createspace.
True Independent Publishing
A true independent publisher is you – an author who starts their own publishing “imprint,” and organizes and pays for their own designing, editing, and printing of their book. The great news is that as the big publishing houses went out of business, merged, and downsized, the professionals within those houses have flooded into the self-publishing arena. That means the service providers with that high-level experience are now available to us, and we as authors can produce professional books that are indistinguishable from a New York Times best seller.
Self-published books are the sole property of the author and all sales proceeds belong to the author. So the pros of independent publishing are easy to line up:
- You have 100% complete creative control. While that can be scary, if you get a publishing coach to lead you in the right direction, this really is the best route to go.
- You keep 100% of your profits and royalties!
- You will make a heap more money. (4 to 10 times more!)
- You have flexibility to change anything on a dime.
- Revisions are made for very little or no cost. (With all the other publishing options you have to go through the proper channels, which takes time and costs money.)
The cons to Independent Publishing are two-fold:
- You still pay for everything.
- You don’t know your way around the system, which leaves you ripe for expensive mistakes.
The most expensive part of self-publishing is in the mistakes that you make. Our experience is that the best way to get your book published is true independent publishing – but hand-in-hand with the help of a publishing coach.
Some people call it a book shepherd, others call it a publishing consultant, a book coach, or a publishing coach, and they’re all the same thing; their job is to guide you through the maze of self-publishing. Their job is to assure that you, the author, get involved with the right vendors, cover all the details, and ultimately streamline the system so you don’t waste your money on bad decisions.
With the advent of print-on-demand merging with today’s self-publishing online tools, any of us can get our content into the world. But we’ve got to be careful of what we don’t know. And that bottom line is keep all your rights, keep your creative control, and hire an experienced publishing coach to keep you on the right track.