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.
Books that are self published 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 maintain 100% creative control
It can be scary to take over the reins and take “complete creative control,” but if you get a publishing coach to keep you in the right direction, and hire a professional editor, cover designer, etc. you’ll realize quickly that this is the best way to go. In a big traditional house there are teams of people making decisions about your book and you get very little say – if any. After the hard work you’ve put into your book, this can be soul crushing.
With self publishing you keep 100% of profits and royalties
One of the most important steps you can take when self-publishing is to make sure you maintain your copyrights. But you should also be fully aware of the lesser-known sales and distribution rights. Whoever owns the ISBN on your book owns the sales and distribution rights, so when you are publishing independently you want to open your own publishing company, at which point you will acquire your own custom ISBN.
One of the biggest mistakes an author can make is to “self-publish” with one of those online publishing companies. You think it’s nice to have that publisher logo on the back of the book? It’s doing you way more harm than good. Generally speaking – because all of the companies within this model have variances – these companies let you buy your own book for a 30 to 40% off the retail price. And your royalty usually sits around 70% of your net receipts – which adds up to about $3.60 for a $15 retail book. What you want is 100% of your royalties. Why have someone else making money off your book?
You’ll make a heap more money
A study was taken a few years ago with IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association) to follow the progress of 500 authors of a similar genre over the course of five years. Half of the authors were published through a traditional publisher, and the other half started their own publishing company. At the end of the five years, each author had sold about 5000 books. So let’s do the math:
Generally speaking (there is a small variance of course) the deal with a traditional publisher is your royalty is 6.5 – 8.5% of the wholesale price. If the retail price of your book is $15, then the wholesale cost is roughly $6.75 (55%). Multiply that by a median of 7.5% and you make roughly .50 a book.
If you self-publish your $15 book (250-page book that costs $3.85 to print on Createspace), your profit margin is $11.15 when you hand-sell it direct to the consumer. Your royalty on Amazon is $5.15. That’s at least ten times more money.
You have flexibility to change anything anytime: no red tape
There are a number of reasons you’ll want to make a revision in your book. Of course there is the annoying typo, but moreover, what if you get an endorsement or testimonial from an A-lister in your industry and want to put it on your cover? You can also use your book as a sponsorship opportunity. For example, in lieu of a company buying a book for all attendees of a conference you’re going to speak at, you will put their logo on the cover of each book.
When you choose self publishing, you get to make these decisions. You can make the negotiations. And pronto. If you have to wait for the red-tape of a corporate publishing house you will more than likely lose the deal.
Revisions are at very little or no cost
If you win an award, or get an endorsement, you would have your cover designer embed them into the cover. Equally, if you have a typo to fix on your interior you would ask your interior formatter to make that revision. Most cover designers or interior formatters include a revision or two in their price so it shouldn’t cost you anything. If you’re using Createspace as your printer and distributor, they don’t charge anything for uploading new files. (Ingram Spark does have a $29 fee every time you make a revision.)
On a related note, you really just want to make revisions in your book once – or at least as minimal as possible, because every time you pull your book out of distribution, it takes 2 to 6 weeks to get completely back in line.
You have close relationships with your service providers
It’s all very tempting at the beginning of your publishing process — amidst the overwhelm of it all — to think “I don’t want control. I’m sure the cover designer and layout designer know what they’re doing and all will be grand.” Which is to say, you have no problem handing over all the control. Until you do.
Knowledge is power, and when you start to learn what your options are, naturally you have an opinion. In the big houses, those choices are not yours. You will work with your editor closely, but it’s usually in the contract that they get “last edit.” They get the last say. When it comes to your cover design, you usually have zero control. The author is never on the design team.
In the self publishing process, it is best that you get a publishing coach – aka book coach – who will lead you to professionals, review the options with you, give an experienced opinion, but you always get the final say. You want close relationships with your cover designer, layout designer, and of course it’s imperative to have a very close bond with your editor. You should feel comfortable enough with each service provider to ask questions you might deem as silly (they’re not!) and call them anytime and get a response. You don’t get those relationships when someone else owns the copyrights.
A statistic that is very real these days is that your chances of getting picked up by one of the big publishing houses is under 1%. You’ve got to not only have a big following already, but you’ve got to have a book they’re looking for. Having a fabulous book with all 5-star ratings on Amazon is something to brag about, but if it’s not a genre the big houses are looking for, they’re simply not interested.
With that said, even if you magically got an agent tomorrow, you’ve got to work with that agent to draft a proposal – which is your social proof and marketing plan that the agent will turn around and use to sell you to the publisher. That alone takes upwards of 8 months.
Then, let’s say, magically your agent got an offer right away. The reality is that, more often than not, your manuscript sits at the house for a year-plus while they think about it. (my words, not theirs.) Let’s say, then, that magically, they move forward with your book. To put it through editing and layout would take upwards of two years. (Yes, we have all heard about the big stars that get them out in months, but that’s not the norm.)
Bottom line is that to publish through a traditional house, the timeline would be on average, 3 years.
In the self publishing world, to put your manuscript through 3 editing rounds, layout, cover, publishing, and into distribution — using professionals that have come from the big house world — takes on average 8 months.
Consider the two-year difference for publishing, add the more money you’ll make selling your book – and you have to ask yourself, What’s the point?
Publishing is a very different world than the one we grew up in. It’s no longer the world of big advances and national book tours. But due to today’s reality that there is no longer a gate-keeper telling us that our content is good enough to get out into the world, this is undoubtedly the best time in history to be a writer.
Polly Letofsky is a book coach, and owner of My Word Publishing. She has helped shepherd over 200 books, 35 of which were best sellers. Her mission with My Word Publishing is to help save authors from very bad, very expensive mistakes. For more information, please peruse www.MyWordPublishing.com