Thursday, 24 August 2017

You wrote a book - now what?


The world of book publishing is a confusing one. Also, quite intimidating. As someone who is new to it all, with no real-life author friends, I was wondering if I would ever manage to get my baby (= my memoir) published. 
As long as I was in the writing process, I mostly ignored that pressing question and told myself I would worry about it when I finished writing the first draft.

At that point, I only knew of two publishing options: Traditional and self-publishing. 
I did quite a bit of research, and compiled a list of the pros and cons of each option:


Traditional Publishing
For the longest time, this was the only option for writers to get their books published. A publishing house buys the publication rights for the book, paying the author an advance and (usually, but not always) royalties. 

From what I learnt, no publishing house accepts proposals from authors directly, unless you are famous, and/or have a huge following on social media. You have to find an agent first, who will take a percentage of the advance and the royalties in exchange for taking you on. 
The agent will try to find a buyer (i.e. a publishing house) for your book. There are no guarantees that they will sell it, but I believe the chances are usually pretty good. 

Pros:
  • Trustworthy: Traditional publishing houses are established, trusted institutions. You can easily look up their past authors and books, and find out their success rate. 
  • Distribution: They have strong bonds with many retailers and distributors. 
  • Quality: The finished product looks polished and professional. 
  • Low cost to author: The publishing house carries all the cost for editing, production, distribution, marketing, etc., which means the author has to pay little or nothing. On the contrary, they usually get paid up front in form of an advance.
Cons:
  • Loss of control: As far as I understand it, the publishing house basically owns your book. That means that the author has little say about cover design, edits, and other details of the production and distribution.  
  • Ownership: You also give up complete ownership of your book, which may limit your use of the content for the duration of the agreement. 
  • Royalties: You don't get royalties right away. You have to earn back the advance that was paid to you, which actually doesn't happen that often. Only if your book's sales have earned back that advance do you get royalties, and they are quite low: About 5-7% for a paperback, and 10-15% for a hardcover
  • Timeline: It takes a long time to see you book in print when you go the traditional route. First, you have to find an agent, and then the agent has to find a publishing house, which can take many months or even years. Once you do have a publisher, it still usually takes more than a year before the book comes out; the entire process is drawn-out and time-consuming. 

Self-publishing
There are literally thousands of options to self-publish these days. I published my eBook How To Be You with Kindle Direct Publishing from Amazon almost two years ago, and also had some copies printed with Blurb
Self-publishing used to be frowned upon, very much like online dating, but these days, both activities have become hugely popular. There are many pros and cons to self-publishing, here are the most important ones:

Pros:
  • Ownership: You are it, baby. You are the boss. You own your book, so you alone make every single decision pertaining to your book.
  • Control: Again, it's all you
  • Sales: No middleman = more money for you. You will have to pay a percentage of every sale to the distributor (for example, Amazon keeps 35% of every sale of my ebook). 
  • Risk: If you print on demand (meaning, you get a book printed when it's ordered), you don't need to have thousands of copies printed beforehand, minimizing your cost and risk significantly.
Cons:
  • Ownership: You are it, baby. You are responsible for everything, including areas you may have zero experience in, like book layout, printing, or pricing.
  • Cost: You have to pay for everything, you are responsible for everything. 
  • Marketing: If you have never sold a product, you may be in well over your head. Add to that the writer's inherent angst and self-doubt, and it's nearly impossible to confidently sell your  book, which represents a slice (or maybe a big chunk!) of your soul. 
  • Distribution: Do you have any contacts with book stores or other wholesalers? Me, neither. (Well, actually, I did work for an independent book store for 6 months, ten years ago. Remember me?!) It may be difficult to find store willing to take on the book of an unknown author.   
  • Quality: If you decide to go with print on demand, the quality will be poorer than that of an established publishing house. 



That's all I knew when I was in the final throws of finishing my book. The last few weeks were excruciating, every word was a struggle. The last thing I was able to focus on was how this bad boy would be published, when I seriously doubted that I would ever actually finish it!

But one day, the solution came to me, literally.
In the middle of June, another author reached out to me. She had written a wonderful memoir, Everything and a Happy Ending, and published it with a publishing house I had never before heard of: Mascot Books

When I started to research it, I found that there is a third option to the publishing process: 

Independent Publishing (All numbers and facts refer to Mascot)   
In a nutshell, it's the happy medium between traditional and self-publishing. 
It has many other names: "Hybrid publishing", "author-assisted publishing", "entrepreneurial publishing", or "co-publishing". 
Authors can keep their control and ownership, but also get the quality and distribution power of traditional publishing houses. You will have to pay a fee up-front, but get to keep almost all the royalties and have much more influence in  the making of the book. 

Pros:
  • Ownership: You keep 100% of control and ownership to your book, which means you decide on the cover, font, title, distribution, packaging, etc.
  • Quality: Even though authors pay a fee, independent publishers won't accept anybody. When they do accept you, the will offer professional editing, design, and production services that rival the quality of traditional publishing houses.
  • Distribution: You may not know book sellers, but they do. They have well-established relationships with the biggest retailers, and offer assistance to place your book in local independent book stores.
  • Royalties: If you sell your books yourself, you get to keep 100% of the royalties. If they are sold through the publisher, you still keep 85% of all the sales. 
  • Flexibility: They offer a customized package for each project. It's highly individualized, because no two books are the same. 
Cons:
  • Stigma: Everything new is suspicious. Some people may not regard independent publishing as highly as traditional publishing.
  • Paying up-front: Paying up-front isn't for everybody. You may not have the funds, or may not want to take the risk. I believe in my book, and that it will help a lot of people once it's out. For me, it's like paying school fees for a career - if you invest in your dream, it will repay itself down the road.

I decided to go with option #3 - and I signed the contract earlier this week!!

My emotions have been all over the place, from wildly excited to "shit, what have I done?!"

However, I am deeply, deliriously grateful for being able to fulfil this life-long dream, and for having you all along for the ride! I wouldn't change a thing.

Love you!

xo Miriam




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8 comments

  1. Good for you for just FINISHING a book, Miriam! Whichever route you go for publishing, you've already accomplished a huge goal:).

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    1. Thank you Jennifer! It's been such an emotional roller coaster to get to this point,from being wildly excited to hiding-under-the-covers scared. It took me a few weeks to get used to the mental image of seeing my story in print one day, but now that I have, I'm bouncing-off-the-walls excited again!

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  2. Congratulations on signing a contract! That's awesome!

    If anyone here wants to self-publish, you should send them my way...I do book layout and design for independent authors!

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    1. That's amazing! I will keep you in mind, for anybody who needs a graphic designer, and for my next project!

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  3. Wow, this is super exciting news!

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    1. Thanks Tabitha! That's why my blog has been quieter than usual for the last 8 months. I'm so happy I got the first draft done!

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  4. Your research is spot on with what I"ve been finding. Congrats on finishing the book AND for making a decision on what to do with and moving forward. I STILL need to do that second part. Make a decision. I've decided that I need to figure that out this year. FOR SURE.

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    1. You got this! Making a decision is so hard, but once you've done it, you will feel so much better!
      Being an author is my biggest dream, and there was no doubt in my mind that I would do anything in my power to get my book published. In many ways, it's now easier than ever, and I'm so grateful I found a way to do it.
      Good luck with your decision-making process!

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