Traditionally, most authors submitted their
manuscripts to large
publishing houses with the hopes that the publisher will accept their
book for publication. Publishing firms bear all the costs and risks of
publishing your book. You pay nothing.
Depending on the size of the publishing house and
your history of
producing successful books, you may be paid an advance. Stephen King
gets something over $1,000,000 for his books. A first time author may
get $5,000, possibly more if the book has won an award.
Once the publisher recoups the advance money, you
will be paid a
royalty of 6% to 12% of what the publisher receives, which may be about
50% of the selling price of the book.
Publishing firms are becoming increasingly more
selective in their
choice of which books to publish. It is extremely difficult for first
time authors to have a manuscript accepted.
Most large publishers do not accept manuscripts
directly from authors.
They will deal only with agents.
It is almost as difficult to find a good agent who
will add your book
to the others they are handling.
Publishing firms may hold your manuscript for many
looking at it.
Artistic control is lost to the author when
publishing firms decide to
change the contents, title, design or whatever they like in order to
make the book more marketable, in their opinion.
Publishing firms will not promote your book. Authors
are expected to
set up and carry out their own promotion of the book.
If the book doesn’t sell quickly, it will be removed
publisher’s availability list in one year.
If a publisher does accept your book, and you are
willing and able to
promote the book effectively, then you will be free of financial
commitments and, if the book sells, you will receive royalties.
Publishers rarely offer an advance on royalties to
Publishers costs are high, and since only about 10%
of books are
profitable ventures, authors who do get an advance are unlikely to get
As opposed to vanity publishing, some kinds of
subsidy publishing are
Subsidy publishing ventures are usually not expected
to make money, or
even cover costs.
Examples of subsidy publishing:
-Investment counsellor publishes books at his own expense to hand out
-Academics may receive some assistance from a university to publish a
book whereby the reputation of the university and academic are enhanced
-A manufacturer will subsidize a how-to book in order to gain
promotional benefits. The author may also possibly expect to make money
on the book.
The vanity press is the publisher on record. They
own the ISBN and printing files. They earn the publishing profits.
Vanity publishers claim to provide the same services
companies, but you pay all the costs. Since they get their money up
front and are risking nothing, they will publish virtually anything
submitted to them.
In addition to the excessive fees, the author loses
rights to their
book and receives only a very small royalty if a few books are ever
Vanity publishers claim to provide publicity, but
they have a very poor
record for delivering what they promise. What they promise is often
very appealing, but since they get paid well for producing a few books,
they have little incentive to distribute and sell your books.
Unfortunately, many unsuspecting and disappointed authors are paying
much, much more for services they could obtain on their own with not a
great deal of effort.
Reviewers are reluctant to accept books from vanity
they know very little effort has gone into screening for quality. Book
distributors and buyers are even more reluctant to take them. In fact,
if it is known that a book has been published by a vanity publisher,
you can count on it being a financial and critical loser.
Generally, the advice from everyone in the book
community is to avoid
Some vanity publishers have expanded into the
Publishing (EVP) business. If you really have to deal with them, be
Electronic Vanity Publishing (EVP) or
Often mistakenly called “print-on-demand,” EVP is a form of subsidy
publishing which uses print-on-demand technology. EVP has had a rather
bad image, but some authors who are well informed of the services ESP
companies provide may benefit.
Advantages of EVP:
EVP offers a relatively easy way to self-publish a
book, and most EVP
companies are helpful in providing authors with needed information.
EVP services offered by some companies are similar
publishers, but require much less up-front cash.
Once the registration fee is paid, authors may order
any quantity of
books they desire, avoiding the worry of boxes of unsold books in the
Most vanity publishers will accept any manuscript.
Some will draw the
line at excessively offensive material.
Most EVP contracts can be terminated or renewed by
either party after a
specified length of time.
Royalty payments are higher than that paid by
traditional publishers –
20% to 30% versus 6% to 10%. Royalty for e-books (see e-books on page )
is higher still.
Where it may take a year or two for a book to reach
the market through
a traditional publisher, EVP books can be ready for market in as little
at one month.
EVP books are always “in print”, as long as the
author continues to pay
the file storage fees (and the company stays in business).
Some provide complete fulfillment services by
printing and shipping to
major distributors, wholesalers and retailers. They may also provide
some marketing services at a price.
The services some EVP companies provide may be
ideally suited to your
needs if small quantities of books (less than 500) are required for:
-advance reading copies
-family history books
-order fulfillment of traditionally published books that have run out
-books that require periodic updating
Disadvantages of ESP:
The ESP is the publisher on record. They own the
ISBN and printing files. They earn the publishing profits.
Authors have mistakenly believed (or have been led
to believe) that
their books would be marketed and sold with little participation or
involvement by the author. On the contrary. Authors are responsible for
publicity and marketing of their own books. Virtually all the services
provided by ESP companies can be obtained by the author or a publishing
services provider at a much lower cost
There is little quality control for content. Because
nearly all books
are accepted for publication, poor books are grouped with good books.
Buyers (including book stores) with one bad experience with an ESP are
unlikely to risk another. The publishing industry, bookstores,
commercial book buyers, writing organization and much of the general
reading public don’t have much respect for ESP books.
ESP books will be printed “as supplied”. That is,
they will be
un-edited and un-proofed. A book that has not received professional
editing is destined to quickly sink into oblivion. Some ESP companies
offer editing services at a rather high cost, but an author would be
better to have this work done before approaching an ESP company.
It takes talent and time to design a good book
cover. The generic
covers supplied by some ESP companies may be just what you want, but
keep in mind that the cost to produce a reasonably good book cover is
about $400 to $800. You get what you pay for. The same applies to
inside design and layout.
Bookstores and other volume book buyers will only
buy and hold stock of
books that are returnable for refund. That’s the way the book
publishing industry has worked for decades. ESP books are generally not
refundable, and therefore shunned by bookstores.
Bookstores rarely order ESP books because they are
usually sold at too
small a discount or too high a price to be profitable
Be careful of who you are dealing with. Most ESP
reputable, but, as with many new electronic industry sectors, some will
try to rip you off. Watch out for these signs:
Deceitful sales pitch – They won’t sell your book
for you. Having your
book listed on their web site is unlikely to produce more than a very
few sales. Book selling venues such as Amazon.com are available to
anyone. Authors can list with them free of charge.
Bad contract – Acceptance of the sample contracts
posted on some ESP
web sites stating that some aspects of the contract are left to
“further negotiation” may lead to unpleasant surprises relating to
royalties, rights, maintenance costs, etc. Contracts should not extend
beyond one or two years, and should not include transfer of ancillary
rights (translation, movies, etc.)
Unlike traditional publishers, ESP publishers are
receiving a fee from
you to publish your book. You should therefore expect a much higher
royalty for your book – 20% to 50%, depending on what other services
Registration fees vary among ESP companies. Some
with low fees may
expect more for “required” or “highly recommended” services such as
cover design, formatting, web page, etc. Fees should include the cost
of obtaining ISBN, CIP data and copyright registration. Know what you
Beware of excessive renewal fees. It costs almost
nothing to maintain a
web page and keep your book on file.
Authors often find that the high cost of low-run
printing plus the
registration fee charged by ESP companies makes it virtually impossible
The technical specifications and file submission
requirements of some
ESP companies is such that authors may need assistance from someone
familiar with book and cover file setup procedures. Mistakes can be
costly since charges to correct submission errors are usually quite
The self-publisher is the publisher on record. They
own the ISBN and printing files. They earn the publishing profits.
A self-publisher is an author who takes on all the
publishing his or her book – writing, editing, proofing, evaluation,
design, printing, marketing, promotion, sales, etc. as well as all the
Unlike with EVP, a self-publisher keeps all the
rights to the book as
well as all the profits.
Publishing services providers can be contracted to
provide some or all
the services required to publish your book. As the publisher, you
maintain complete control of all aspects of the project relating to the
design, content, marketing, pricing, distribution and sales.
Self-publishers are entrepreneurs. You take the
risks and you reap the
benefits (or suffer the losses). As an entrepreneur, you should have a
well thought-out business plan. Even if it is not your intention to
make money from your publishing venture, a business plan will help
prevent costly surprises.
If the book is marketed properly and becomes
somewhat successful in
the first few months after printing, self-publishers have the freedom
to sell the publishing rights to a large publisher at any time. If your
book proves to be successful, the same people who once turned you down
may come knocking at your door, and you will be able to negotiate terms
from a position of strength and experience.
Commercial publishing houses employ professional
editors, designers and
printers with the expectation that their books will be of the highest
quality, yet only one out of ten books by first time authors return a
profit. One out of ten for the bottom-line-conscious big publishers –
why would an author risk getting into this business?
Very, very few manuscripts are accepted for
publication by publishing
houses. The costs to produce and distribute a book are high, so unless
you are an author with a proven track record or a celebrity, your
chances with commercial publishers are slim.
It is almost as difficult to find a literary agent
as it is to find an
Publishers may take 6 to 12 month to get back to you
with an answer,
and IF they accept your manuscript for publication, it may be another
year before the book is in print. If you don’t want to wait that long,
and knowing that your chances are slim to start with, you may choose to
By publishing your own book and quickly selling 500
or so copies, you
will have a much better chance of having your book accepted by an agent
If your book has appeal only to a very small but
readership that you can access, self-publishing may be the way to go.
More reasons for self-publishing:
- family history or autobiography
- unpublished poetry and short stories
- promote your business