There are more authors out there today than ever before, and many of that growing number of authors have never published a book before. Unfortunately, these inexperienced authors can be fleeced by unscrupulous companies who disguise themselves as publishers.
Publishers Weekly reported that there were 347,178 books published traditionally in 2011. Bowker put the number of self-published books in 2012 at 391,000. “Currently, authorship, including books and new media, is growing nearly tenfold each year,” according to Seed Magazine. As these neophytes search for a publisher they are targets for a variety of schemes to rip them off.
One thing which makes them vulnerable is a lack of understanding of today’s publishing universe. There are two clearly defined and legitimate publishing models, situated at opposite ends of the publishing continuum:
Traditional Publishing – A traditional publisher buys an author’s manuscript, pays him an advance against royalties the book will earn, assumes responsibilities and costs of editing, designing and producing the book along with distribution, publicity and marketing once the book is in print. Publishers’ profits come from the sale of the books they publish, while the author receives a small percentage from each book’s sale, the royalty.
True Self-Publishing – A self-publishing author assumes all responsibility and costs for editing, design, printing, publicity and marketing. This does not necessarily mean that self-publishing is a DIY project. Authors may, indeed should, hire professionals to edit and design their books, and may well benefit from professional help with publicity and marketing. The self-published author receives all the profit derived from the sale of their books.
At Stories To Tell we believe that the best choice for authors choice is one or the other of these two options, and we provide services to help authors on either path.
What confuses authors is the chaotic, fast-evolving marketplace situated between traditional publishing and self-publishing. A variety of companies call themselves “publishers”, although they are not. They do not profit from book sales, they profit from the authors whose books they publish by selling self-publishing packages to authors. You’ll recognize the big players:
- Author Solutions (whose imprints include Xlibris, Author House, iUniverse, Tafford, Palibrio, and Bootango)
- Outskirts Press
- Publish America (which has just rebranded itself as America Star Books)
Is this business model wrong? Yes, if the consumer is misled to buy a package that isn’t appropriate for their needs, as can be the case. Many authors imagine these “publishers” will market and distribute their books for mutual profit, as a traditional publisher would. The first question you should ask when considering who should publish your book is, where does the publisher derive its income?” If it’s from the sale of books to the public, the company is a real publisher. If its earnings come from providing services to authors, it is not.
A little research on the web can help you avoid these scams. If you are considering an assisted self-publishing company, there are websites to keep score and track the performance of these companies:
The results of your search will be enlightening, and may prevent a costly mistake. To learn more and for a complete analysis of what these companies are offering, take a look at Mark Levine’s excellent book The Fine Print of Self-Publishing.
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