Are you looking for a publisher for your book?
Take a moment to think about your reasons for seeking a publisher. Chances are they will include:
Legitimacy and Prestige - A publisher’s imprint confers legitimacy on the book. It has been vetted by a literary agent (usually) and an acquisitions editor (always). The professional judgment of these gatekeepers confirms the quality of your book.
Advance Payment – A traditional publisher gives you an advance paid against future royalties when it buys the rights to your book.
Distribution and Publicity - Your publisher will handle distribution of your book. They can get your book into bookstores. The publisher’s publicity and marketing departments will get the word out about your book. They will handle advertising, schedule interviews and line up a book tour for you.
Before you sign a contract, let’s take a closer look at these benefits.
The book marketplace has changed dramatically. Forbes reports a 50% decrease in independent bookstores in the last twenty years. According to Digital Book World, in 2012 for the first time, “…online channels accounted for more book purchases than brick-and-mortar retail in the U.S….” Another report from Digital Book World summarized the changes in this way,. “Amazon has been the 800 pound gorilla of book retail for some time... It has 70%-to-80% market share for ebooks sales and about a 50% market share for books sold online…”
The seal of approval now comes from people like us. The emerging new marketplace has changed the way readers confirm a book’s legitimacy. A favorable notice in the New York Times Book Review may still be golden, but online reviews by readers on Amazon and sites like Good Reads are increasingly the trusted source for potential book buyers.
As Book Publicity Services noted, “Getting book reviews is vital for recently published authors. There are two main benefits to having your work reviewed: public presence and social credibility.”
Digital Book World explained why this is so important: reviews have “…a huge impact on sales. When it comes to book sales, you have to be popular to become popular… [Reviews are] a quick indicator to the reader of how seriously they should take your book.”
Advances are shrinking. The Wall Street Journal reported that publishers were offering fewer opportunities to new authors and when authors did find a publishing contract it was often with a small press and “…they offer, on average, $1,000 to $5,000 for advances, a fraction of the $50,000 to $100,000 advances that established publishers typically paid in the past for debut literary fiction” And don’t forget your literary agent’s 15% fee.
Indie authors earnings equal those of traditionally published authors. The May 2014 Author Earnings Report looked at ebook author earnings on Amazon and found that, “Self-published authors are clearly earning as much as traditionally published authors on the largest e-book sales platform in the world.”
Traditional publishers offer fewer services to authors. The corporate bean counters have looked for cost saving in all areas including editorial departments. Writer’s manuscripts do not get the level of attention they once did. As PR and marketing departments have shrunk, authors have been expected to handle a growing share of responsibility for the promotion and marketing of their books. Creating and maintaining author social media platforms and undertaking book tours at their own expense are only two of the more prominent tasks that now routinely fall to the author.
Smith Publicity, which provides publicity and marketing services to authors explains, “You may think a traditional publisher guarantees your book will receive extensive publicity or marketing support. Unfortunately, this is a major misconception. For the most part, you will have to do your own publicity and marketing regardless of the size of the publisher, unless you have such a unique book that a publisher builds a campaign around you. But that’s the exception, not the norm.”
So if you are trying to decide who should be your publisher, you might want to look in the mirror.