As an author, your success all depends on connecting with your audience. You’ll need to let them know you have a book of interest to them, get it into their hands, (whether it’s a purchase or a free gift), and then hope they read and “connect” with your words, in their minds and hearts. Let’s face it – not everyone out there cares to read your book. These “connections” only happen with the right audience.
One the one end of the spectrum, we have large-scale commercial publishing. On the opposite end, some authors write for a very small audience, just family and friends. And then there is an ever-growing segment of the writer’s market, niche publishing. Let’s look at how these audiences place authors on different paths.
We all recognize traditional commercial publishing; for many years it was the only route for writers. The big publishing houses created this model to supply bookstores and profited greatly, until self-publishing and the internet came along. The author gets an agent, then a publisher, selling the book in exchange for an advance and a small percentage of the book’s royalties. The model works well for mass-market supermarket blockbusters, when there is a huge popular audience and therefore enough profit to go around. If you have a blockbuster novel, are an expert in your field, or wrote an outstanding celebrity memoir, by all means, pitch some agents and see if you can sign a deal. It costs little but time: you’ll need to edit the text, but you will be saved the costs of book design and self-publishing. Allow up to two years to find an agent and publisher, though. In some cases, it is the waiting and uncertainty of acceptance that leads even large-scale commercial writers to self-publish.
Small Private Publishing
Then there is the opposite case; the growing number of authors publishing on a small scale, or “private publishing.” The general public is not interested in the subject, yet the author, along with family and friends, values the book enough to bear the cost of publishing with no expectation of a profit. (We often produce family histories that fall into this category.) These authors face two finite costs: the book’s production, and the printing. Companies like ours assist in the production work (called “pre-press”) of editing and designing the book and its cover, and then we send those files to a printer, ordering the number of copies the author desires. The author pays the printer, receives a box of books, and is done. Simple! And now with digital printing, it’s cheap, and you only pay for the few copies you need.
There’s no publisher required, so don’t be fooled by self-publishing companies, who will increase the project cost. If a wider distribution is needed because the audience is far-flung, the book can also be placed on amazon.com in your name, so that friends and family can order their own copies.
The third type of audience is a very specific interest group. For instance, if you’ve written a book on crafting quilts, the general public isn’t interested, but there are many thousands of of quilters out there who are deeply interested and willing to pay for the book. In many ways it is easier to sell books to a targeted niche audience, because instead of hoping they'll “discover” your work, you can go to them. As a niche author, you know exactly where your audience gathers, both locally and virtually, and you can sell to them through niche channels, at a higher price, as your specialty book is more valuable and has less competition.
Niche publishers face costs beyond the small, private publisher. In addition to production costs, they must invest in marketing and publicity to reach a significant number of their audience. Like any business, a niche publisher attempts to sell maximum units at the least cost. One significant way to reduce start-up costs is print-on-demand (POD) selling, as the author does not bear the cost – the buyer pays for printing, shipping, and even payment processing when he orders from an online bookstore. This is why authors love amazon.com.
Another way to keep costs down is to truly self-publish, keeping everything (especially your ISBN) in your own name. That’s our specialty as an “author services” company. Don’t share profits with a self-publishing company that acts as a middleman, profiting from your books. Finally, to maximize profits, many self-publishers use our services to sell books in multiple channels: they want boxes of printed books for direct sales, ebooks for digital buyers, an amazon.com account, and sometimes a Lightning Source account, for those who want hardcover POD, to reach library, overseas buyers, or bookstores.
As you can see, self-publishing for profit is more complex than small, private publishing. Niche and larger-scale commercial self-publishers needs more technical help, and face more urgent choices that require knowledge and expertise. They need to know that theirs is a viable book project capable of making a profit. The first step is to determine exactly who, and how large, your audience is. Write the book they want to read. Then when you’re ready to produce the book and publish, we can answer your questions about the next steps and help you on the path towards success.