Let us begin by outlining a few sobering facts about self-publishing and the realities of becoming a published author. I have learned that expectation management is critical in publishing a book. Just a warning, this might hurt a bit.
- In 2018, there were over 1.68 million print and e-books self-published (paper books still outsell e-versions by a small margin) https://www.statista.com/statistics/249036/number-of-self-published-books-in-the-us-by-format/
- The average sales for self-published titles are 250 copies. https://nonfictionauthorsassociation.com/how-many-books-can-you-expect-to-sell-the-truth-about-book-sales-and-the-keys-to-generating-income-from-publishing/
- Only one out of a hundred book proposals will see a contract with a major publishing house.Advances are rare unless you are a household name.
- Royalties from major publishers are usually less than 10%
- Retailers have policies that require the publisher to purchase the book back if it’s returned.
- Retailers will only carry titles if the discount from the sales price is at least 54%
- Audible takes 70% of every sale.
- The average book sales at book signings are 12.
Look at the bright side people are still buying books and creating a book has become easier via print on demand like Amazon (KDP). The hard part is competing with all those titles.
There are only three publishing tracks for the most part. The differences are in the levels of support given and cost in creating the final product. Generally, they are as follows.
Print on Demand self-publishing (Canned book method).
Support level: Little to none (Basically, the author does everything).
Cost: Cheapest method (You get what you pay for).
Work Required: You do it all including:
- Edit (Do not try this yourself. Just saying). Come up with a great memorable title.
- Design a cover. Write the author’s bio.
- Write a description of the book.
- Secure an ISBN. (There are caveats to this)
- Obtain a barcode.
- Include copyright protections.
- Choose the size of the printed book. (You can go with an E-book only).
- Price the book correctly.
- Enter Key Words for SEO.
- Decide on bonding type, paperweight, and color.
- Add Contributors.
- Decide distribution channels.
- Load files and make corrections when rejected (Good luck on talking to an actual person to help out).
In the end, the author has entered all the information the platform needs to load the file onto a sales site automatically (this is why we call it the canned method). The result is a standard format devoid of a professional touch. The hardest part will be marketing the book, which is up to the author. Remember the 1.63 million total produced in 2018? I’ll give you a little hope, you won’t have to compete with the whole only a percentage, usually in the hundreds of thousands.
Pay to have published.
Support level: Good to excellent
Cost: Be ready to pay $5 to $10 thousand
Work Required: Less than self-publishing.
Companies like Lulu will help you with many, if not all, the parts of creating a book listed above. This help comes at a price and still requires the author’s sweat equity. Many of these companies produce excellent products. The reality is that they upsell products and services.
This category also includes publishers that offer ghostwriter services. Ghostwriters take a book idea and bring it to life. There is a caveat, it’s pricey.
Good ones start at around $30k to complete a book (60k -80k words), which is on the low end. Ghostwriting LLC is a very reputable company.
Publishing House (Remember the 1 in 100? This is that category).
Support level: You write it; they produce it.
Cost: They pay you (Royalties are usually less than 10%).
Work Required: Determination and resolve to continue after being rejected time and time again.
Most writers envision this level when thinking about being a published author. This level includes a contract with perks like advances and paid tours. What most inspiring authors don’t grasp is that unless the publisher knows the book is going to bring a profit, they will not give the proposal a minute of their time. The reason is cost.
The work is tedious and requires patience and skills that make any Word document guru look like a kindergartner.
Professional companies that beautiful craft books use programs that are specific to the publishing world operated by individuals that are experts in graphic design formatting and editing. These individuals are in high demand and hard to find. The work is tedious and requires patience and skills that make any Word document guru look like a kindergartner. These professionals command salaries that would be prohibitive to the average self-publishing author.
These companies have sales teams with networks of retailers that purchase books in bulk on day one of the book releases. They have professional marketing teams and analysts that evaluate a book’s ability to sell before a contract is signed. All of these professionals need compensation for their time and effort. All of this cost is fronted by the house and the reason why royalties are usually less than 10%.
These companies control every aspect of the production of the book. The pitfall is that the end product might not resemble anything the author set out to write.
An author I know secured a contract with a major publisher and was infuriated even though the book was a bestseller (bestseller status is subjective). The publisher had sensationalized the story, and in the process, distorted the real story.
Can you blame the publisher after knowing more about publishing?
Getting your work published is an exercise in deciding on the level of effort and how much money you want to spend. Now that you are better informed, you can narrow the playing field down into categories of effort cost and support.
Tactical 16 Publishing is an unconventional publisher that understands the therapeutic value, writing. We help Veterans and First Responders their family and friends to tell their stories in their words. You don’t have to be a polished author to join our ranks. If you can write with passion and be unapologetic, we want to talk. Go to Tacitcal16.com and contact us.