YE OLDE PRINT PUBLISHING
For decades, writers have been limited to publishing hardback and paperback books via three basic methods (traditional, self, and vanity).
Traditional = The supposedly preferred method to get a book published is through an agent and a legitimate publisher, waiting months or years for your work to be accepted, edited and produced, then watching it go out of print too soon because the sales are too low. A traditional publisher buys the exclusive rights to publish the author’s book, and the author who pays nothing receives an advance against future royalties. After the sales earn back your advance, then you start receiving 8-12% on future sales. The publisher handles and funds all aspects of production and distribution, which is why they accept only a very small percentage of the manuscripts they receive for consideration.
Self-Publishing = For complete author control you can take on all aspects and costs of production yourself, from editing, cover art, printing, marketing, distribution, copyright, ISBNs , etc. The author often contracts with various companies for some of the services needed. Some authors form their own one-man publishing company to gain access to distributors for their self-published books. You could wind up with a hundred books stored in your basement and trying to peddle them from the trunk of your car.
Vanity Presses = Most of them charge you a hefty fee to produce your book, but have a bad reputation because they are little concerned with quality and will publish anything. They don’t bother to promote or distribute your book, relying mostly on author purchases for their profits. If the publisher does fund the cost of production, the book is usually offered for sale at a much higher price than comparable books in an attempt to recoup their investment.
THE RULES HAVE CHANGED
Print on Demand = The good news is that modern methods have evolved to replace the old printer, storage and distribution nightmare. For example, Create Space will provide print-on-demand POD services for self-publishers for a cut of the sales, which is better than hiring a printer. You won’t have a bunch of books sitting around in a warehouse or basement. They can do both hard-copy and e-book publishing for you. Each book ordered is instantly printed and distributed via Lighting Source as orders come in from Amazon and other booksellers worldwide.
Co-Publishing = Co-publishers are basically some of the old vanity presses mentioned above trying to reinvent themselves to appear more respectable and legitimate. Subsidy publishers are generally less selective than traditional publishers, taking a larger percentage of the manuscripts they receive for consideration, and indeed some are still rip-offs, yet a few of the more professional and reputable ones are very concerned about quality and their good reputation.
If all the tasks of self-publishing seem too daunting for you to bear, you can hire a co-publisher like iUniverse, AuthorHouse , Lulu, or Secret Cravings, to do some or all of the self-publishing chores for you, and probably in a more professional manner. They can handle editing, cover art, marketing, distribution and obtain ISBNs all for a price, while the author retains ownership of the work. They all use the print-on-demand (POD) systems. They can do e-books or hard copies. The author receives an author’s discount for his own purchases, plus a royalty on sales that come in, but no advance on the sales. The cost to hire a subsidy publisher like this, depends on how many services you want to buy from them. Some of these companies are better than others, and you just have to determine what services you can afford, and do your homework.
E-Publishing = The good news is that sales on e-platforms are outselling print books. Authors have more power to be seen and heard in our digitalized, connected world than ever. With the empowerment of the internet, e-publishing has evolved into an easy DIY process, and it has opened the door for micro-niches that are too small for traditional publishers to be interested in. Ebooks present new opportunities for authors in the way of larger royalties, more control, and more exposure.
Anyone can publish a book at next to no cost and put it out on the web. Maybe this is a good thing as a portal to bringing unrecognized talent to the forefront. The flipside is simply transferring the slush pile from the editor’s or agent’s desk directly to the public, a situation maybe not so good.
Today millions of people own an e-reader like Nook, Kindle, or iPad, and as a result more and more people are reading on a regular basis. There is something to be said for curling up with a good printed book—just the sensory experience of touching and smelling a real book—yet the lure of accessing so many titles on an e-reader cannot be denied. Just imagine all those stories available on that one little device. Now people with sight issues can simply increase the font size to make reading easier.
Perhaps the most glaring characteristic of ebooks is their lower price. An ebook on Kindle is $9.99 instead of $26 for a hardback or $18.95 for a trade paperback. Ebooks with no overhead are simply cheaper and easier to produce. So far, author incomes have not suffered, because ebook royalty percentages are much higher than print royalties. However, the reduced customer price has vastly increased competition, and not just for authors bypassing the traditional agent-publisher route. Just to stay in the game, traditional publishers are busy producing ebooks as well.
Just google “How to publish on the web”, and you will turn up a number of do-it-yourself options. Here are some biggies:
Amazon Kindle Store = If you google “How to publish on Kindle”, you will learn that it is free, fast, and easy to upload your manuscript. Books self-published through Kindle Direct Publishing get a 70% royalty and are available for purchase on all Kindle devices. Amazon has ingeniously created an app that turns every iPad into a Kindle. Now apps are available for iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, PC, Mac, Blackberry, and Android-based devices. You can publish your books in English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian and specify pricing in US Dollars, Pounds Sterling, and Euros.
iBooks on Apple = Just google “How to publish an ibook to the Apple bookstore.” From what I can tell, the iBookstore is a little harder to get into without some special formatting program. But it can be done. Don’t get caught up on whether to go with Kindle or iPad … do both!
Nook Press = Barnes and Noble set up their own self-publishing system for their Nook ebook readers. Google “Nook Press” or “How to publish on Nook”
Smashwords = A self-serve publishing service and ebook distribution system for Indy books that is fast, free and supposedly easy. But I have heard that formatting is a nightmare.
Just like self-publishing has released us from the gatekeepers, crowd-funding has freed us from the bureaucracy of grants. While there are still grants out there, in the same time it takes to apply and wait for the decision, a writer can set up a crowd-funding campaign, see it through, and publish the book. No longer are we powerless, waiting for months to see if our grant application passes muster and qualifies for what is often a small amount of money. Today crowd-funding gives writers a sense of empowerment. Through crowd-funding, you can orchestrate your own fundraiser, ask for as much or as little as you wish, even raise the figure midstream. You get to flaunt yourself in the crowd-funding process,which often involves video, prizes and regular updates to your supporters.