It’s crazy to think about how the business of writing fiction has changed in the last five years. With Amazon, Smashwords, Lulu, and a plethora of other online and print options, it’s become much easier for writers of all levels to see their work in print.
Now, I’ll admit I was a little slow to accept self-publishing as a viable alternative. I caught myself holding an elitist view that writers choosing to self-publish were “authors who couldn’t make the cut.”
But that view is so off-base. There is a large number of writers who primarily self-publish, and some who even manage to make a living doing so. And even though it’s not the path I’ve chosen, it’s a path I completely respect and, in some cases, would even encourage other writers to consider.
So with that said, I’d like to look at the cost and profit of self-publishing versus using a small press publisher.
If you self-publish, there’s a pretty good change you’ll have to cough up some cash. A lot goes into a book, and if you self publish, it’s all on you. A cover artist, a developmental editor, and a copy editor are the three most important jobs you might need to outsource. You’ll also be responsible for printing fees if you decide to publish a paperback version. The good news is that there are some companies that will work with self-published authors and provide some or all of these services, as well as assistance with your marketing and platform.
With a small press publisher, the editing, cover art, and some marketing is done in house, so you this is one expense (and job) you don’t have to worry about. Pending on the size of the company, you might get come author’s copies free of charge as well as copies for review sites, and you should be able to purchase as many copies as you like at cost to sell on your own.
One thing to keep in mind: Never pay anyone to publish your book. If a “publisher” has fees, they are not a publisher; they are a vanity press and should be avoided.
From what I’ve seen, most small publishers don’t pay an advance, or if they do, it’s very small. Instead, payments to the author are based on a percent of sales. A typical royalty payment is anywhere between 20-40 percent of the cover price.
You’re profit self-publishing will vary based on the format of your novel and where you make it available. I believe publishing and ebook directly to Kindle will earn a 70% royalty. If you print from a POD company, your profit is whatever you can get away with charging on top of the print fees.
In some ways, I’d almost consider this a wash. Where you’ll spend a chunk of money up front self-publishing, you might make up for it in sales later, whereas with a small press publisher, you’ll pay nothing up front, but they’ll be getting a higher percent of sales as long as the book remains in print.
But what about traditional publishing?
Traditional publishing to one of the big
six five (or four?) publishers will generally involve finding a literary agent to sell your book to the publisher. Your agent will get a cut from your royalties and your advance. In the context of this post, however, you can’t really compare large publishing houses to small press or self-publishing, so I intentionally left them out.
There is obviously much more that can be said about traditional vs. small press vs. self-publishing, but I’ll save it for a future post.
Until then, feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think about it!