Monday, January 9, 2012

Publishing Secrets and Differences

As a writer we want nothing more than our work to be published. Unfortunately there are many other out there that are waiting to take advantage of the vulnerable writer. We send our work out and get rejection after rejection, but when that acceptance letter finally comes we feel like everything is going to be perfect somehow. I have been very lucky and blessed when it comes to my ventures in the publishing world, but I also did months and months of research. Many authors don't realize the different types of publishers out there. Just because they have the title publisher (publishing) in their company name can they be trusted. The same goes for literary agents and literary/writing contests. I want to help all the writers out there learn a little about the publishing world and teach you a few precautions to take while on your journey. 

The four most common types of publishers/publishing are Commercial publishers, subsidy publishers, vanity/subsidy publishers, self-publishing. Yes there is a difference between each one of these. But what are they? Well here are some definitions of publishers. 

A commercial or trade publisher purchases the right to publish a manuscript (usually together with other rights, known as subsidiary rights). Most pay an advance on royalties. Commercial publishers are highly selective, publishing only a tiny percentage of manuscripts submitted. They handle every aspect of editing, publication, distribution, and marketing. There are no costs to the author. Examples of Traditional publishers as described are Penguin Group, Random House, Simon & Schuster. These are a few of the more popular publishing houses. Larger houses such as those listed usually only accept solicited manuscripts, meaning you need an agent. With the rise in e-book sale more small presses have open and are still considered traditional, but do not offer advances. The nice thing is some of them accept un-solicited submissions, so you can go ahead without an agent. ALTHOUGH always follow the submission guidelines.
A vanity or subsidy publisher charges a fee to produce a book. They still present itself as a publisher and sometime call themselves traditional...but they aren't!. Some of these companies do little more than produce a print run that’s shipped to the author,while other companies that provide a menu of design, editing, distribution, and marketing services in addition to book production. Vanity/subsidy publishers may or may not be selective (if they are selective, it’s not likely that their gatekeeping processes are comparable to those of commercial publishers), and may or may not make a claim on authors’ rights. Marketing and distribution, if provided, are usually limited; as a result, most of the burden of promoting and selling falls on the author. Costs for vanity/subsidy publishing can rise into the five-figure range.
(Some fee-based publishers will try to convince you that there’s a difference between vanity and subsidy publishing (with subsidy publishing being more respectable). Others style themselves “joint venture” or “co-op” or “partner” or “equity” publishers in order to suggest that they’re contributing their own resources to the relationship. Don’t be fooled. Fee-based publishing is fee-based publishing, and whatever you’re paying, it covers 100% of the cost and then some.)
Self-publishing services fall somewhere between vanity/subsidy publishing and true self-publishing. Writers are restricted to the packages the service provides. Limited distribution is usually part of the package. Because self-pub services typically are digitally-based, upfront expense can be low–but most services heavily promote often-costly extras, such as marketing options, and take a hefty cut of sales proceeds in order to recoup their production costs. Most self-publishing services make a non-exclusive claim on authors’ rights. 
True self-publishing, like vanity publishing, requires the author to bear the entire cost of publication, and also leaves marketing and promotion to the author. However, rather than paying for a pre-set package of services, the author puts those services together himself. Because every aspect of the process can be out to bid, self-publishing can be much more cost effective than vanity publishing; it can also result in a higher-quality product. All rights, and all profits, remain with the author. This has become a popular way to publish and if thinking of any of the above other than Tradition (commercial/trade) publishing, this is the only other option I would suggest. 
These definitions and information was acquired for  P&E and Writer Beware. These are two site you MUST put under your favorites and read. They both offer a wealth of information to help protect the writer from scams. I suggest that before you submit anywhere or do anything else check these two sites. Both list publishers and agents to avoid.
Now for agents and contest, just because I mentioned them. It is the same as publishers, if you have to pay stay away! I'm not saying all contests that charge an entry fee are bad, but there's tons of free contests and even more close to free. Paying to enter all these contest can bankrupt an author before their book even gets read. With agents and publishers that charge a reading/review fee, well that's easy...DO NOT PAY A PENNY TO SUBMIT OR HAVE YOUR WORK READ! Ok, so maybe I didn't have to scream it at you, but I want you to hear me. Save your money, because here is another little secret...writers don't make much money. Now yes some have made millions or billions, but there are far more poor authors than rich ones. You see a book in the store, let's use mine for an example. In Chapters/Indigo (large bookstore chain in Canada) Immortal Embrace costs about $13. That's a good price for a paperback and it should add up fast right? Wrong, from that $13 first off the book store gets 45%, that's about $6. After that you have to take off printing, marketing, editing, cover art and so on. In the end from each print copy I get about $1. yes you read that right one whole dollar. Depending on where it is sold that can fluctuate up to a few dollars, but realistically it's a dollar. So as I said, save your money, you're gonna need it. 
I don't want to discourage anyone, if you know me you know I'm all about following your dreams. It just tears me apart to see so many author posting on face book how they got this amazing traditional publisher that opened last week and only charged them $1000 to publish and they think their books are going to be in Barnes and Noble next week. The truth of that is they just got scammed and I hate that it happened to them. I know a few authors that "self published" through a not so great company (that is named on Writer Beware) and lost tens of thousands of dollars and got like 50 copies of their book and that is it. 
the truth about getting your book into the book stores. Well it is not as easy as you think. Just because you are published doesn't get you a spot on the shelves of your local or national book store. Even being with one of the "Big Six" doesn't ensure your book will be there (although it does increase the chance). Once published your book has to meet criteria. It MUST be returnable, no book store will take a book they can't return if it doesn't sell. your book also has to be on the advance distribution list. If it's not on this list, the book store won't even know it exists (even if you call and tell them). From the list the stores buyer picks what books he/she will stock in their stores and there you have it. One person decides if your book gets into the stores or not. i have heard that some of the bigger publishers purchase spots in the stores for their writers, but this is rumor and I have no proof of that. 
Now please don't give up because there is one other way you can get your book into the stores. This is not super easy and it will cost you a pretty penny, but most book stores will stock a few copies of your book under consignment. This means you purchase the books from the printer/distributor and you provided them to the store. They will put them on the shelves and IF one sells they take their 45% of the cost and send you the remain 65%. Now that doesn't sound too bad right? Well it's not great, but it's not all bad either. Just make sure you take in to consideration the cost of printing and shipping your book as well as the stores percentage before setting your price or you could be out money. Also they will most likely only stock a hand full of copies at most. 
I really hope this has helped everyone understand a little more about how hard the publishing world is and you all do your research. I want you all to succeed, so keep trying and find the right publisher for you, just don't get vanity press confused with traditional. Remember a traditional publisher or agent WILL NOT charge you for their services.
Good luck to all and please comment if you have a story to share or a question to ask..I will respond :)

Charlotte Blackwell
Author of the Embrace Series
From World Castle Publishing


  1. Hi
    On my show I say some of the same things over and over again. There are some honest self- publishers out there but it is wise to see just how long they have been doing this. Everyone has to start somewhere but that doesn't mean it has to be with you! Check these companies before you decide to do something.
    Marsha Cook


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