Any way you slice it


How many of you dream about walking past your favorite bookstore and seeing your novel displayed in the front window, or even gracing the shelves for that matter? Most of us, I would venture to say. Some believe the only way to attain this goal and succeed in this business is to be picked up by a traditional publisher, and while that may have been true at one time, thankfully this is no longer the case.

I’m always amazed when I hear fellow authors say that anyone who pays to have their book published, meaning any route other than traditional publishing, isn’t a real author. Well, I’m here to tell you, that no matter which route you take on your road to being published, any way you slice it, you’re going to pay for a piece of the literary pie!

You can choose a publisher that uses the POD method of printing, who charges fees for various services (many of which claim to do more than they actually do), and take a percent (albeit usually small), of all sales; but in the end, you have a published novel with it’s own ISBN and LCCN number, a listing in Ingram’s books in print catalog, and a book that is readily available for purchase at Amazon and most chain bookstores. This service varies widely and can run from a few hundred dollars well into the thousands. Be sure to do your homework if choosing this method and read your contract carefully.

You can dive headlong into the journey of becoming your own publisher, which takes a great deal of time as well as money, but in the end you retain all profits, once you’ve recouped your expenses. If you search the internet, you will find and endless array of books written by self published authors, many bestselling novels as well as classics adorn the lists. Many of these authors are willing to share their secrets…for a price mind you, and while there are no secrets in this business, no proven formulas and no magic potions, hats off to them for taking on such an ambitious endeavor!

Small press publishers are virtually in every town across the country and many are eager to jump into the book publishing business whether they have any experience or not. This is not to say that all small press publishers are inexperienced, far from it, but I’ve heard my share of horror stories from authors who spent thousands of dollars to have their books published (printed), only to reach the end of their journey and be left with a flawed book, (falling out or missing pages, not properly formatted, misaligned cover photos, etc.). On a more serious note, I know of a few small presses that went out of business and left the authors high and dry, with or without their published novel. This is certainly the exception to the rule, but these things do happen.

Just be careful and do your homework before signing with a small press and be sure to ask for a list of authors whose books they have published then contact them and ask about their experience. You’ll find more often than not, an author is more than happy to give you the information you’re seeking.

Finally, if it’s the traditional method you prefer then you should be prepared to search and retain a literary agent, as most traditional publishers won’t give you the time of day unless you are represented by an agent. You will need to contact the agents with a query letter, synopsis and outline of your book and be ready to submit your manuscript should it be requested. You’ll find that some agents try to charge a reading fee; these agents should be avoided at all cost, as any legitimate agent does not charge the author for anything. Once you obtain representation, you can expect to pay at least 15% of your earnings, as this seems to be the normal industry standard.

One thing to keep in mind, if you succeed in retaining an agent and get a book deal with a traditional publisher, it can take anywhere from 1 to 3 years to see your book in print, then you have an allotted timeframe to meet the publishers sales quota that they have set for your book before it’s pulled off the shelves and deemed out of print. You can also expect to give up that catchy title and cover you worked so hard to develop as well as facing the possibility of edits that you might be less than thrilled with. It’s all part of the game.

What’s that you say…you deserve to be paid an advance by a traditional publisher to have your masterpiece published? Of course you do, we all do, but I personally know of five romance authors who signed contracts and received advances from a few of the top selling romance publishers in the industry, only to be sued for the amount of their advance because their books didn’t meet the publishers sales expectations. Were they warned this might happen? Told to hold on to that advance just in case they had to pay it back…probably somewhere in the fine print, but it certainly came as a surprise to them when it happened.

Any way you look at it, all of these options cost money to pursue, so one way or another, you, as an author, pay to have your novel published. It may not be pleasant, but it’s the nature of this beast! But don’t be discouraged…there are so many options available these days that not having your book published might be more difficult.

Just remember, no matter which road you choose, educate yourself, do your research first. Ask questions even if you feel they might be inappropriate; no matter who you’re dealing with, there are no inappropriate questions, and if you truly are dealing with professionals, then they will be more than happy to answer your questions and provide you with references as well.

Remember, this is your baby we’re talking about…the one you’ve labored over for months, possibly years. Don’t trust it with just anyone. And one more thing to remember that some authors tend to overlook or simply don’t realize; No matter how your book is published, you are still responsible for promoting your work and getting it into the hands of the readers. There’s no doubt that you can pay someone to pretend they have an interest in your work, but only you can make it happen!

Believe in your dreams…

Jill Terry
Author ׀ Poet ׀ Wordsmith Extraordinaire


Filed under Articles, Essays, Publishing, The Writing Life

2 responses to “Any way you slice it

  1. Great article Jill, as an author I continue to ask myself, why would I go the traditional route? The cons are so much more than the pros like you explained here. One thing you didn’t mention is that if your book doesn’t sell as expected and it is destined to go to the out of print status you can buy back the book’s rights. Books don’t sell sometimes for lack of name recognition and poor book promotion. Unless you are a proven author most traditional publisher don’t put too much time and money into the book’s promotion, it is up to the author to do most of the promotion and if the author lacks the knowledge to promote it is very hard to meet their expectations. In this case the “if it’s ought to be, it’s up to me” goes perfect and authors no matter which way they are published most know the business of book marketing in order to survive.

    Clary Lopez
    Free Book Promotion

  2. Here is an interesting blog entry that speaks about the situation of a first time or no name author with a traditional publishing company.

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