Topic 3: Go with a traditional publisher, or go independent?

by Jacqueline Windh

So, any writer who has paid attention to the biz will know that the publishing world has been turned on its head these past two years. The advent of cheap paper-book printing services, and the proliferation of ereaders and ebooks, has suddenly made independent publishing become a realistic option for authors.

I am constantly blown away by how many writers do not know what standard publishing terms are. (Briefly, most “standard” publishing contracts for paper books result in earnings for the author of about 10% of the book’s retail price – so, for a book that retails for $20, the author would receive $20). The publisher handles printing and distribution, and receives 40-50% of the retail price for doing that – which seems fair to me (the remaining 40-50% goes to the bookseller). Formerly, the publisher would also do editing and marketing – but these days, depending upon the publisher, sometimes these tasks may fall more upon the author.

With the advent of ebooks, publishers have attempted to set a “standard” royalty to authors of around 25%  – trying to make that sound generous. But with ebooks, the publisher is not paying for any printing or distribution or warehousing, yet they are receiving a whopping 50-75% of retail price (for doing less!) because there is no longer a physical bookseller. Hmm, now that is not sounding so fair…

So authors do have a legitimate option, of focussing on ebooks and doing it all themselves. For example, selling a $2.99 ebook, where the online seller (e.g. Amazon, Apple) takes more like a 30% royalty for the service, leaves the author with $2.10 – more than they would have received for their $20 paperback published traditionally.

And authors do have the option of printing a paper edition of the book too. Printing options abound. But, from the limited research I have done, it seems that an independent author’s biggest challenge is getting our printed books out into physical distribution: both into physical bookstores, and on to the major online sellers such as Amazon.

So, let’s talk about it.

Here are a few links with background info (there is a wealth of info out there is you start googling it):

8 Reasons Self-Publishing is Entering a Golden Age
byJoel Frielander (one of the gurus of self-publishing)

Should you self-publish—or wait for a traditional deal?
by Sue Collier

You should self-publish
by Joe Konrath, another self-publishing guru and successful example (this is just one of his many articles chronicling his own self-publishing story – his whole site is worth spending time in if you are considering this route).

Think hard before self-publishing
by literary agent and blogger Rachelle Gardner

Yes, think hard before self-publishing–but understand what “true” self-publishing is first
a response to the above article, by Sue Collier

And a few questions – just answer the one(s) that grab you:

1. For people who are currently weighing out whether to seek a traditional publisher or to go independent, what are the factors you are looking at in making your decision? What questions do you have, that will help make your decision? (Maybe others will respond here).

2. To writers who have chosen to stick with traditional publishers: why?

3. To writers who have chosen to go independent: why? Are you facing challenges that you did not foresee in going this route? What advice do you have to other authors who are considering this?

4. As I noted above, I think the greatest challeneg to authors who chose to go independent is the distribution of the physical book. Does anyone have advice or info or experience in this that they can share?

5. And, if anyone has links to resources (good articles, or supportive companies that we should know about) – please share it here.

I look forward to this discussion! Please remember, comments using your real name are preferred – the idea is that we network, share, get to know one another.