Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Print Pub vs. E Pub vs. DIY (Indie) Publishing

This handout is from a talk I gave to the Northern AZ Romance Writers in Prescott last month. It's an update of my "Print vs. epub" talk, with added information about the new self-pub options available to writers.

My take is that each form of publishing has its trade-offs--and that you need to understand what you get and what you give up.

The Current Face of Publishing
Print Publishers, E-publishers, DIY E-publishing

Your Publishing Path = Your goals (achievement, financial) + understanding the trade-offs involved in each type of publishing

Your path is your path, no matter which one others perceive
as more "prestigious" or financially sound.

Print "New York" (Traditional) Publishers

Predominantly New York-based large corporate publishers (Random House, St. Martin's, Penguin [Berkley, NAL, Signet], Kensington, Harlequin, Grand Central [Hatchett])

Distribution to major chain bookstores and big box stores
(Walmart, Target)
Aggressive marketing to booksellers who in turn market your book
International distribution
Potential of high advances (six figures and up)
Increased possibility for making national best-seller lists
Some large publishers now offering ebook first lines

Only top-tier authors and authors whom editors wish to build get large advances and aggressive marketing to booksellers

A system that can quickly kill careers of mid-list authors (diminishing print runs, no support w/ booksellers)

Advances, even large ones, dribbled out over several years

No author control over covers, book price, distribution, print runs, publishing schedule

Royalty payments twice a year, only if book has earned out its advance

Authors must market to readers (via social networks, booksignings, conventions, promotion materials) and foot the costs

Comparatively low ebook royalties (25% of net proceeds is common; can be as low as 6% of cover price)

Authors can feel lost or neglected in huge corporations

Publishers tend to focus on narrow band of "what sells"

Small (Print) Press

Independent presses, some with only two or three employees; specialized presses (one genre only, or distribution to one channel, e.g., libraries). Examples: Avalon, Poisoned Pen, Walker Books, ImaJinn

Smaller, family-like atmosphere
Small presses can be prestigious and produce award-winning authors
Good distribution within specialization
Good sales and/ or awards at small press can lead to contracts at larger presses.
Some small presses can sell mass market rights to get you wider distribution.

Very small advances ($500-$1000) and small chance of earn-out
Limited distribution
Small print runs
Little or no author control over price, print run, distribution, publication schedule (though more author input is possible)

Ebook Publishers ("Ebook First" Pubs)

Small to medium-sized publishers, sometimes specializing in one or two genres (e.g., romance; erotic romance), publishes ebooks first, then might publish a small run of print books or POD books. Examples: Samhain, Ellora's Cave, LooseID

Well-established publishers have loyal readerships
Distribution to predominant ebook vendors (Amazon, B&N, Sony)
Higher ebook royalty rates than print houses (30-40% of cover price is common)
Quarterly to monthly royalty payments
Some epubs now placing authors on New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists

No advances
Little to no author control over covers (though more flexibility in this area)
No author control over price, publication schedule, print publications
Print publication of the ebook follows slowly, sometimes not at all
Saturation of ebook market means fewer sales per author

Do-It-Yourself Ebook Publishing (Indie Publishing)

Authors use services such as Kindle Direct Publishing; PubIt (Barnes & Noble), and Smashwords to package and distribute ebooks

Distribution to all major e-vendors (Amazon, B&N, Sony, Kobo, and others)
Higher royalty rates (35-70% of cover price)
Monthly or quarterly royalty payments
Complete author control over covers, pricing, distribution, publication schedule, marketing, and story
Books can earn into the hundreds of thousands of dollars
Cover and formatting costs can be minimal ($100-$300 per book)
Instant access to sales numbers

No advances
Author assumes all cost and responsibility for editing / proofreading ms
Author assumes all costs for packaging and marketing the book: Cover design, formatting, marketing materials, advertising
Non-writing aspects (marketing, ms. formatting, etc) can be time and labor intensive
Print distribution minimal
Not all books earn high $ amounts

Conclusion: Carefully consider your options before taking the plunge in any direction, and understand the pitfalls you may encounter. Realize that no publishing career will be without ups and downs, mistakes, and setbacks. Understand what each publishing model can do for you, and what it can't, and plan accordingly.