Which book path is for you–traditional … self … independent–which? Four words can get you focused: timing, control, quality and money. All are key factors when it comes to publishing.
Timing—if your manuscript is completed, you can have it edited, cover and interiors designed, printed and in your hands within four months. With traditional publishing, you can have your manuscript completed and it will most likely be in your hands in 18 months.
Control—if you get a group of authors together who have traditionally published, one of the most common grumblings you will hear is that they don’t like the way their book looks—covers and interiors and they really have been in a fog when it comes to book sales.
Quality—in 2009, a close friend had her 5th book published by the same NY publisher that did my second book in the mid-eighties. Over 20 years between our respective publications. The book she proudly gave me was a month old and a trade paper. The interior paper was thinner than mine when we took it off my bookshelf to compare; my trade paper cover was still flat—hers was already curling up. Hers, of course, was twice the price of mine.
Money—is an important thing to look at. Most traditional publishers are pushing for “net” royalty deals. If your book is $20 retail, the net for sales to wholesalers and distributors will be less than $10 per book—meaning that the royalty is based on the less than $10 amount. The last two years have been brutal to the “average” author—non-fiction sales are in the 4,000-5,000 area. That means $4,000 to $5,000 in royalties—those lovelies that are paid twice a year, with a deferral of three months after each closing period; and usually with a hefty percentage hold-back for reserves—meaning books get turned back and the publisher wants to cover its tush and not overpay you (and come knocking on your door to now pay them). In other words, this isn’t going to seed your retirement—don’t quit the day job!
As a savvy self and independent publisher—when you create a platform to reach out to your crowd, your sales will not only be greater, the financial reward will be significantly greater. For me, I know that I can sell 3,000 copies of a book and net $40,000 to $50,000 higher than my traditional publishing contracts that I used to live with.
It’s your choice … but do the math always. Measure your time, investment and potential return.