Self-publishing has such a romantic ring to it … that pioneer spirit or the “Don Quixote” approach to getting your title in print. Self-publishing may be the only option available to most writers these days as major publishers are facing the same hardships as the auto making industry who find themselves overextended to say the least.
We are just beginning to realize the full impact of the publishers who were buying out every independent bookstore in the country to become the biggest bookstore on the block. This meant feeding those giant stores with more and more books with nearly a third returned unsold, representing another boom and bust in this economy. When sold at 70% discount as ‘remainder stock’ this comes right out of those royalty checks paid to authors.
Like General Motors who made many dumb decisions and can only blame themselves for the fix they found themselves in, the publishing industry midwifes made just as many asinine decisions by flooding the market with thousands of titles per month that did not have a prayer of selling.
I am convinced it was a Madison Avenue “marketing guru” or maybe one of the current crop of Wall Street “experts,” who convinced bookstores to adopt a fully refundable return policy that now averages 26% or higher of all books sold each year in the United States. That means for every 100 books sold, 26 come back too damaged to resale. With a billion books in circulation each year the losses are staggering but this stupid kind of marketing persists for no apparent reason other than bookstores asking their customers to screw them over and over again. In the end this costs comes right out of the hide of the authors.
In this sick and financially troubled society for many years we looked the other way in the clothing business where women would buy a dress at Neiman Marcus, Macy’s or The Broadway to wear to a wedding on the weekend only to return it on Monday to get their money back. Everyone in the department stores knew the dress showed the tell-tell stains and body odor that traveled along with the garment, but the policy continued for years. There are those who buy computer products that they download on their computer hard drive then take it back to the merchant knowing full well they still have a working copy at home on their computer, the computer industry made that trick impossible once you opened the disk. We have come to accept this kind of theft in our society because it does not hurt us it only hurts those “rich” merchants and manufacturers. In the book business it is quite clear, too many consumers buy a book, read it, spill coffee on, dog ear the pages and then demand their money back… little wonder the publishing industry continues to dig its own grave.
I have been in the publishing business for 28 years and have only given refunds for defective or damaged books on rare occasions and I still manage to survive. If you are thinking about self-publishing you also need to think about how you are going to market your book. Keep in mind, people buy things on eBay or Craig’s list where sales are final, why should books be any different? We have a sickness in this society that intellectual property rights are ripe for the taking.
And guess who eats the cost of these returned books? Not just the publisher, the authors receive ‘reverse-charges’ for the returning freight and a subtraction for the retail sale that has one hell of an impact on that 10% royalty check. A little detail that is usually left out of contract negotiations with new authors. In most of those 10% royalty contracts it is not uncommon for an author to only realize about 4%. You need to sell tens of thousands of books to ever see a $50,000 royalty check and few are this lucky. Like Don Quixote the entire process is indeed like fighting windmills… the other side of the publishing industry rarely talked about in the media.
The flip side of this coin is Self-publishing, an option that transforms a writer into an instant publishing technician. This carries the risks of simple mistakes costing thousands of dollars. Or worse, the kind of errors that make a final book not look very professional web. If Self-publishing is your option then seek out those with the kind of experience that can enhance your chances for success.
Financial risk is the main reason most publishers will not produce new titles. Publishing, like other businesses is based on profit. Some authors are willing to take the risks of financing the production of their books and do the marketing and distribution themselves. This is called “Vanity Press.” I have designed, produced and published over 250 titles in both vanity and co-publishing arrangements and have self-published 9 books of my own.
Defeat Foreclosure (www.defeatforeclosure.org) is a book I wrote and published early in 2008, it was written to assist homeowners in this financial crisis.
My current book, The Nursing Home Crisis (www.thenursinghomecrisis.com) is based on the experiences of several relatives confined to a nursing home including my mother who died in one. If you are considering going into a nursing home or placing a loved one in an elder care facility don’t do it until you read this book. My newest books include, Sleep Seekers and Serbia: Faces & Places.
A good portion of the publishing risk can be eliminated by considering co-publishing as the best option for authors who are willing to make a financial commitment and do the extra leg work on their title and to join forces with publishing professionals who will hand-hold them through the entire publishing process. Co-publishing is a more harmonious relationship in which the author participates in all of the decision-making. In my company we provide an atmosphere in which an author earns up to 60% of the profit from their book.
In co-publishing the publisher has the experience and background which they are willing to share in exchange for a portion of the profits generated by your title. These professionals typically oversee supervision of copy editing, book and cover design, book packaging, printing supervision, binding expertise, internet marketing, publicity, mailing and distribution … all of the important aspects that make a book a success.
In addition to providing a clean double-spaced manuscript and a financial investment in the book the author needs to assist in defining their market. A list of names of experts in your field or subject who can be helpful in promoting your book is an asset. The author should determine interest groups or organizations where guest appearances can be made. A book in print opens doors that could not be opened any other way. A book can get you on talk radio and television. Researching these contacts is vital for the success of your book. As a result of a book in print, there are many situations where you can be called upon as an expert in your field. An English language version of your book can also lead to foreign translation rights.
I will devote more time and space in this blog to all of the advantages and options related to self-publishing. With 20 years of experience in the printing industry and 28 years in self-publishing this blog may be one of the viable options available to writers, especially in this current market. My next article will be about the publishing industry giants seeking a bailout.
For more information visit www.gmbooks.com
Posted on 01/27/2012 at 11:00:00 AM