The business of publishing continues to evolve and new finance models have emerged offering authors more than the option to self-publish or go the traditional route. Between the five big commercial trade presses – Penguin Random House, Hatchette Book Group, Harper Collins, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster – and self-publishing with Blurb, or Smashwords, there are new routes for writers to consider in their pursuit of publication.
Small and independent presses can’t offer authors large advances or extravagant marketing campaigns, but they do offer many advantages over self-publishing including distribution. Most self-published authors recognize the difficulty of getting their books into retail stores and libraries because they lack access to the distribution systems used by publishers. Finding a good fit with a small publisher who champions your manuscript can be an ideal scenario for authors.
Some presses, if they endorse your manuscript editorially, may negotiate with an author for a subsidy to proceed with publication. When an author invests in the initial production costs, it is possible to negotiate a higher copyright royalty rate in lieu of an advance. Subsidy publication is an avenue to explore. Find a benefactor, or if the author has the financial resources, to provide a subsidy for the production expenses of publication. Subsidy publication is a “dirty little secret” in the publishing business. Many traditional publishers don’t want it well known that such business arrangements can be made outside of their traditional editorial decisions. That’s because an author must still meet all their other editorial criteria before a subsidy can be discussed. When the level of financial risk is too great for a publisher to take on a project, a subsidy may be suggested. Publishers are more willing to invest in a project if the author is equally invested in the success of the book. Subsidy publication is not new. Museums underwrite art/illustrated/photo books based on major art or historical exhibitions, national organizations and think tanks publish research and white papers, and private foundations and government grants have helped subsidize the publication of books.
Non-profit publishers and cooperatives offer some of the advantages of traditional publishers, like marketing, sales and distribution. Financial risk in publishing is shared collectively and financial rewards are reinvested. Some of these publishing business models have endured the test of time. Beacon Press, for example.
Crowdsourcing a book’s publication is a relatively new phenomena. KickStarter and IndieGoGo are two of the most prominent sites for raising funds for publication. This is not an option but for a few. In order to crowd source financing, an author already needs to have a crowd, fans, and lots and lots of friends and family who will pony up with cash pledges. In 2012, only 30% of book projects received funding on Kickstarter, and almost a third of those were for comic books. It works great for Neil Gaiman but not so much if you aren’t already a major public literary figure.
Some new publishers offer ebook publication only. Others only print-on-demand. The range of options for self-publishing continues to explode.
There is no one route right for every author. Which path to choose? Here are the key factors to consider:
- Economic and technological resources of author
- Long term writing and publishing goals
- Particular qualities about your writing (genre, subject matter, audience)
- Personal strengths and weaknesses
If you’re looking to get on the right path toward publication of your book manuscript, contact us for a consultation.