Cover reveal and author reading. I’m doing a sneak peak author reading from my forthcoming romance Love on the Edge at the A Romantic Rendezvous Locked Down (ARRLD) online convention. Let me know if you like what you hear. Link to reading: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=tyUR-SB4Dxo&feature=youtu.be
Last week, we looked at the traditional publishing houses and the advantages and disadvantages they offer authors. Before we move on to digital only publishing, I want to make a last comment about publishers that offer self-publishing services and hybrid publishers.
Some of the big traditional publishers offer self-publishing services. Penguin Book used to do so although I think they have shut this service down or sold it. Simon & Schuster still has a self-publishing arm called Archway Publishing. Be very careful about using these services. Authors sometimes think that by using a publishing house’s self-publishing arm, they will gain access to the actual publisher. This is not true, and you will pay a premium for using their services.
Similarly, be very careful of hybrid publishers who want to go into ‘partnership’ with you in the ‘brave, brand, new world’ that is publishing today, charging you for production costs and sharing profits with you. If a publisher is charging you for editing services, layout, cover design or ebook conversion, they are not a proper publisher, large or small. If they don’t have a sales distribution service in place, they are not a proper publisher.
The problem with such organisations is that most of them are not discerning when it comes to manuscript selection. If you are prepared to pay for it, they are prepared to publish it. The result is usually a great deal of expense and not that many sales. If criticism scares you, rather self-publish and keep all the profits for yourself. The RWA and other organisations offer excellent courses on how to go about self-publishing. While there may be some good hybrid publishers out there, most of them are perilously close to the definition of a ‘vanity press’ where you are paying for the pleasure of seeing your name on a book without being worried about whether it will sell or not.
There are a couple of red alert signals to watch out for:
- They are more concerned about print books than ebooks. There is upfront money to be made in print runs. It goes out of your pocket and into the ‘publisher’s’.
- When you ask about sales, they say something like they will keep the books in the warehouse for you and you can direct booksellers to them. That’s a not-so-subtle way of saying you’re the sales person. Bricks and mortar booksellers don’t work like that. Booksellers have accounts with publishers and large distributors and expect reps to call on them. They want thirty-day terms and ‘sale or return’ privileges. This means that if the book doesn’t sell in ninety days, they can return it to the publisher for a full refund. You will end up with a warehouse full of very expensive gifts that are hard to store or post – books are heavy and take up a lot of space.
This brings us to another good option, especially for first time authors – digital first or digital only publishers. These publishers are geared up to focus on ebook sales. Sometimes they do small print runs to complement the ebook publication. Sometimes they don’t. Examples in Australia include Escape (a division of Harlequin, HarperCollins). International examples include Tule, Entangled, Sourcebooks, Carina Press, The Wild Rose Press and many others.
The disadvantage to the author of a big publisher – that you can be a small cog in a huge wheel – is the advantage you have when signing with a smaller press. You are likely to have a more personal relationship with the team and be on first name terms with everyone from the publisher down. Small publishers tend to operate along the same lines as bigger publishing houses, but they outsource more work and have fewer permanent staff. For example, they probably employ a core group of freelancers they use to design covers, edit manuscripts, and do layout and typesetting as well as outsource their sales to independent distribution companies. They will still not charge you for editorial services, cover design, or any other aspect of production. This is the core advantage to going with a publisher over self-publishing. They cover editing and production costs. The core advantage of self-publishing is that you maintain control over the product.
Back to digital first/digital-only publishers:
- Keen to work with first-time authors
- More personal relationships
- Most based overseas (America is the biggest market for all books)
- More experimental; will consider diverse and cross-genre publishing
- Quicker timeline to publication
- Larger percentage royalty/book paid
- Pay royalties more frequently than traditional publishers (four plus times per year as opposed to twice a year)
- Digital sales and presence are the keys to success for a romance author
- Only one operating in Australia; most based overseas
- Smaller staff; use freelancers
- May not print paperback of book
- Paperbacks may be more expensive due to small print runs
- No advance
- Offer basic marketing and sales services; may offer additional opt-in paid opportunities
This columns was originally published on the Romance Writers of Australia website.
While every author dreams of a six-figure contract and of going from obscurity to fame and fortune like JK Rowling and Nora Roberts, the reality is that hard work is required to find ‘instant’ fame. Part of that hard work is learning about the industry and identifying what type of publisher would suit your personality, style and genre.
Publishers aren’t always easy to identify, especially for new writers. Within the industry, publishing houses are well known and distinguished by the same characteristics that are used to separate other large organisations – success, ethics, innovation. However, publishers are focused on marketing their product brands – their authors and books – so they don’t put significant money into advertising their logos and companies. This has changed with the growth of social media; publishers now have Facebook pages and tweet under their company names. However, they still don’t have the brand profile of organisations like Apple, Amazon and Microsoft.
Not all publishers are created equal. There are the traditional publishers including the so-called ‘Big Five’, hybrid-model and digital first publishers and self-publishers, also known as indie-authors or indie-publishers. There are positives and negatives to each publishing type.
Traditional publishing houses focus primarily on print books although they all now publish ebooks as well. Some have long and distinguished histories. Many have merged over the years. Ebooks are usually published as an addition to a hardback or paperback, not as the only format. The Big Five are Penguin Random House, HarperCollins (now including the famous Harlequin Mills & Boon romance house), Hachette Livre, Simon and Schuster and MacMillan. All of the Big Five have romance lines. There are numerous smaller traditional publishers including Text and Allen & Unwin. They are more niche and not all of them publish romance.
- You will not have to contribute any funds to production or marketing.
- You will probably get an advance on your royalties (an upfront payment).
- Excellent editorial support.
- Superior book production.
- Confirmed marketing support, including bigger and better marketing and promotion campaigns including a tour if your book is a focus title.
- Additional support if you are a local author.
- Publication in paperback and ebook, possibly audiobook. You will be able to hold your book in your hands and see it on a shelf.
- Large sales and distribution networks.
- Foreign rights specialists who may be able to sell your book into other markets.
- You may need an agent to approach a traditional publisher, especially in America and England.
- The Big Five publish hundreds of titles per month. Your book will have internal as well as external competition.
- The ‘machine’ will roll on a month after your publication to other books.
- You have limited to no control over final title and cover, sales strategy and marketing spend.
- Traditional publishers focus less on digital sales, the primary market in romance.
- Their ebooks are more expensive which can price your book out of the market.
- They concentrate funds and energy on big names and money earners; if your book is a ‘midlist’ title you’ll get minimal marketing support.
Next week, we’ll look at the smaller publishing houses, digital only publishers and indie publishing.
This column was originally published on the Romance Writers of Australia website.