What Are Your Choices Really?
The Publishing Options You Face
Outside of shelving the whole project, if you are rejected by mainstream publishers, you are conventionally left with three publishing choices. Here's a breakdown of these options:
• Option 1
Self-publishing an ebook and/or print-on-demand paperback. You can try using Amazon KDP, Smashwords, or a similar Internet-based site. There's quite a steep learning curve involved here, but many manage to master the rudiments of this option. (How well is another matter.) You will need to learn how to edit, copy edit, and proofread, and then decide on interior book design, and upload text into an automated system (or pay a consultant to do so). A book cover will need to be found or created. The vendor will "publish" your book but it will likely be a crude version of what you envisioned.
If you elect a print-on-demand option this will add yet another layer of complexity--and cost. With the "publication" of your book by any other vendor than Amazon (e.g. Ingram Spark or Smashwords), you will need to choose and then integrate and monitor all the sites where your book can be purchased. To publish the books successfully, you will also have to hire a specialist consultant or do the marketing and promotion of the book yourself. You will need to constantly market, promote, and publicize your book and that's another set of skills that must be mastered.
Many people think they can cook an omelet but the test of a good chef is cooking one properly. The same is true of publishing a book. It seems simple until you try it. Finally, the whole project will be in your hands, and any problems that develop are yours and yours alone.
More likely that no, $0.00. Sure, all earned income (not just royalties) will be yours. But sales are heavily dependent on publication quality and sustained marketing. But perhaps you should also factor in the "cost" of all that time and effort you’ve spent to get the book produced, plus the "cost" of discovering and correcting the inevitable mistakes that will occur in the production process. Regardless, you will likely still also incur costs for marketing and promotion, and you will have to spend time to monitor the booksellers’ dashboards for royalty income.
• Option 2
Hire a knowledgeable editorial consultant. First hurdle: how do you find a good one? How do you know they are who they say they are. They make their living telling you what you want to hear, that you are wonderful and so is your book, and they can’t wait to “fix” it for you. Speaking “truth to power” is not much of a money making strategy, and their goal is to make money and move on to the next client as quickly and smoothly as possible. Make no mistake, there are a lot of good editorial consultants out there, but there are, unfortunately, a lot more inexperienced if not outright charlatans out there as well. How can you tell the difference? Truth is, it’s about serious research and word of mouth for the most part.
The consultant will guide and coordinate the various steps that arise in the pre-publication of your book and will deal with any additional aspects of your particular project choices. As a manager (such as those of LSB Editorial), the consultant will charge you accordingly, but the book is assured of reaching a production-ready quality state. At this point, the consultant typically has no further involvement in bringing your book to market.
Typically, a consultant’s services include minimal editorial line editing, limited copy editing, and perhaps some minimal proofreading. Additional charges apply for your book’s ISBN licensing and submission to the U.S. Library of Congress, Smashwords, or Ingram Spark, etc., as well as more extensive line editing, indexing, hardcover production, or other unusual production requirements.
Ideally, you will want to hire someone experienced in the genre of your project—literary, mystery, romance, SF and fantasy, etc. Finally, your book will be published under an imprint name of your choice. And you would be solely responsible for monitoring the project once the book is available for sale. All income from the book goes to you, but you will have to handle collecting anything due you.
Odds of bookstore sales are minimal to non-existent. You are responsible for all marketing and publicity for you and your book unless you hire an expert.
For e-book-only publication, LSB Editorial acting as a project manager, for example, generally charges a minimum of $6,000. This is typical minimum of what you can expect to pay an experienced editorial consultant. You are also responsible for any cover creation fees. (For a print-on-demand edition, an extra minimum charge of $1,000 would likely be incurred, which might include interior book design.)
• Option 3
A small e-book publisher. There would not a print edition of your book. Do not expect any advance against royalties—unlike with most traditional print publishers, and no bookstore sales possibilities. In all likelihood the marketing and promotion will still be left to the you, but a minimal amount might be done by the publisher.
You cede your material to the publisher and will be utterly without recourse in terms of continued publisher enthusiasm or interest in your project unless you ask to get them to revert the book's rights to you, which most will agree to do, leaving back at square one again. Such publishers usually work from a limited number of turnkey, “one size fits all” production templates. These set such things as interior page design, footnoting, etc. There will likely be a choice of a basic, two color, generic book cover. Again, you will be responsible for marketing and promoting the book.
Because it is e-book only, distribution and sales and marketing are potentially done through Amazon and sometimes, but not always, the publisher's web site. Sometimes it is also available through another site such as Smashwords, but Amazon is pretty jealous of the tools and help it provides and discourages publishers from using their competition. Some editing may be available, but in order for such companies to be cost effective the skill level and experience of the editors is often questionable (e.g., high school or college English teachers), rather than experienced publishing industry professionals who understand the demands of a genre, or of nonfiction books written on a particular subject (e.g. business books).
Production checks and proof reading are often done by algorithm rather than humans thus keeping down the production costs the publisher has agreed to absorb. Some publishers will allow the author to revert the book (i.e., take it out of print) with little notice needed, others might push back. Some may insist on a 50/50 split of all sub-rights including dramatic.
For e-book publication only, typically $0.00. But there’s no royalty advance as with mainstream publishers. Extras, such as freelance consultants for marketing and promotion of your book, will be charged to the author. Such costs could range from $3,000 on up, but there’s no limit with marketing and promotional costs. Typically, there is no help from these publishers with finding, vetting, or partnering with reliable consultants. Indeed, some publishers insist on retaining control over marketing and may resist working closely with any third parties they have not chosen. If there are book earnings, the greater proportion will likely go to the e-book publisher by contract, though a 25% royalty, or in some cases a higher (though usually less than 50%) royalty, may be offered to the author.
Learn more about the “The New Publishing Option."