1. aimi_aiko
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    aimi_aiko Contributing Member

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    Self-Publishing vs. Third-Party

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by aimi_aiko, Apr 4, 2011.

    I just became quite interested in finding out, which is most expensive for a writer, self-publishing or being published by big time (or small time) publishers?
     
  2. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    Self-publishing is obviously more expensive for the writer. If a real publisher asks you for money there's something awfully screwy going on. Though sending out all them manuscripts can run up a bill.
     
  3. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was about to ask the same thing-which publishers CHARGE their writers to publish their work? :eek:
     
  4. flanneryohello
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    flanneryohello Member

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    Self-publishing is more expensive for the writer, since you should never be paying a legitimate publisher anything. They pay you. They also supply cover design, editing, and marketing efforts.

    When you self-publish, you must pay for cover design, editing, marketing, and printing (unless you're doing ebook-only) by yourself.

    The flip side of the coin is that because publishers are providing so many resources to edit, package, market, and distribute your work, they take the largest percentage of any revenue (usually 80-90%). A typical royalty from a traditional publisher is anywhere from 10 - 20%. Even after a self-published author accounts for their own financial investment, they often end up making more money by going the self-publishing route.

    Look at it this way: when you're published traditionally, you assume none of the financial risk, and as a result you wind up with a lesser share of the reward. When you self-publish, you assume 100% of the financial risk, but you also get 100% of any potential reward.
     
  5. flanneryohello
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    flanneryohello Member

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    A vanity publisher charges--and they should be avoided at all costs. Writers should either self-publish on their own (not pay a company to publish for them), or they should submit until they find a traditional publisher who wants to take them on, no investment required. Those are the only real options.
     
  6. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I guess I am unsure what 'revenue' means.

    A writer normally gets a % of the cover price, depending on the format (mass market, trade paperback, hardcover, ebook, audiobook). If an author earns, say 15% for each hardcover owned (minus 15% of that the agent if the author has one), how does that result in 85% going to the publisher?

    If the 'revenue' is based on net (the amount remaining after expenses are factored in) then if the author is only getting 15% of that, well, they should have gotten an agent to negotiate their contract--or a better agent. At least in my opinion.

    I don't know of any statistics that indicate a self-pubished author often ends up making more than a traditionally published author. Of course, that depends on what 'often' means in the context of the statement. If the stats are out there, the'd be interesting to read.

    That's not to say that self-published authors can't or don't do well. (The defintion of 'well' would vary from individual to indivdiual) And it also depends on which publisher an author is published by with respect to how well they might do. The larger the publisher, and the better the distribution network and marketing support, the more likley a traditionally published author will do better.

    Then again, there is the notion of what you would rather do more, write or be a publisher, as discussed in this article: Self-publishing: but dude, I just wanna be a writer
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ff...
    how can being published by a paying press cost anything?
     
  8. flanneryohello
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    flanneryohello Member

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    Revenue would be the total amount earned from book sales, which is not the net. If I get a 10% royalty on a book with a $10 cover price, that means I earn $1 for every book sold. The publisher takes the other $9, which they use to pay the expenses associated with that book--and what's left over is the publisher's profit.

    My publisher pays royalties on a scale based on total number of books sold. So I get like 8% of the first X number of copies, 10% between X and Y number of copies, and then it goes to 12% after Z number of copies. That's for print. For ebooks I earn more, but still only about 25%. Because, after all, the publisher is still the one who took the financial risk and provided the cover design, editing, and marketing.

    I doubt there are many "statistics" out there, or any concept of what an "average" self-published author makes versus an "average" traditionally published author (over the lifetime of a book...which, for a self-published author, can easily be forever, whereas with a traditional publisher it's more often finite). That's because the concept that a self-published author can actually find real success is still somewhat new, thanks to the new ease of distribution and exploding popularity of ebooks.

    Here's the thing...I think you've got a better chance of exploding like Stephenie Meyers as a traditionally published author. That's simply because a publisher has resources and reach that the average newbie author just doesn't. However, the chance of any author exploding like Stephenie Meyers is extremely low. And one only needs to Google the name Amanda Hocking to see that "explosion potential" is also there for self-publishers. The girl made, what, $4 million in one year of self-publishing ($2 million of which is from her newly signed traditional publishing deal, offered due to her self-publishing success)? Again, the chance of any given self-published author doing that is also low.

    In other words, finding tremendous success as an author, no matter how you're published, is a crap shoot. It takes not only skill, but also luck.

    I do think, at this point, that it's easier for a self-published author to make a living wage by self-publishing. If you can overcome the lingering stigma of being "self-published" and see one of your books find a big audience, you'll get 70% of the revenue (i.e. cover price of your book multipled by number of sales) instead of the 10 - 15% you'd likely get with a traditional publisher. You can also keep that book on the virtual "shelf" indefinitely. There is no pressure to be a big seller quickly, lest your publisher drop you.

    If you need convincing, look up JA Konrath, Amanda Hocking, Victorine Lieske, Michael J. Sullivan, David Dalgish, Selena Kitt, Lee Goldberg, among others. They're all making a living wage (some of them are making far more than a "living wage") by self-publishing. There are NY Times bestselling authors out there who don't earn enough money to quit their day jobs. So self-publishing has to be considered a valid option.

    It's a brave new world, and things are changing...fast.

    Again, look up A Konrath, Amanda Hocking, Victorine Lieske, Michael J. Sullivan, David Dalgish, Selena Kitt, Lee Goldberg, etc. Those are breakout success stories, sure, but there are many, many more self-published writers who are earning enough to pay their mortgage and/or other monthly bills.

    But I agree... I think traditional publishers can provide a much bigger and faster push toward success. For securing a huge fan base, traditional publishing is definitely going to have the edge. For money made over the lifetime of a book, I think self-publishing will often win out.

    I plan on doing both. I'm already traditionally published, and plan on self-publishing in a different genre in the next few months. I think they are both valid options and it really depends on what your goals are, what you want to be involved in and what you want others to handle, and just what you want to get out of your writing career. Want to be on Oprah? Probably easier with a traditional publisher. Want to see your book in print more quickly, and keep more of the money? Self-publishing.

    And this is an excellent point. Some writers just want to write, and there's nothing wrong with that. That's a huge reason to go the traditional route (if you can). I believe strongly that writers shouldn't self-publish because they're impatient and want to slap a first draft up for quick sale, or because they don't want to be edited, or whatever. If you commit to self-publishing and want to succeed, you need to deal with securing a cover design, finding a competent editor, promoting your work, and managing your distribution, etc. It's a lot of work. It's not for everyone. But...it's an option, if you enjoy that sort of thing.
     
  9. TheSpiderJoe
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    TheSpiderJoe Senior Member

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    Like every arguable trait in life... It really depends.

    Self published is only expensive if you go the traditional route of printing out physical copies of the book. Also, you might incur costs for cover design, hiring an editor to look at your story, and paying for an ISBN. However, you can publish your book relatively free on places like CreateSpace.com and sell them directly at Amazon.com.

    But, the cheapest route is the traditional one. If any publisher or agent asks you for money, break off contact immediately. You shouldn't have to pay a dime. After all, you're the one who did all the work.
     
  10. Ophiucha
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    Ophiucha Member

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    Strictly speaking, you could self-publish for free. But don't expect to make any sort of money off of that. As a reader, I will not purchase a self-published work if it is clear the author did not put the work into it to ensure that it was up to par with a traditionally published work. That means a professional cover, an editor who wasn't just someone you met online or a friend from university, and a proper marketing campaign (not just spam!tweeting or posting on forums). If your website looks like it was made on Geocities, I am not inclined to think you put effort into any endeavor, and wouldn't pay for something that I expect effort from.

    So, in order to self-publish and expect something of quality, you are paying a lot of money upfront. Honestly, upwards of $5,000. And that's a risk. But you have more control and if you're investing that sort of money into something, you likely have dedication. You can keep it on the market as long as you like, and be more involved with distribution - you can plan your own book tours if you are doing hardcover copies, and you can get your book on a huge discount for members of a forum or group such as this so that they read your book. A lot of those elements are planned out for you ahead of time by your publisher, and you may not have as much input.

    That said, traditional publishers are paying for basically all of this, and they value their investment enough to try to get it to work. They'll help you get out there on tours around your state/province, maybe even around the country if they think it's worth the cost, and they can hook you up with bigger names than you could manage on your own. I would still say traditional publication is better for an aspiring author unless you are writing to certain, tight-knit niche markets, in which case small publishers (although still not self-publishing) is your best bet with a good amount of self-dedicated viral marketing. I wouldn't self-publish unless I had made something of a name for myself, be it through publishing traditionally earlier in my career or being involved in a big way (owning a major writing site, or perhaps having a dedicated fanbase in another medium).
     

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