THE PUBLISHING FACT AND FICTION session presented by Beth Jusino at this year’s Pacific Northwest Writer’s Conference contained a ton of valuable information on the state of the publishing industry. Regardless of the publishing path a writer may currently be on, it only makes sense to be as informed as possible regarding the growing options available.
Perhaps most telling in regards to the ever-changing state of the publishing industry was how the session began and ended. To start, this general question was posed to the attendees: “How many of you are published?” A few hands slowly rose, but many in the room hesitated. Beth then re-phrased the question: “How many of you have published something any interested person can purchase?” Nearly every hand in the room went up. Nervous laughter ensued, and she joked how such an inquiry is often taken as a trick question these days.
Now let’s fast forward to the Q & A period at the end of the session. A man raised his hand and asked if he could hire Beth or someone with similar qualifications to not only help with book marketing and editing, but also to assist with cover design and distribution. Her response, “If that’s what you are looking for, then you need to find a publisher.” Aye, there’s the telling rub my friends. I’ve encountered a good number of people who have told me they’ve decided to self-publish because it’s the only way they know to pursue. Yet, so many factors need to be weighed when attempting to bring one’s books to the right audience.
While anyone can publish these days, all writers need to ask themselves why they want to get published. Many view self-publishing as a way to make money, and 150 Amazon authors have sold 100,000 copies each. Beyond money, a writer may want to create art, change or influence the world, or just publish for fun as a way to check an item of their bucket list. It’s not surprising that 80% of Americans have indicated they want to write a book, yet only 57% have read a book in the last year. While publishing has changed significantly in recent years, there’s no need to treat it as an obstacle course.
No matter how a writer approaches it, publishing is a business. Gone are the days when a book only had 3-6 months to sell. Now bookshelves are limitless and titles can have an infinite electronic life. The way books are made has changed as well. The rise of print-on-demand has taken away expensive up-front costs and made it possible to create books of fairly high quality. So what are writers to do when it can be fairly daunting to find one’s way? The short answer is to stay informed.
Big Publishing Houses: This includes the big five publishers and their imprints. Many publish a book a week or more. Such publishers primarily accept commercial work represented by literary agents, and offer some sort of advance. Their books receive wide distribution. The downside for many is that it can take 12-18 months for a manuscript to be ready for release. The upside entails a sense of legitimacy that comes from working with a team of professionals to make a book the best it can be.
Small Presses: Such presses publish 25 or fewer niche titles a year (often just 3-4) with a given title averaging 3,000 copies in sales. This option can be a good fit for titles of a less mainstream nature such as literary fiction and memoirs. Staffs are small, but the time to go to press is often faster as agents are not always needed. The works published by these presses will be featured in distribution catalogs. Cash advances may not always be offered, but royalties will be. Unlike the well-oiled machinery of big publishing, small presses can come with the headaches of running a small business.
Assisted Self-Publishing: This group includes any entity that gets a small portion of an author’s sales such as KDP, Author Solutions, Woo, Lulu, and Blurb. Scams are not uncommon (beware of out-of-pocket expenses), but done the right way, it can be a great way to get a book out into the world. Keep in mind that the average self-published title still sells about 100 copies. No gate-keeping function serves to monitor quality, which can be viewed as a blessing or a curse. It’s up to authors who choose this path to continue to help break the self-publishing stigma. Another point of confusion arises when writers will state they are published by CreateSpace, etc., when what they mean to say is their work has been printed by them.
DIY Self-Publishing: If driven enough, it’s possible to publish entirely on one’s own. Books can be printed using Lighting Source and e-books sold via a personal website. This tactic also presents the highest learning curve, but greatest return on investment. Quality assurance is a must when going this route in order for reviews and placement to be possible. Beth’s example of when this option makes the most sense would be someone like a massage therapist who gives talks on the subject. A built-in audience already exists to buy such a book. Please note that a good number of independent bookstores won’t carry CreateSpace books.
Curated Co-Publishing: Options like She Writes Press and Booktrope are cultivating a team publishing approach that allows for some level of quality control. Changes take place everyday and it will be exciting to see how these services continue to evolve. Yet another option authors can pursue would be the crowdfunding site Pubslush.
Still a bit confused? Me too. However, one more great site to help keep up on all of these issues is the Preditors and Editors site.
Any way you look it, any path to publication takes a lot of hard work and determination. The jury’s still out on what will work in my favor, but you can be damn sure I’ll be weighing my options carefully.
Make sure to keep Beth Jusino in mind for your future editing and marketing needs. I know I will be contacting her when the time is right. Until then, I’ll leave you with this wonderful quote displayed on her website:
“The self-edited author is as foolish as the self -medicated patient.” -Guy Kawasaki
What confuses or excites you when it comes to publishing fact and fiction?
Image Credit: Yellow Chicks by Petr Kratochvil
Image credit: Bright Idea by Zaldy Icaonapo
The book cover image used in this post is for promotional purposes only and complies with fair use guidelines.
Being an author is not enough. You have to be informed about all this publishing stuff. So glad you have our backs covered Jeri. I was not aware of some of this information you have noted. Perhaps one day I will treat myself to one of these conferences.
Cheryl, maybe you could do the San Francisco conference one of these days since it’s in Susan’s neck of the woods 😉
Thanks for the intro Jeri. As you know, we have founded an entire conference on the state of publishing today and the different models for writers of all kinds. There is so much information about the business of writing and our goal is to lasso that into 2 days.I’m going to look into Beth for our conference. Thanks
Jacquie, I think Beth would be a great addition to your conference. I don’t dole out praise lightly. Her presentation was jam-packed with useful information coupled with an engaging speaking style.
Jacqueline I would LOVE to know more about your conference!!!
Jacquie, I’d love to talk. Drop me a line at [email protected].
Hi Jeri and thanks for this. This whole ever-changing publishing process has presented quite the learning curve for me, including a lot of growing pain. Starting out I had one set of ideas. They’ve now been replaced with reality. I love to write but without the work, including collaboration, for me it’s an incomplete process.
Always enjoy what you have to say.
Paulette, I feel exactly the same way. I’ve learned so much these past few years as I’ve thrown myself back into the writing craft. When I’m not collaborating, I know my work will never be what it needs to be. There are so many ways to go about this business of writing 😉
Thanks for the information Jeri. In the ever changing world of publishing it is hard to keep up with all the latest options available to us. Love the Guy Kawasaki quote. Can’t imagine what I’d end up with if I self edited. 🙂
Susan, you’re a great example of a blogger/writer who fully knows the benefit of hiring others to get needed tasks done. A lot of us can and have learned a lot from your example.
Aw, me as an example? Doing a happy dance. 🙂
Hi Jeri – this is wonderful information for the wanna-be author, self-published or otherwise – which probably 90% of all bloggers have in the back of their minds. I’m printing this off and adding it to the rest of the really useful stuff you’ve shared.
Lenie, that’s great to hear. Just think how great it would be to take all of your blog posts someday and re-work them into book form.
You did an excellent job of categorizing the various routes to publication. I would have never thought of Booktrope (my publisher) as “curated co-publishing” but that’s exactly what it is! I think my friends who self-published are probably making more money than me but I enjoy being part of a team. Jan
Jan, I just may have to pick your brain one of these days regarding your experience with Booktrope.
Thanks for this guide Jeri. I guess I am one of the 80% but not the 57%, thankfully. I have no immediate plans to publish a book but I would like to so will keep this post handy. Your recommendations are much appreciated.
Tim, I very much hope you do decide to revise your travel posts to become a book one of these days. You’re the type of travel writer who seeks to bring out the humanity in all of your experiences, and that’s what draws people to your writing.
Good summary of the confusing publishing options. Each option has its pros and cons. In all options the writer has to play a marketing role, something many writers are unprepared for.
Donna, marketing UGH! I can’t wait to read Beth’s books. I’ve learned a lot through trial and error, but it’s time to focus my efforts and read some good books on the topic.
As I would like to write a book I was very “attracted” to your blog last year when I first started following your posts. At first it was all a complete foreign language to me…and not in German lol! 🙂 But, more and more, I’m slowly starting to “get it” and accumulating the tips and suggestions in my noggin’. I thank you for that. Many folks have suggested self-publishing but I’ve also read the downfalls of that. I would think having a good publisher would assist me in finding out/seeing if my subject matter could be unique and actually sell. Das ist sehr gut, Jeri! 🙂
Mike, would you be writing about your adventures with Phoenix like you do on your blog or something else? I know everyone has to figure out their own path, but I think it’s good to try the traditional route at least once because of all the steps involved. Going through the process is a real eye-opening to all that is entailed, and some self-published writers could benefit more if they took the extra time to explore all of the options before rushing to self-publish only to realize it’s just as trying as any other way to publication if it’s to be done well.
Terrific advice and you know me well. Yes, I would want to write about Phoenix and I. I do have lots of fun, interesting and unique stories. But, what would pique a reader’s interest to read my book versus all of the outstanding, best seller dog story books out there? Therein lies my trepidation and apprehension, Jeri.
Mike, the world can always use more animal stories. If you targeted the right agents and worked hard to put all of your stories in order, I’m sure something would come of it. It would be great to see the Adventures of Mike and Phoenix in print.
Your post is so informative, as always! Thanks for putting all the options together as they can be so helpful to the fledging writers. It is very exciting to self publish when you don’t have the name and the fame to impress the publishers but I always tell myself, every writer must have had these confusions and obstacles that he/ she managed to overcome!
Balroop, it often does seem like name and fame does indeed help pave the way to traditional deals, but I’ve also met so many agents who are hungry to find great stories by unknown writers.
Now it seems we have to wear so many hats as an author. I am with a small publisher and I had to do much of the book promoting myself.
I learned a lot by this blog, thanks for sharing.
William, I’ve enjoyed your posts as your book neared publication. All of the medieval stuff is pretty sweet too 😉
Very helpful post Jeri. Thanks for laying out all the options so thoroughly & concisely. In a way it’s a hard decision to make in terms of which way to go, but I have the feeling, for myself, it will be a process of elimination as it were. What a great resource your website is! Thank you:-)
A. K., I’m on that “process of elimination” route as well. I would have been better-served not diving into publishing shorts and trying to work on the novel at the same time, but live and learn, eh?
Really interesting to know about the different paths to publication…
They say that “all paths lead to Rome”. But I am not so sure if this may apply to author’s experiences. I suspect that the way of publishing can determine the future, acceptance and recognition of the book itself. Am I right?… (Of course, I accept objections)…
All my best wishes to you, dear Jeri, Aquileana 🙂
Aquileana, writers are plagued by the desire for recognition. It’s heady stuff to know your words make an impact on others. It’s just there are so many ways to get work out there these days. It can be very hard not to get lost in the shuffle.
Honestly, what confuses me is where to start. I’d love to compile my posts and edit them into a more readable format on the Kindle or other epub device but am not sure where I should go or if I have enough to start. Anyway, these were amazing tips. Will pass this on, as I have many friends interested in publishing at the moment.
Carl, no matter the path you decide on my best advice is to learn everything you can about marketing.
Lots of great information, Jeri. It also reminded me that books have an “infinite electronic life.”
Denise, it’s crazy to think that an author’s e-books can only pick up more stream as they add more titles to their e-shelves. It’s the opposite from what the traditional model was build on, though I can imagine any writer would still love to have a smash out of the gate 😉
Great information about various ways of publishing. Interesting that 80% of people are thinking about writing a book. Knew a lot of people did, but not that it was that many.
Catarina, I know what you mean. In a way though, I guess it’s not that unbelievable. We all want to immortalize ourselves in one way or another.
I’m wondering if there is an in between the big and small publishers? That’s where I feel I am. My upcoming book took me 9 months to write, and it’s taking over a year for the release.
The curated co-publishing is something brand new for me! Have to look at that for any next book considerations. hahaha. These are such information gems for all of us whether we are with a publisher or an indie publisher Jeri.
Patricia, not knowing more about your publisher, my best guess is they might still fall under the small press umbrella. I think curated co-publishing carries lots of possibilities, but for now I’m going to stick to being a lone wolf.
Jeri, a light bulb went off while reading this article.
This is the exact reason I am not working on my book…because
I have NO idea what to do w/ it when I’m finished. It’s scary as hell.
Btw. I just finished Pretty Girl. I love your words, fabulous details, and atmospheric feeling of this story.
Kim, I used to feel the same way. I think most writers do. Then little by little we start to learn about our options and things fall into place. Sometimes it can take going down multiple paths to find the one that will be the best fit in the end.
Jeri, thank you for explaining more about what you learned at the conference. I like learning more about self-publishing books as I may want to take that route in the future. I’m still confused about whether CreateSpace is a good option or not. Bring on the research!
It’s all incredibly overwhelming, isn’t it? I still don’t know for sure what I’ll do, but I’m a member of She Writes, and their publishing situation is very intriguing. I love the notion of having a team behind me, but there’s still a lot to consider.
to be honest, at this point all I want is to be finished and have something ready to publish. That being said, I feel like everything is on the journey it’s supposed to be on, so I guess I’ll keep ridin’ the ride…..
I love knowing there are so many different for writers to get published nowadays! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Amy, indeed. What gets me the most is how we hear all this talk of traditional publishing going out of existence, but that is most certainly not the case.
Jeri — thanks for this comprehensive overview of book publishing. For a couple of years I wanted to write an ebook that would be a compilation of what I considered to be the best/most informative posts on my blog. I stressed over it and then asked myself: why am I doing this? I’m well aware of how few books authors sell whether they are published by the brand-name imprints of self-published. Did I have a unique point of view that I needed to share? My answer came back: No. So, I’m not going to publish a book in any form and the world certainly won’t miss anything I might have written!
Jeannette, your candor is appreciated and more bloggers could probably be served to ask such tough questions when feeling the need to turn their blogs into books. Your blog seems to serve you well without the need to transform the posts into something else.
Jeri what a fantastic post! This came at just the right time for me because I’m seriously considering publishing/putting together a cookbook based on my food blog, SheEats.ca – so knowing the different routes I can take (though I’m in Canada) is a definite plus. Thanks so much!
Kristy, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen your around, so welcome back 🙂 I also didn’t know you had a food blog, so I’ll head over and check it out later today. Best of luck with putting a cookbook together.
When I read your post of the all the options available I have to tell you I would not know what decision to make. I guess I am the 20% who has no interest to write a book. Mainly because I feel it takes someone with a lot of talent. My granddaughter wants to write film plays and doesn’t know where to start. Writing can be a tough field.
Arleen, writing is a touch field on one hand, and yet it’s never been easier to get one’s work published. You’re absolutely correct though in stating it takes someone with a lot of talent.
I’m somewhat shocked by the statistic that 57% of Americans have read a book in the past year. Do you have any idea whether than statistic is an increase or decrease over previous years? I would have thought that the proliferation in ways to read a book might have had some positive impact.
Ken, I can’t say for sure re: the 57%. It was given in passing in the course of the session. One book a year isn’t really all that much if you think about it. I would be curious though what percent of that figure is fiction vs. nonfiction books.
Jeri, this is really good information, and timely for me. I found that statistic amazing about the 80/57%. I fall into the publishing just for fun and art category. I don’t expect to make any money, but still want to do it. What is it that makes us want to tell our story?
Meredith, don’t under estimate yourself. Craft tutorials are always in demand and you have an engaging writing style and take great photos as well.
I did get a book published this year. I planned to do it all myself but kept forgetting the rules and just to be safe, I hired someone to help me. So glad it worked okay.
Beth, it never hurts to hire a competent helper. The peace of mind alone makes it well worth it, not to mention it’s always nice to save a bit of time.
Thanks for this great info Jeri. I just published a book on Amazon Kindle this past July and it has done extremely well so far. With this particular book I felt the self-publishing route would serve me well. I am writing another book for which I will want to go a more traditional route with a bigger team. Beth’s book looks like a fabulous investment and just what I need to build on the initial momentum generated by this first release.
Valerie, it’s inspiring to see you making informed choices regarding which type of publication will best serve the books you’re releasing. So far, I’ve only dabbled in self-publishing a few short e-books, but feel the traditional route will serve my interests best whenever I am able to finish my novel. Plus, it gives me more time to continue to learn more about marketing, etc.
Hi Jeri; This was a thorough coverage of a confusing subject. I have been working on an ebook sharing some of my thoughts and experiences. I am hoping it will generate some income and lead to opportunities for coaching and public speaking. I am a blind computer user, so a lot of the process of submitting an ebook are confusing. My friend Lorraine Reguly has shared her experiences with publishing to amazon etc but am still not sure if or how I can do it. thanks for sharing, max
Max, maybe you could look into one of the curated co-publishing options like Booktrope? You’re going a great job of building your platform and and audience, so finding the right professionals to assist you will take some of the stress off of the hurdles you encounter as a blind writer and computer user.
Great information here Jeri! Publishing is really evolving at the moment and it is a good thing htat authors can have the chance to be published through a non-traditional channel. The percentages of those who want to write a book vs those who haven’t read a book in a year are really interesting! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Christine, someday I’m sure a techie person will figure out how to compiles someone’s Facebook posts into a print on demand book. Who knows where publishing is headed. The possibilities seem endless.
It is good to see this laid out for people still on the fence. Making the decision of what to do with your work is never an easy task.
Jon, that is indeed true. Being informed is what it’s all about.
Jeri, once again I’m flattered and honored to get so much attention on your blog. 🙂 There are so many choices for writers to make now, and there’s just not a lot of unbiased information out there. I’ve been teaching this material quarterly in a one-day class in Seattle called The Guide to Getting Published (organized through UW’s Experimental College), but PNWA was the first time I brought it to an outside conference and tried to focus it down to 90 minutes. It’s great to hear how well it worked.
Beth, if I lived in Seattle I would definitely be taking your one-day class. Thanks for giving such a great and truly information packed presentation. I always use my former teacher’s radar at sessions like that, and you engaged your students well 🙂
In a few years I will possibly write a book. I know nothing about publishing. By the time I get to it the publishing world may have changed even more.
Jason, it’s a given the publishing work will always be changing, but thankfully a wealth of information on the topic is always available for those who want to be informed.
Thanks for the great information, Jeri. My biggest reason for bypassing the big publishing companies is losing the rights to the book permanently or for decades. The very idea of someone making millions on a film version of my book and giving me the tiniest of mentions in the credits is appalling.
I hear that book cover artists feel somewhat the same way about their work. For instance, I learned that if I want my book cover art on a coffee mug, t-shirt, or hat, it needs to be negotiated because I don’t own those rights. Who knew?
Deidre, my former-literary-agent brain perked up at your comments. Ancillary rights are definitely something to consider, but also are open to negotiation before you sign a publishing contract. You don’t HAVE to give up film rights (or merchandising rights, which is where the mugs and T-shirts fit in), and if you feel like you’re in a better place to take advantage of them than your publisher is (you can commercially produce T-shirts with your characters, or your agent is experienced with Hollywood and reasonably could sell the book directly) then you should hold them back. But even if you grant the publisher certain subrights (which you’d do if they’re in a better place to use them than you are), if they use or sell them you still get paid anywhere from 40-90% of the total price.
It’s all a little more complicated than that, of course, but that’s why you have an agent to guide you through the negotiations and make the best deal for your specific project.
Beth, thanks for jumping in and offering an “insider” response.
I had no idea there was so much to consider and I can see where it would be not only confusing but overwhelming. If I ever decided to publish anything, I would sure want help but I also like to see what all I can do on my own.
Pamela, there are a good number of authors today who do enjoy going totally solo in their publishing efforts, but even then true success requires hiring experts to be part of your book’s team.
Great post, Jeri. I think it’s fabulous that (we) authors have so many options via which to publish our work. I’m a hybrid author, having been both traditionally and independently published. There are certainly advantages and disadvantages to each path.
Doreen, as a previously traditionally published author you are lucky to have that experience to draw upon in your current efforts with self-publishing Chocolatour.
I knew the business of being an author was just that, a business, but I had no idea how much of a maze it could be. It’s excellent to get all of this information in such a clear and succinct way – thank you!
Jeri, thank you for the nice summary of publishing choices and I appreciate the resources. I’ll be bookmarking this post to look at later 🙂 I realize I have a huge learning curve in front of me.