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.