write your own bookWriting for Publication:
Process and Pitfalls.

Many new authors are in such a rush to see their book in print that they fail to consider all of the types of publishing opportunities that are now available. And while it is wonderful to have a book released by the larger and more traditional publishing houses, there are other options that produce much more in the way of compensation (royalties) for authors.

Royalties traditionally range from a low of 5% up to a high of 15% and are often paid on the wholesale price of a book—not the retail price. The wholesale pricing of a book is, quite simply, the listed retail price less a 40% discount (and the discount could be even 50% to 55% or more; it is whatever your publisher decides). In other words, if your book sells for $10, the royalty may be based on the wholesale price and calculated as $6 (for a 40% discount). Consequently, the royalty for a $10 book would be $.60 per book or less.

And there is still another catch. Any returns and remainders sent from bookstores back to the publisher can be deducted from the author’s royalties. (This will depends on your contract.) And here is another kicker: royalties are generally paid only once or twice a year by most publishers and, quite often, they are mailed late. In other words, your first royalty check won’t be mailed for six months or more and to pour salt into the wound: some publishers—primarily academic presses—don’t pay any royalties until 500 or 1,000 copies are sold. And guess what the average sales are for the authors of these publishers?

Mainstream publishers will typically carry your title in their quarterly catalogue; but, as the author, you are still expected to market—and to publicize—your own book . . . and at your own travel expense! Furthermore, unless a title is a real gem, it may not remain on chain bookshelves for very long, so you are back to using your own selling ingenuity to move your book.

Also, aside from a few complimentary copies (usually ten), you must pay the same price (usually the 40% discount) as other booksellers to obtain your own books for resale. Yes, academic and traditional presses profit from sales of books to their own authors. In reality, industrious authors could make more money by buying copes of their own books at discount and re-selling rather than waiting around for the small royalty check to arrive.

The mainstream publisher has the right to change the name of your book, rework your text, and retain the copyright. Your book becomes their property as long as they want to keep it in print and—for all your hard work—pennies on the dollar in royalties are paid for the privilege of letting someone else have your manuscript.

We urge you to ask your publisher: Who owns the copyright? How does the royalty payment plan work? And What is the average number of copies being sold for the majority of your authors? In other words, do plenty of research and ask questions to find out exactly what you are getting for signing away the rights and profits to your work.


Comparison of Profits for Mainstream vs. Custom Publishing

Working with a custom publisher or even doing a self-published work can be much more profitable than agreeing to a traditional publishing contract. This comparison is based on an assisted publishing plan for one of our first-time authors: a print run of 1,000 copies for a standard 6 x 9 paperback priced at $10.00 retail.

  • Mainstream publisher sells 1,000 copies at $6.00 (this is the wholesale price for a 40% discount). Total of sales would be $6,000. (This does not include any returns or books sold for less than the standard wholesale price which would be an additional deduction). First royalty payment will be 6 to 9 months later.
  • The author’s investment is $0 and the royalty is 10% or $600 profit.
  • Custom publisher prints 1,000 copies for the book at a cost of $4.00 per copy. The author sells 500 at the retail price and 500 wholesale (40% discount). Income is immediate upon the retail sale of the book.
  • The author’s investment is $4,000. The sales are evenly split: $5,000 full retail price (500 x $10) and $3,000 wholesale (500 x discounted price of $6); the total would equal $8,000 less the investment of $4,000 for a $4,000 profit.
  • And, let see what happens if all the books were sold at the retail price (which some of our authors do). The profit would be $6,000 ($10,000 in sales less $4,000 investment).

This example is typical for our customers and is drawn from our own experiences with academic and national publishing houses. The unknown factor is the time frame in which all your books will sell. Regardless of who publishes your work, it takes adequate time to sell the entire run. However, if an author chooses to invest in their own work and is willing to market the product, they stand to profit handsomely while retaining the copyright, creative control, and larger profits.


When to use a Mainstream Publisher

One of the myths circulating among writers is that if their book is self-published or released by a non-traditional press, it won’t be considered for reprint by larger publishing houses. This is not true based on our experiences placing titles with national presses. If you are able to successfully sell your book, mainstream publishers may be interested.

Also, if you have a manuscript that is very lengthy, the project might be better shifted to a mainstream press because of printing costs. (Authors would still be able to purchase their title from this publisher at standard discount for resale.) And if our authors have sold out a first printing and want to turn their work over to a mainstream press, we will work to assist in this type of placement.