How Should Authors Publish? New York or On Their Own?
The real question is: What Should YOU Do?
Not a week goes by that these questions don’t surface via email or a phone call:
- Should I try to sell my book to New York?
- Should I self-publish?
- What’s the difference between the two?
- What should I do?
- Can you help me?
Fair enough … all valid questions for authors … all essential for busy writers and authors-tobe … all are important. Without writing a full chapter for one of my books, let’s address these.
New York, New York
Before you decide that New York is your route, you need to ask yourself why you want to publish via New York. Do you know how many books are typically sold via New York? Do you know how much money you will net in royalties? Do you feel that you may be tainted if you don’t publish with a New York publisher? Could it be your ego speaking?
Truth be told, many, many authors feel that New York has greater credibility. Maybe—maybe it doesn’t matter. The better questions you need to address include: Who is your market? How are you going to reach out to them? Are your buyers going to go to book stores to find you? What is your game plan? Better yet, do you have one?
More times than not, authors come away a tad sour from their New York experience—they thought it would be so much more—that the publisher would pitch and market the book everywhere; sell gazillions of copies; get them a blizzard of media; they would make oodles of money; it would be so much fun; and all would live happily ever after.
New York will produce, print and publish your book approximately 18 months after you sign the contract. It promises to do all that via the contract you sign. New York also brings distribution channels—that doesn’t guarantee you are going to be in a bookstore. And that’s just about it. Authors must understand that in the great majority of cases, they—not a publicist supplied by the publisher—are going to become the PR and marketing pros. Publishing with New York means that you aren’t fronting the production fees for your book—which could easily run into the thousands of dollars—but that’s where the book stops.
The average author with New York sells around 5,000 books these days—it’s why, if they take a book, the advances are quite small. Oh, the big names of New York Times bestseller status do get advance dollars—but they are in the minority. Most authors, especially first-timers are looking at the dregs. And those 5,000 copies sold only produce a few thousand dollars.
Authors want their books to lend credibility to their publishing platform. The belief that it only comes with a New York publishers imprint on it is nonsense.
Or Not …
Why would you consider taking another route … the route where you do it yourself? Start with:
Timing. If the traditional New York publisher’s round-trip for publishing a book is 18 months, the self and independent routes are far more attractive. Once an edited manuscript goes to layout, timing is a few weeks and printing another four (offset is four-five weeks, digital less than two weeks, POD a few days), an author is looking at printed books arriving in less than two months. Much more attractive, especially if there is an event that the author can be selling books at—meaning full, or close to, full retail price.
Quality. It’s morphed—New York has cut corners—from paper quality to even the amount of glue used for perfect bound books. Authors, using the vast networks available to them via the independent publishing route can discover a variety of pros to assist them. Yes, you pay upfront … but shop, negotiate where you can, make sure you check references and get samples of work before you sign anything.
Control. If wanting the final say of what the cover design is; if approving what the interior looks like; and if specified timelines are important to you—than being in control is something that plays in your court. When you self and independent publishing, think of yourself as the general contractor. Yes, it takes work … lots of it … but the payoff and satisfaction can be significant.
Money. If you put together your Platforms and Marketing Plans—are committed and see the publishing process as a business, the money can be significantly greater publishing it yourself versus with New York. When you sell any books directly to a buyer, you get the money … also directly. If you want to make a living via authoring, learning how to publish yourself—either in the “self-publishing” or “independent publishing” route—can be lucrative.
What Should You Do?
Don’t think of New York as an either/or option. You can do both, and it may make sense to just that. In fact, one strategy is to publish on your own, do well with the objective of getting an editors attention in New York, who in turn makes an offer. Not an uncommon thing for a successful self or indie publisher/author to receive.
Start your learning curve today. Get involved with legitimate publishing groups. Join them, attend their meetings. Meet and schmooze with other authors—what worked, what didn’t? Who did they work with that they would work with again and who would they avoid? Look at their books? If they are eBook authors only, same questions. Most important, understand whatever option you choose, this thing called publishing is a business. There are expenses/outgo … and the ultimate goal is to have income/revenues.
For me, I started with New York in 1979 and 18 of my 35 books have been with them. It’s been a long journey. I learned a lot. But it wasn’t until I started publishing on my own in 2000 that I began to really know publishing … and know it well, I do. Would I publish with New York again? Maybe. Maybe not. Right now, I like the Control, Quality, Timing and Money options. New York is basically not on my dance card now.
Self-publishing is different than independent and small press publishing. If you were going to look for the graveyard of crap books, self-publishing wins hands down. Avoid it. Yes, you can self-publish and do it with pride. But, and it’s a BIG but–get editing, work with a pro who knows book and cover design … then upload to the IngramSpark or Create Space platforms for your printing and distribution.
Judith Briles is a book publishing expert and coach. She empowers authors and is the Founder of AuthorU.org, a membership organization created for the serious author who wants to be seriously successful. She’s been writing about and conducting workshops on publishing since the ’80s. Judith is the author of 35 books including Author YOU: Creating and Building Your Author and Book Platforms (Foreword IndieFab Book of the Year), Snappy Sassy Salty: Wise Words for Authors and Writers and a speaker at publishing conferences. Book #35 was published in 2016: How to Avoid 101 Book Publishing Blunders, Bloopers & Boo-Boos. Get your copy now.
Each summer, she holds Judith Briles Book Publishing Unplugged, a three-day intensive limited to a small group of authors who want to be seriously successful. In 2017, the dates are June 22-24th. Her audio and workbook series, Creating Your Book and Author Platform is now available. Join Judith live on Thursdays at 6 p.m. EST for “AuthorU-Your Guide to Book Publishing” on the Toginet Network at bit.ly/PublishingShow.
Follow @AuthorU and @MyBookShepherd on Twitter and do a “Like” at AuthorU, and join the Facebook group Book Publishing with The Book Shepherd. If you want to create a book that has no regrets, contact Judith at Judith@Briles.com.
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