In these times of self-publishing, ebooks, bookstore closures, agents turning into publishers, and the crumbling of the traditional publishing model—who needs a publisher?
May I offer an indie publisher’s perspective on that question?
First: Ask yourself if you know the industry. Many writers seem to have no clue about the changes in the publishing market. You need to do your research, learn book marketing, and educate yourself. One day your publisher is going to ask you, “What is your marketing plan?”, and if you say, “I can email my friends and do a book signing…”, there is a good chance your book will fail. No matter what path you take to publish, you will be responsible to market your book. Not the publisher—you.
Second: Ask yourself if want a publisher. You may feel you don’t need a publisher these days, as you can do much on your own. But a publisher can do it faster and better, and brings expertise to the process… so do you want a publisher? (And when I say “publisher” I mean the indie publisher, the new model publisher, the partner publisher, or someone who is not stuck in the old way of doing business. I do not mean the Big 6 or old-school, dying on the vine publishers who seem to think eBooks and news of thinking are evil.)
The fact is, a good publisher can do a few things for you that you can’t do on your own. But that will cost you something. You will give up part of your royalty to cover their services. Think of a publisher as someone who knows 50 people that you need to meet in order to get your book into reader’s hands. All a publisher does is make the introductions:
· A publisher can get your book into bookstores. To sell with Ingram you need 10 titles before they will even talk to you. You can go through a third party to get in, but it will cost you 10-15% of your sales. Why do you need to be with Ingram? Because they are the big dog in distribution. Most stores buy from them.
· A publisher can sell special rights, foreign rights, movie rights, mass market rights, blah blah blah… Now to be fair, you could do this on your own, but the publisher knows who to talk to and who is buying. It is all about contacts. Remember when your dad said it is not what you know but who you know? It turns out, he was right.
· A publisher can work to get you into a better deal through an agent. I know I am going to open a can of worms here, but the agent’s job is changing. They are almost not needed for a book deal with an indie publisher. Why would you give up 15% when you can talk directly to the publisher and hire someone to look over your contract? Most charge a one-time fee for things like that. I use Chip and other agents to sell subsidiary rights—they work and get paid based on the deals they bring in. This works out well for the agents, as they are free to use their contacts to make money without being tied up with the time it takes to sell a book to big OLD publishers.
· A publisher can put out a better product. Some of the books going up on Amazon are awful. Covers that make your eyes bleed, no editing, poor layout. With the changes in the industry, many cover artists and editors are leaving or getting fired. Most can be hired as freelancers or go to work with a small press. If you doubt what I am saying, look around Smashwords or Amazon.
· A publisher can help you market. Notice I did not say, “they will market for you”? They know how to market, so they can hold your hand and show you the ropes. Most publishers market their line of books, not just one book or one author, so they have learned where to go and what to do.
· A publisher can make the process easy. I can’t tell you how many writers I have worked with that are happy to have someone on their side who knows what to do. Selling books can be like a giant puzzle, but once the various pieces are put together, it gets easier with every try. Why invent the wheel all over again? Besides the industry is changing so fast that if you create a new design it can be outdated as soon as you are finished.
· A publisher can make you more money. A small press or new publisher usually pays higher royalties than the big guys, (40-60% vs 12-25%). This means you make more money per sale and can make a living on fewer books with lower sales.
Who needs a publisher? If you’re an author trying to make some money writing books, the chances are YOU do.
Aaron Patterson is the publisher at StoneHouse Ink, which has sold more than a quarter of a million books in the past two years.
StoneHouse University: HERE