Writer’s Corner: Five things you may not know about the publishing industryPosted: April 4, 2022
Since the beginning of this century, the publishing industry has undergone many changes at a very rapid pace due to the rise of digital technology and ebooks and the resulting swell of independent authors which has reshaped the way the industry operates. Traditional publishing houses have had a difficult time in adapting to these changes, which are transforming the playing field from being favorable to publishers into one more fair to authors. Trad. publishers are slow to adapt and their numbers are dwindling as they hang on to traditional practices that make little sense in this day and age. Just in the past five years we’ve seen the big 5 become the big 4, and in 2021 they merged into the big 3.
Many authors struggle with the decision of whether to self-publish or try for a traditional publishing deal, which could turn into an endeavor spanning years and your book may still not be published. Traditional publishing offers status and esteem when you can get it, but the road to a traditional publishing deal has many pitfalls and often ends in wrong turns and dead ends. It’s not easy to land a trad. publishing deal and there are no guarantees. This is nothing new. It has never been easy, but I think it’s harder than it used to be
When you take a good hard look at today’s publishing industry, you may find a few things which surprise you. I know I did.
Did you know…
- Advances offered by traditional publishing must be paid back before the author sees any of their royalties? That’s right. An advance is just that – payment of royalties in advance. And the royalty percentage offered by trad. publishers is considerably less than what indie authors receive, so it may take a very long time to pay out that advance, and if s book does not sell well, it may never pay out. Many self-published authors have opted for smaller royalty payments over the long haul, rather than one big chunk of money in the beginning that may never pay out any more than that initial advance payment.
- While a traditional publishing deal may still carry an advance with it, it seems the advance amounts have gotten smaller, as traditional publishers grow more unsure of your book’s ability to sell? While book publishers have always taken risks when signing a new author, with the rise of independent authors and publishers, there’s a lot more competition and publishers may be less confident of a book’s success, so they aren’t as willing as they once were to cough up the cash before the book has been proven. What’s more, they aren’t as willing to provide as much effort for promotion. In fact, trad. publishers today are looking at the reader platform, or fan base, that an author brings with them as well as their social media platforms, etc…, and they may expect authors to perform much of the marketing and promotion for their book. A small independent publisher which published my western novel, Delilah, but they did very little as far as marketing goes, and of course, there was no advance. I felt I could do better with it myself, which is why I chose not to renew my contract and will be re-publishing the book myself as part of the Women of the West adventure series.
- Traditional publishing created a return policy for bookstores and retailers that allows them to return print books at the publishers expense, which still applies today, effectively preventing independent publishers and authors from having their print books carried in brick and mortar bookstores? While print-on-demand has revolutionized the publishing industry, making it no longer be necessary for authors to create large or small print runs and stockpile books I’m their basement or garage, it is still a challenge for independent authors to get their books into bookstores due to the ridiculous return policy trad. publishers created for bookstores. Today, bookstores have played by these rules for so long that they have no desire to change the rules even though they should. You can read about the options when you publish through Ingram Spark here. There may be a work around if you can find an independent local bookstore willing to take your books on consignment, but for the most part, indie authors are limited to selling their print books online because of an outdated policy that never made sense in the first place. I mean, what other industry allows to retailers to return unsold products after a number of years for a full refund, potentially devastating the maker when the charge blindsides them unexpectedly?
- The time that you must wait for your book to go through the traditional publishing process could be two to three years or more from the time of signing, if you do manage to land a traditional publishing deal? Even after you have a contract, that doesn’t guarantee that your book will actually be published, and the publishing process is so long and tedious that your book could potentially be in limbo for years. Of course, that is not what happens most of the time, but it has happened. Children’s books take even longer to go through the publishing process. They can take up to five years or more. Imagine the disappointment of not being published after waiting years to get a trad. deal, and waiting even more years to go through the publishing process. This may be even more of a possibility with the instability of the traditional publishing industry today.
- Traditional publishers often ask for rights they never intend to use, and if you give them to them, you can no longer do anything with them? Traditional publishing contracts are not traditionally author friendly, often asking authors to throw in many rights that are unnecessary for the author to give up. For example, many publishing contracts ask for audio rights, even when they have no intention of publishing your book on audio. If these rights are maintained by the author, they can be licensed separately or used to produce their own audiobook through one of the many audiobook platforms available to authors today, but if they are included on your contract, the publisher can sit on them and the author will make nothing from them. That’s money left on the table that the author can’t touch. It is very important that authors know what they are signing and don’t sign away rights that they don’t need to.
Authors today have choices which authors of the past did not. We no longer have to go through the submission-rejection-resubmission grind for months or years to find someone else who likes your writing and might want to publish it. Today we can publish our works ourselves because we like it, and hopefully find others who like it too and will become fans and loyal readers. There are many authors today who choose to try the best of both worlds in some sort of hybrid combination that fits their needs.
I can’t see trying to beat a dead horse, and for me, I think that is what traditional publishing would be. Although making money from my books is always a goal, as I pointed out above, there are no guarantees that I would ever find someone who wanted to publish my book and, even then, there are no guarantees that it would actually happen, or that it would sell. I want people to read my books and that will never happen unless they are published. That’s why, for me, independent publishing will be the course that I choose. Which course is right for you?
Kaye Lynne Booth lives, works, and plays in the mountains of Colorado. With a dual emphasis M.F.A. in Creative Writing, writing is more than a passion. It’s a way of life. She’s a multi-genre author, who finds inspiration from the nature around her, and her love of the old west, and other odd and quirky things which might surprise you.
She has short stories featured in the following anthologies: The Collapsar Directive (“If You’re Happy and You Know It”); Relationship Add Vice (“The Devil Made Her Do It”); Nightmareland (“The Haunting in Carol’s Woods”); Whispers of the Past (“The Woman in the Water”); and Spirits of the West (“Don’t Eat the Pickled Eggs”). Her western, Delilah, her paranormal mystery novella and her short story collection, Last Call, are all available in both digital and print editions.
In her spare time, she keeps up her author’s blog, Writing to be Read, where she posts reflections on her own writing, author interviews and book reviews, along with writing tips and inspirational posts from fellow writers. She’s also the founder of WordCrafter. In addition to creating her own imprint in WordCrafter Press, she offers quality author services, such as editing, social media & book promotion, and online writing courses through WordCrafter Quality Writing & Author Services. When not writing or editing, she is bird watching, or hiking, or just soaking up some of that Colorado sunshine.
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