The publishing world has been changing for years, and continues to change today. Majority of this part is from the "The Everything Guide to Writing Your First Novel" by Hallie Ephron, which was published in 2011, so some of it might not be relevant anymore, but it's still good to know where the publishing industry has been to know where it could possibly go.
Titles from the "big six" and other major publishing houses still dominate The New York Times bestseller lists each month. But there are occasional examples of stunning successes for books that take a less traditional track.
Industry watcher Bowker reported that in 2009, 1,052,803 books were published in the United States; 764,448 of them came from "non-traditional channels," a mix of micro-publishers, self-publishers, and reprints of public domain titles. It was in 2008 that the number of print-on-demand books exceeded books from traditional publishers for the first time.
Here are some terms you will hear for different kinds of publishers, with an overview of how they deal with authors and manuscripts.
• Commercial publishers: These range from large to small publishers who buy the rights to the book and pay the author a royalty on sales. They often also pay an advance against future royalties, up front. Most commercial publishers are very picky and publish only a tiny fraction of manuscripts which are typically submitted to them by literary agents. Commercial publishers edit, package, publish, distribute, and market their books, and they don't charge their authors fees.
• Self-publishing services: These are companies that charge the author for all costs associated with publication; they handle marketing, distribution, and warehousing. They usually cover editing services, as well as help creating a cover and obtaining an ISBN number. Using a self-publishing service can be more economical than vanity publishing. The author retains all rights and keeps the proceeds from all sales.
• Vanity publishers: Typically, a vanity press publishes any book that the author is willing to pay to have published. These companies charge authors a fee to publish the book, and more to cover all the expenses associated with printing and binding. Vanity publishing is usually more costly than self-publishing. Authors retain all proceeds from sales and own the rights to their work. Vanity publishers provide a service and rarely reject manuscripts for quality.
• Subsidy publishers: These publishers operate with a hybrid business model. Typically they charge authors to print and bind the book, but cover other expenses such as editing and distribution. They usually pay the writer a royalty for sales. Some subsidy publishers screen manuscripts; others publish virtually every manuscript submitted to them. Completed books become the property of the subsidy publisher.
So, you've heard it before, and I've mentioned it already a handful of times, but what is a royalty? A royalty is a share (or percentage) paid to a writer from the proceeds from the sale of a book. Royalties are calculated by multiplying the price (sometimes the full retail price, sometimes the wholesale price) of a book by the royalty percentage. So suppose you write a book that retails for $16.00 and the royalty in your contract is 5% of the retail price; you earn $0.80 for each book sold.
There have never been more options for getting your book to readers. Here are some options:
• Publish it with a large or medium-sized publisher.
• Publish it with a small press.
• Publish it as an e-book.
• Publish it yourself as print on demand.
• Published it through a vanity or subsidy press.
• Win a contest where the prize is a book contract.
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