From the Archives: “Quality and Control in Self-Publishing”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: November 14th, 2008 ]

A very informative article was recently published outlining one author’s success self-publishing over traditional publishing, most notably in terms of higher net royalties on book sales. In fact, the case study recorded significantly higher royalties on a lower quantity of book sales along that self-publishing route.

The book pricing advantages of self publishing is no stranger to this blog, nor the increasingly successful population of authors who follow that path. But this particular article also mentioned that writers should never have to pay for publishing upfront.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen authors who have been pulled in by that concept, but end up publishing an often poorly produced book sold back to them at highly marked-up costs. (Publishers are businesses and need to make money, after all.) So that model really only puts poorly produced books right back in the hands of authors, not readers.

The successful alternative does involve upfront publishing fees, which opens a direct contract between authors and publishers including quality, professional production on books that are competitively sold in the marketplace, where readers buy books. Make sure your self-publishing choice includes those things like cover design, interior formatting, and full distribution. Also, as I’ve mentioned before – and the significance here is worth the redundancy – make sure your publisher offers pricing flexibility (control) and 100% royalties on book sales.

I hope that helps. Have fun and keep writing…

– by Karl Schroeder

Well, Karl’s not wrong. He wasn’t wrong all the way back in 2008–nine years ago!–and he’s not wrong now. (Of course, this will come as no surprise to those of you who have read some of his backlist posts for Self Publishing Advisor.) Quality is determined by many independent and interrelated factors, and one of the most important of those factors is control. Control of the artistic process, the publishing process, and the distribution process too. Lose your access to influence any of these three steps, and you’re at risk of spending money you didn’t anticipate on processes over which you have very limited control.

quality infographic

I love this infographic from Empathy Lab, because even though they specialize in e-commerce and responsive web design–subjects only tangentially relevant to our interests–they have spent years putting together quality infographics representing ways in which to both qualify and quantify their systems and products. Here, they’ve created an infographic by which any business might measure quality, based on a flexible framework which incorporates everything from inputs, outputs, values, and employees.

While this may not be the most finely-tuned visual for self-publishing, specifically, many of the principles here helpfully capture the spirit of what Karl first wrote in 2008: You must first decide what your priorities are, and how quality is both a product of and a shaping influence upon, what you do. Only then can you decide how much money to invest, and where to invest it, in the self-publishing process. A hint: For most of us, it’s going to be some sort of up-front cost which gives us access to premium publishing services and full royalties, full creative control, and full authority on what happens to our books–because this is your brand, after all.

Take a moment to let Karl’s words sink in, and spend a little time with Empathy Labs’ infographic. See if you can sketch out some thoughts on how your own book and publishing experience is coming together–and let us know how that’s going! We’d love to hear from you and be a resource for you.

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

Top Four Reasons to Self-Publish: Part 4 – Rights

Last month, I did a series on the most popular questions self-publishing authors ask. The posts were such a hit, I’ve decided to do another series this month. Each week in August, I will discuss one of the top four reasons why you should self-publish your book.

This week, I’ll discuss book rights. (In case you missed the last three reasons, be sure to go back and view those posts: Control, Money, and Trade and Distribution.)

As a self-publishing author, you maintain all rights to your book. This gives authors the freedom to sell or keep the rights as they see fit. However, it is important to note that self-published books will be considered “previously published” if the author later chooses to sell the book to a traditional publisher.

Owning book rights such as translation rights and film rights can have a significant impact on an author’s profitability.

Authors who use traditional publishing firms often give up most of the book rights but are usually entitled to a small percentage of the profit if the firm sells the rights to someone else. Self-publishing authors have the opportunity to choose if and how to sell their book rights to ensure they are getting the best deal possible.

I’d love to know, how has owning the rights to your book influenced your publishing decisions?

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

Top Four Reasons to Self-Publish: Part 3 – Trade Discounts and Distribution

Last month, I did a series on the most popular questions self-publishing authors ask. The posts were such a hit, I’ve decided to do another series this month. Each week in August, I will discuss one of the top four reasons why you should self-publish your book.

This week, I’ll discuss trade discounts and distribution. Unlike traditional publishing, self-publishing allows authors to choose the type of distribution that is appropriate for their material and marketing goals.

When thinking about distribution, it is important for authors to understand how the process works. For starters, “trade discount” is an industry term for profit margin. This rate impacts who buys and sells your books as well as the profits you will make off of your book.

For instance, shelf space in a brick and mortar chain bookstore has very specific requirements: the books must have a very high trade discount (50% to 55%). Therefore, if you buy a book at one of these bookstores  for $14.95, 55% of the retail price ($8.22) is divided between the store and the wholesale distributor for their profit. When you subtract the $8.22 from the $14.95, you are left with $6.73. This remainder covers the cost of the actual book. The balance that is left after the price of the book is the author royalty. Typically, authors receive very low royalties in these scenarios.

In addition to needing a high trade discount, authors also need to provide the bookstore with a “Retail Returns Program.” This program allows the bookstores to return books to the wholesaler and get their money back if the books do not sell. You must provide this program to the retailers, but having it is no guarantee that they will agree to stock your book.

Conversely, authors that elect to focus on internet sales may select a much lower trade discount as the internet book sites do not require as large of a profit margin. So that same $14.95 retail priced book under a 25% trade discount would look like this mathematically: $14.95 – $3.74 (25% of the retail price) = $11.21 – the actual cost of your book = your royalty. Obviously, $11.21 is a larger number than $6.73. Therefore, your royalty will be greater if sold by an online distributor, assuming the cost of your book remains the same in each equation.

Freedom to choose your trade discount and distribution center is just one of the many perks of self-publishing. To learn more about trade discounts, check out Cheri’s post titled Trade Discounts 101. It provides a great overview of industry standards and questions to ask yourself before setting your discount.

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

Top Four Reasons to Self-Publish: Part 2 – Money

Last month, I did a series on the most popular questions self-publishing authors ask. The posts were such a hit, I’ve decided to do another series this month. Each week in August, I will discuss one of the top four reasons why you should self-publish your book.

This week, I’ll discuss one of the most popular reasons authors choose to self-publish: money. (Check out last week’s post on control.) There are two things that are unique about self-publishing in relation to money.

1) The author sets the price.

The price of your book influences the profit you make and how well your book sells. Different authors have different pricing strategies, and you need to give this decision a lot of thought. Rather than a publisher deciding the value of your book, you set the price based on your goals and personal situation.

2) The author earns100% royalties.

If you talk to authors who use traditional publishing firms, royalties are a hot topic. Many authors are unhappy with the royalty rate (which is often in the single digits). Self-publishing authors enjoy 100% royalties. Yes, 100%. Whatever you earn from your book is yours to keep. This reason alone is why many writers choose to self-publish their work.

I’d love to know, how has price and royalty influenced your publishing decisions?

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

Top Four Reasons to Self-Publish: Part 1 – Control

Last month, I did a series on the most popular questions self-publishing authors ask. The posts were such a hit, I’ve decided to do another series this month. Each week in August, I will discuss one of the top four reasons why you should self-publish your book.

The first reason I’ll discuss is my personal favorite: control. Self-publishing allows the author to control the entire process: the manuscript’s content, the cover design and copy, even the selling price. This is a completely different experience than if you  use a traditional publisher.

With traditional publishing, the editor or publishing firm calls all the shots. They decide how your book should read. They choose what it will look, when it will be released, how much it will sell for, etc.

While there is nothing “wrong” with the traditional publishing route, many authors cherish their work so much they can’t stand the thought of someone else being in control of their project. Others want the creative freedom to express themselves and to take chances.

Control is the number one reason why famous authors who have previously published with traditional publishing companies are choosing to self-publish their books.

The Huffington Post recently interviewed six popular authors who switched to self-publishing because they wanted control. You can read the interview at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/16/why-traditionally-publish_n_2487464.html.

I’d love to know, how has the need for control influenced your publishing decisions?

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.