From the Archives: “Avoid these 5 mistakes when choosing your publisher”

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.


[ Originally posted: April 23rd, 2010 ]

Avoid publishers that claim to publish in 24 hours. After the time it took to write your book, do you want it published right, or overnight? Avoid overnight publishers no matter what they charge because the only one looking at your book will be a computer. It should take between 6-15 weeks.

A royalty is simply a percentage of another number. The actual dollars and cents you earn depends upon that second number. The truest royalty is a royalty based upon the retail price of your book. Many publishers use “net royalty” which is a royalty based upon their profit. To be sure, always confirm your profit in dollars and cents.

The main advantage to self-publishing alternatively with a on-demand publisher is that you keep all the rights to your work. The rights are valuable. Read the contract. Your rights should clearly stay with you.

If a publisher normally offers discounts to an author who buys their own book in bulk, that tells you two things. 1) It tells you they are more concerned with selling to you than to other readers. 2) It tells you they are charging you too much for lower quantities. Do you really want to be forced to buy 100 books at a time just to get a fair price? “Bulk” discounts simply trick the author into buying more books than they need, which defeats the whole advantage of on-demand printing.

As an author, your per-book price should be based upon the production cost of the book, not the retail price. No wonder publishers inflate their retail pricing. You should always receive a below-wholesale price, regardless of how many you buy. You will never make money if you have to buy your own book at wholesale from the publisher.

When push comes to shove, all five of these points boil down to the same core idea:

You ought always to look for a self-publishing company that puts you––the author––first.  A company that shares your ethics and vision for rendering stories accessible to readers.  A company that knows how to treat people right and does so consistently, day in and day out.

A company that works solely to satisfy its bottom line and invested parties is a company that has forgotten the human element … and the whole point of self-publishing, to be perfectly frank.  Responsibility to shareholders and investors is one thing, but the deliberate choice to inflate profits at the expense of quality products, customer satisfaction, and author empowerment is unconscionable and inexcusable.  I sometimes wonder how much of the corporate soullessness we see in certain corners of the world today has its roots in people not loving the work they do––not finding value and meaning in enriching the lives of others in addition to their own, and not seeing the significance of their daily tasks or the opportunities to craft a career that is as much art as it is science.  But here I’m rambling!

Looking back nearly six years to this original post, I now see the five mistakes noted above to be more a list of symptoms than a list of “to-not-dos” … because each and every single one points to a company that prioritizes itself over its product and clients:

  • If a company maximizes profits by creating artificially high prices that only seem reasonable when reduced to a bulk or “author-only” rate, it is clearly a company that cares very little about balancing the need for profit and survival in a competitive market with the reality that self-publishing is a market and industry that demands transparency, accessibility, and progressive thinking.  It is a company that looks to trap its customers into a long-term, toxic, parasitic relationship.
  • If a company prioritizes speed over a quality product or quality customer service, then it’s a company that sells itself using gimmicks … and gimmicks, as we are all well aware, are the desperate empty gestures of a company lacking imagination.  Innovation and creativity do not produce inferior versions of a thing; they find new and fresh ways to look at problems and to improve upon that thing.

constraints in self publishing

In short, no, nothing really has changed in the six years since this post first hit the Self Publishing Advisor front page.  There were ungenerous self-publishing companies in existence then, and there are ungenerous self-publishing companies in existence now.  We haven’t changed that fact in half a decade, and we’re not particularly likely to change it in the next.  What we can change, however, is our own degree of discernment.  We can spot the warning signs––the symptoms above––and steer well away from companies that manifest them.  We can choose not to sell ourselves short, and to choose instead a publishing option that respects us as authors and empowers us to better ends than a bottom line.

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.  ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at, 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,

Self-Publishing Advantages Out on the Table

This posts and blog exists to help you make the best informed choices for the future of their books. Whether you’re still in the conceptualization phase or searching for a publisher, these are tips, each worthy of careful consideration.

For example, take a moment and write out your personal publishing goals…

For many authors, these 7 are the most important:

1) Keeping 100% of your rights and creative control to your book
2) Keeping 100% of your author royalties
3) Unlimited wholesale and retail availability
4) Additional marketing support and services
5) Publishing imprint and ISBN flexibility
6) High-quality book design
7) Complete print-run flexibility (1 to 1000s)

What would you add to this list?

– K

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Self-publishing – Let’s Clarify

Tuesday’s post concerning publishing contract details prompted me to consider a few pieces of information self-publishing authors may benefit from on the front end, deciding which route to take their books. It’s true there can be a lot of confusion about self publishing and print-on-demand. Let’s clarify some misconceptions many have seen floating around.

1. MYTH: Whoever owns the ISBN owns the book.

FACT: This use to be true. Nowadays, not as much so. Most POD publishers assign an ISBN they own, and they do this for the authors’ convenience; in any case authors should ALWAYS keep all the rights to their book.

2. MYTH: Independent self-publishing is different from publishing with a POD publisher because the publisher owns the ISBN.

FACT: It is true that the ISBN identifies the publisher of record. Look for a publisher that allows authors to supply their own ISBN at some level.

3.MYTH: New York publishers promote and market all their books.

FACT: New York publishers usually devote the lion’s share of their marketing budget to the top 1% (Harry Potter, for example) of the books they publish. The other books published during that season are victims of the sliced marketing budget. Most authors don’t get any support from their traditional publisher at all.

4.MYTH: Printing a book with an offset printer is the same as publishing it.

FACT: Printing a book is one facet of publication. Before a book can be printed, it needs to be designed. Then it needs to be printed. Then it needs wholesale distribution through Ingram and availability online with retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Then it needs fulfillment of orders and invoicing.

Printing a book with an off-set printer accomplishes one of those steps. Publishing a book with a turn-key, custom self-publisher accomplishes all of them. Some authors choose to do both; an on-demand edition complements an off-set print-run very nicely.

Karl Schroeder