Time was when independent publishing, or self-publishing, had such a stigma attached, that only a few courageous authors attempted it - or could afford to. Those who did were viewed with much skepticism and considered pretenders by the publishing world. Usually, self-published books didn't sell more than a few hundred copies at best. And, unless a writer could sell 5,000 or more copies in a six-month period, publishers did not consider them a successful author, which then hindered the author from finding a publisher for the next book. Thanks to the digital age, all of that is changing.
In the past, three major concerns kept most would-be independent publishers from achieving a successful book release: production, distribution, and promotion.
Production was simply too cost prohibitive, since even a small run of books numbered in the thousands. At the cost of $5 - $8 per book, the amount required to print and bind thousands of books was staggering for most individuals.
Distribution, while not impossible to achieve by a self-publisher (there are many companies, which offer this service), is sometimes non-effective. Here's why - Bookstores have a limited amount of shelf space. In contrast, there are thousands of books, most written by well-known authors, competing for that space. The majority of retailers are not willing to take a risk on an unknown writer. Also, major publishers offer a buy back, meaning any books not sold after a specific amount of time, (usually once the promotion period has ended), are bought back from the retailer. The smaller, less financially able independent publisher cannot realistically make that sort of deal.
Unless the writer is a celebrity or already a best-selling author, promotion is the key to any successful book. Sales are directly proportionate to the level of advertisement and other forms of promotion. A promotion campaign is usually very expensive - totaling into the thousands of dollars.
These three elements add up to a rather enormous budget, often $100,000 or more for the major publishers. If the independent publisher hoped to compete, a comparative budget was necessary. Read on to find out how this is becoming less important in the digital world.
Authors who have a publishing deal are paid a small portion of the receipts, ranging from 7% - 15%, depending on how well the author is known and other factors, with nothing being paid until the publisher has recouped all expenses incurred from production, distribution, and promotion. It is possible for a writer to have a book, or books, published by a major publisher and never earn more than a few dollars. (Note: Many established authors, or celebrities, receive an advance because the publisher can be reasonably confident the book will generate sales. This is not the case with most authors.)
Most books lose money for the publisher. The hope is that a few titles in their catalog will be best sellers, thus offsetting the cost of the others. In recent years, many Print-On-Demand publishers have sprung up, allowing the self-publisher the opportunity to print as many or few copies of a book at a time. This eliminates the need to produce thousands of books up front. The downside is this practice seriously hampers their efforts to have the book stocked in bookstores. Though any bookstore is generally able to order these books, customers usually are not interested in waiting - unless it's an author they know.
Then came the ebook. Electronic books are not the end-all solution for profitable publishing, but they do offer several benefits for both traditional publishers as well as the self-publisher. Let's examine the previously mentioned three elements of publishing as they pertain to ebook. Production, after edits and corrections (as with any book) consists of converting the text into an E-Pub format. Distribution is accomplished by optimizing the E-Pub file for each retailer (only four major ebook retailers exist) and sending it off with the push of a button. With the Internet, the possibilities for promotion - even for the self-publisher - are nearly endless. Many of these are entirely free and others cost very little. With the ability to put the product instantly in the hands of the customer through downloads, ebooks have a distinct advantage over these same techniques being applied to physical books.
Several companies exist that offer ebook services. One of the best is BookBaby. http://www.bookbaby.com For just $118.00, BookBaby will do all the work of converting the text, formatting it correctly, optimizing it for each retailer, and delivering it. They also collect the money from sales on behalf of the writer and disseminate those funds. BookBaby keeps nothing. The author pays only the set up fee and then a $19.00 yearly maintenance fee. The author receives 100% of the profit from the retailer.
Now here's the kicker. Instead of the paltry 7% - 15% royalty paid by a traditional publisher, Ebook retailers pay 50% - 70% and the author sets the price of the book! No, I am not employed by BookBaby and neither are they paying me to write this article. I just happen to have recently used BookBaby to self-publish my own book. (Over My Dead Body by Bruce A. Borders). I was very pleased with their performance and the ease of getting the book into their system. Have a book you'd like to present to the world? Now you can with BookBaby.
One of the latest marketing tools available to the self-promoting publisher is QR Codes. These codes are fast becoming a favorite of many professional marketers. Scanning the 2D barcode with a smartphone instantly loads any Internet page, making it easy for the impulse shopper to buy whatever you may be selling.
These codes have endless possibilities for the self-publisher. They are free to design and come in any color scheme you need. Two of the many sites offering free QR Code creation are http://qrcode.kaywa.com and http://www.qrstuff.com/faqs.html
As nearly any agent or publisher will tell you, it is virtually impossible for a new writer to attract the interest of a major publishing house. Unless the writer is related to or knows someone in the business, the odds of becoming a published author are next to zero. For those on the inside track, that's great. For the rest of us, self-publishing has become a viable alternative.
About the Author:
Bruce A. Borders is a songwriter and author with more than 500 songs and nine books. For more information, please visit http://www.bruceaborders.com or http://bruceabordersbooks.weebly.com