With more trade publishers closing their doors to new authors every day, the odds of landing a publishing contract in Australia are starting to mirror the odds of winning lotto. Bookstore shelves are already saturated with titles, and publishers aren't always keen to invest in unknown names. They are businesses, after all, and every book they take on is a financial risk. Publishing houses have to cover the cost of editing your book, as well as formatting and cover design, printing, distribution and marketing; and like all investments, there is no guarantee of return. It makes sense that publishing houses follow trends and take on only the absolute best of submissions; submisisons that they believe will sell. It also makes sense that they like authors with established track records, or a defined public image; authors who can sell their book just because it has their name on the front cover.
Of course, new authors can (and do!) get picked up by trade publishers, and I would encourage any writer to research and approach traditional publishing companies when embarking on their publication journey. If you succeed, your book will be backed by a professional team who are aware that your success is paramount to the success of their own business; the more copies of your book they sell, the more money they make. They will do a lot of the hard work for you, and your book will carry the prestige of a trade publishing company behind it.
So what about those books that DON'T make it into the trade market?
Rejections are simply part of the publication game. While a poorly-written book or lack-lustre storyline will (and should) be binned in a heart-beat, manuscripts can be rejected by trade houses for myriad reasons. I received several rejections for 'David and the Heart of Aurasius' stating that while the editor loved the story, their fantasy list was already full. Likewise, I received a rejection for 'The Brothers of Turoc' on the basis that the publishing house had just taken on two manuscripts with similar subject matter. Bad timing, a full list, and the personal taste of an individual editor all play a part in the final decision of the publishing house.
Books take a lot of time and effort to write. But just because it's getting harder to land a contract, doesn't mean your book has to remain tucked away in your bottom drawer forever.
Self-publishing might just be your answer.
There is no denying that self-publishing your own book is a hard slog. There is a lot to learn, and you have to become so much more than just a writer. But the rewards are tried and true; you retain up to 100% of the profits from book sales - minus any retainers from bookstores and distributors - and with the right attitude, it can actually be a whole lot of fun. After all, what's so terrible about seeing your dreams come true?
I have attended well over 70 book signings, author vists and various presentations since 2010 and am frequently approached by new writers with questions on publication. I run low-cost workshops and offer one-on-one mentoring to educate writers on self-publishing. I have no financial interest in the books of my clients; but I do have a personal interest in helping others publish their book, and to do so without seeing them go bankrupt. Of course, every writer has the right to do their own research and choose their own path. Personally, I believe that it really is possible for anyone to self-publish their own book, on their own, without forking out thousands of dollars to a middle-man venture that will take a fee to 'publish' your book for you. Vanity Press companies, subsidiary publishing and partnership publishing are best avoided if you care about keeping down costs. At my self-publishing workshops I do a simple desktop exercise to explain the financial differences between self-publishing and hiring a Vanity Press, and here it is:
Let's take a look at some approximate self-publishing costs vs. a typical Vanity Press publishing plan for a print run of 150 books:
|TASK||SELF-PUBLISHING COST||VANITY PRESS COST|
|Manuscript assessment||$200||You should still get this done yourself: $200|
|Editing||$850||Vanity Press tend to supply typographical editing only in their packages, so you'll still need this: $850|
|Cover design||$1,000||Included (but not necessarily A-grade work)|
|Interior layout design + ISBN and barcode||$350||Included... and to be fair, usually done well, at least for paperback novels|
|Printing||$1200 for 150 copies ($8 per book)||$3000 for 150 copies ($20 per book)|
|1,000 bookmarks for marketing||$100||Not included: $100|
|Book launch||$300||Not included: $300|
|Publishing fee||$0||Anywhere between $1,000 and $10,000... on average though, let's say $2,000|
So overall, a difference of well over $2,000. But that's not the end of it. Through a vanity press, your books will continue to cost around $15 or more to purchase and then on-sell. To get anything close to a worthwhile discount on printing you have to order thousands of books. On the other hand, if you self-publish, your book can cost between $5 and $10 to print. Obviously there are exceptions for books like cookbooks and picture books that require expensive papers and binding, but the theory remains; what you pay to have printed yourself, will cost about double to purchase from a middle-man Vanity Press. Remember; they are a business. They need to make money. They WILL tell you self-pubishing is too hard to do on your own.
It's not. Don't buy it.
I've self-published two books with a third on the way. My background is in design and marketing so many of the steps on my own learning curve weren't quite so rigorous; I took care of most of the design elements of my book myself, plus I already had a handle on printing terms and requirements. Because most writers are not, in fact, designers, I've researched a few different options in the design section for you. Feel free to contact me and let me know if you've used other methods. Even though I'm familiar with and own industry-grade design software, I sometimes like to try the 'easy-to-use' software to see the difference for myself.