Forward: Publishing a book should be your main goal as a fiction writer. And not just getting your book to print, I mean successfully publishing it. By saying "successfully", I mean you want to make a profit from your writing. Well, as a published fiction author, I'm here to tell you it's not as easy as it sounds to turn a profit from your fiction.
Between the high costs of publishing and numerous rejection letters, is it really worth all of the money and effort to have a publisher produce your materials? Learn everything the publishers don't want you to know about publishing your fiction.
by Jason Moser
There are five things book publishers don't want you to know - mainly because they will be losing a whole lot of money if you found out. I learned early on with publishing a book that you don't need a publisher to become a successfully published author. My aim is to expose the truth about publishers and how they are either ignoring or totally ripping off new and experienced writers by keeping them in the dark about how easy publishing a book really is.
Shocking Truth 1: You don't have to pay money to become published.
You are an artist and creator. You came up with an awesome idea all by yourself; you created scenes, characters, and a killer plot. You did extensive research so your story would be as accurate as possible. It doesn't matter what genre of writing, you do all of the work. You spend hours upon hours writing and rewriting your story, adding details and depth so that it contains hundreds of pages of great literary art. Now you are ready to submit your manuscript to a publisher.
Submission is free, but if you are an unknown or new author, nine times out of ten with a major book publisher, no one will ever even read your synopsis or query letter. So, after several rejection letters or no responses, you decide to move onto smaller publishing houses. For a large fee, they will gladly publish your novel. Yet, you never seem to break even after your book hits the shelves.
Sorry to break this to you, but publishing a book shouldn't cost a dime. Well, I mean no more than the cost of your computer and some computer software. Let me explain.
A publisher should be paying you to publish your book since they will be making the most money off of your book after it is published. In fact, most major publishers collect 70 to 80 percent of the royalties off the top while you only get 10 to 20 percent.
Most small time publishers make you pay to publish a book because they are trying to get their money first (in case your book fails to meet the sales required to cover the cost of publishing). They tend to give you a little more royalties, maybe 20 to 50 percent from every sale. They don't really care if your book sells because they already made their money from you.
The bigger publishers generally give you an advance up front (which is essentially paying you what they estimate publishing a book will make for them) but keep all of the profits from sales until that advance is paid for. Then you only get a 10 to 20 percent royalties thereafter. A little better deal in this case because they are actually paying you first, but you are still not making very much royalty per book sold.
If you were to publish your own book in hardcover, you can keep 75 percent of the profits or more (after the cost of the book is taken out of the picture). If you publish your own eBook, you can keep 100 percent of the profits since it doesn't cost anything to create an eBook. Can you see why a publisher wouldn't want you to know about this little truth? Computers and awesome publishing software has given EVERYONE an equal opportunity at writing and publishing a book and this scares the publishers to death!
Shocking Truth 2: The publisher doesn't care about you; they just care about the money.
It's no wonder it is so difficult publishing a book through a book publisher. It's all about the money. They have a simple check list they look at when a new manuscript runs across their desk. It says "Does anyone know this author?", "Is this type of book in demand?", and "How much money can we make from this book?".
A publisher's main concern is if the money they advance to you will be covered by future sales. A small time publisher that you pay to publish your book is not so much worried about making a whole lot of money off of you because they already got their money. Any sales are just extra profit to them.
Why are these two types of publishers different from one another. Well, a big named publisher banks on you and your book's popularity over other authors' work. They take a huge risk fronting money to an author, especially if the author is unknown and the book is a flop.
And yes, you do have to pay back the advance regardless of whether you sell any books or not, but per contractual agreement. In other words, if you don't make the publisher the amount they advanced you in say 2 years, then you must pay them what ever is left to be paid off in full at the 2 year mark.
Small time publishers don't really care who you are as long as you can afford their services. They will be publishing a book for you, but if your book doesn't sell, they don't lose any sleep over it.
The only one who is going to look out for your best interests is you!
Shocking Truth 3: Only 10 percent of published authors sell 100 books and only 1 percent are best sellers.
Most of the major publishers are looking for an author who is going to sell at least 1,000 books on the first run. If the book sells well, they will run a second publishing known as a mass publishing. Now if only 10 percent of the authors sell 100 books, then there aren't too many that qualify for major publishing. They may give you a small advance and roll in the cost of 1,000 books that you also have to pay off before you get any money.
Thus comes the smaller publishers. These companies say they are publishers, but most of them don't do the entire job of a publisher; they are simply a label for your book. They are interested in the other 90 percent of the people out there struggling to sell 100 books. Remember, they get paid to help with publishing a book, so they make their money that way. So these writers don't even make their money back half the time.
When you self-publish your own books, you make 100 percent of the profits, minus a few expenses here and there, but you don't have to stay in the red very long. Publishers are banking on the fact that you don't know their job so they will take advantage of you. With this knowledge alone, you can now outsmart them.
Shocking Truth 4: Publishers don't sell your books.
Most writers finish writing their book and expect the publisher to do the rest. These writers are sadly mistaken, especially if they think you don't have to pay for it. Do you even know what a publisher really does? Most writers don't and the publishers like it that way.
A major publisher does more for you than a smaller publisher. Larger publishing houses will have your book professionally edited, formatted for print, have a good cover designed, set up the printing press, and will print out your first order of published books. They will add their ISBN to your books and submit your title with their ISBN to all of the major bookstores through a huge database. They will even distribute a handful of your books to the major bookstores for the shelves. That's about it. Once your book is published and under contract, they are done and it is up to you to do the rest. The rest meaning you must sell your books. At least they list your book in the Bowker database which is a plus.
The smaller publishers do even less when publishing a book. They take the ready for print copy of your book that you provide for them and make a master file from the original you gave them. Most of the time they don't even look at the formatting.
If you purchase a set amount of books up front, you will have to pay for it here and there and you will receive all of the books to store until they are sold. Some even submit your book with their ISBN to Amazon and a few other online book stores, but definitely don't put any books on the shelves for you. The rest is up to you.
Did you see the big catch there. Publishers do not sell your books! That means it's up to you, the author, to sell your own novels or you don't make any money when publishing a novel.
Now the publishers that give you a royalty advance have their interests at stake so they want your book to be as perfect as they can get it and will even give you a helping hand at selling it, mainly pushing you to do interviews, book signings, and other promotions to get your name and title out there. The small publishers already got their money from you and simply don't care if you sell any books or not.
Shocking Truth 5: Print on demand is a game changer.
Yes, this is one of the things publishers don't want you to know about when publishing a book. Why you ask? Well, because most publishers now a days use print on demand companies and their state of the art technology. Though they require you to make a bulk purchase when you first publish a novel, they don't need to actually print books to send to book stores and buyers until the book stores or buyers make the purchase. This saves on warehousing expenses and it's a lot more convenient for the author and publisher.
So, what don't they want you to know? Well, print on demand allows authors to publish their own books, most of the time with no upfront costs. That's right! It takes the middle men (the publishers) right out of the picture. Since you already have to sell your own books, by doing everything else yourself (self-publishing), you don't generally have to pay out any money on the front end.
There are some back end expenses, but you will never even notice them happening. The self-publishing company (the one offering you their services to publish your own book - essentially hooking you up with their print on demand partner) will take a commission on every sale, but it's generally very low (about 10 percent or less) and it comes after a customer buys your novel. That, and of course you have to pay for the cost of the printing, but you don't see that either. It is done after the customer buys the book too.
Now, there's always going to be some other expenses involved such as editing (unless you are good at editing your own work), marketing (unless you know how to market), and maybe some fiction writing software purchases to help you write more creatively. But some of these expenses when publishing a book generally only happen one time and you can use them over and over again.
By keeping you misinformed about print on demand, publishers can make it sound like you have to initially purchase a bulk amount of books, say about a thousand copies, but you really don't. Of course, a bulk purchase of books can be very expensive and you may never see any profits from your book, but that is a risk the publisher wants you to take as they take their cut off the top when you make the bulk purchase.
Writing and publishing a book is a great achievement for any author. I want you to understand that it doesn't take a lot of skills and effort to publish your books. It may take you years to write a book and get it to the point of publishing, but it only takes about a week to publish a novel, less if you know what you are doing.
Understanding exactly what a publisher does is very important and something you should research before making a decision about how to publish a book. Should you go with a traditional book publisher or should you self-publish your own books? The decision is totally up to you, but I hope the information in the 5 Shocking Truths helped you make a more informed decision.
Jason Moser is a self-published author and master online marketing specialist. He has published several books and self-help articles about fiction including Publishing a Book - 5 Shocking Truths Publishers Don't Want You to Know. Jason has retired from the Navy and now lives in Chesapeake, Virginia with his wife and two sons.
Here's some more great information on publishing a book to help you make a decision on going through a traditional publisher or self-publishing.