Posts Tagged ‘trade publishing’

Roger-Step1-PlanAuthors must look beyond the obvious – -the trends and the hype – -when choosing the type of book publishing that’s best for them and their family. It’s easy to get seduced by the many recent, exciting, changes in book publishing technology.

Before rushing into a decision, I encourage you to make your choice from a detailed analysis of how each publishing option will impact you and your family both before and after your book is published.

Publishing options at a glance

The 3 primary publishing options include e-books, trade publishing, and self-publishing.

E-books

E-books span the gamut from word-processed documents distributed as Adobe Acrobat PDF files to professionally designed books optimized for on-screen reading, like Rajesh Setty’s Defiant. A new generation of e-book readers has received a great deal of attention, like the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook.

When analyzing the pros and cons of e-books, authors need to be careful to ask the right questions. The questions should not revolve around the current popularity of e-books and e-book readers- -i.e., whether or not e-books will replace printed books, etc.

Instead, authors must ask whether or not an e-book, by itself, will be enough to build the compelling, income-generating, personal brand they desire.

The big question is not whether or not e-books are popular, but whether or not they can position you as a subject area expert in your field

Trade publishing

Trade publishing, i.e., printed books published by large, specialized firms and distributed online and through “bricks and mortar” retail channels like Barnes & Noble, Borders, and regional independent bookstores offer authors a “no cost” way to get their book published.

Trade publishers front the money for all of the costs involved in editing, designing, formatting, printing, and distributing the book. In fact, traditionally, authors would receive often-significant advances on the future earnings of their books.

In exchange for freedom from up-front investment, however, authors must pass the gauntlets of rejection; publishers typically receive hundreds of books proposals for each book they publish. In addition, authors typically sacrifice a lot of control. It’s no longer “author and book,” but “author and committee”- -and the committee is a huge one.

Major decisions, like titles, book covers, size, pricing, and market positioning, are taken out of the author’s hands, and many surprises occur. (Many authors don’t even see their book’s front cover until it’s too late!)

Other compromises involve the amount of money authors receive from sales of their books, copyright issues that can limit back-end profit opportunities, and rights to future electronic products (like DVD’s). Most non-fiction books fail to earn royalties beyond the initial advance, although the occasional “home run” can create life-changing cash-flow.

Authors must ask themselves if the publisher’s credibility, expertise, and bookstore distribution are worth the lack of control and reduced earnings characteristic of trade publishing.

Self-publishing

Self-publishing continues to enjoy growing popularity. And, like “hybrid automobiles,” the term covers a broad range of options. Self-publishing ranges from an author taking responsibility for everything- – including editing, designing, printing, and distributing their book- -to options where outside firms will take as much responsibility for book production and distribution as desired.

Self-publishing offers control and speed: author’s call the shots and can get book into the hands of their clients and prospects faster than trade-publishing.

In addition, depending on how much money the author initially invests in their project, authors can far more profit per-copy than they would ever earn from trade publishing. This is especially true with direct online sales and from selling multiple copies of their books to businesses and associations.

Before choosing self-publishing, however, authors must determine whether or not they have the resources necessary to self-publish their book, and also make sure they want to spend their time performing the tasks necessary to distribute their book.

Authors have succeeded, and are succeeding, with each option. In addition, hybrid options are becoming available. What’s important, however, is What will work best for you?

How to choose the right publishing option

Ultimately, the choice for most authors boils down to just 2 issues: cash-flow and task preferences.  Cash-flow and how the author wants to spend their time after their book appears are the crucial issues.

Cash-flow

For many authors, the issue is cash-flow. Self-publishing initially involves negative cash flow, the money flows away from the author. The author is investing (or borrowing) money against future profits. Authors must put out money for editing, design, production, and proof-reading- -in addition to paying up front for printing and shipping.

If the money is there, i.e., if an author can more comfortably invest in their book without risking their financial security, self-publishing makes sense.

But, if the investment will seriously impact their family’s standard or living, or- -, even worse- -put it at risk, self-publishing doesn’t make sense.

The Preliminary Cash Flow Projection worksheet displays the implications of self-publishing versus trade publishing.

Task preferences

Successful self-publishing requires a different set of tasks than writing a book. It’s up to you whether or not the tasks are those you’d like to either commit to on a daily basis or delegate to others. These tasks involve:

  • Processing and fulfilling orders, packaging and addressing individual books, handling the occasional, inevitable, returns.
  • Shipping cartons of books to distributors and bookstores, handling returns of unsold books.
  • Monitoring inventory, deciding when to re-order books.
  • Legal and accounting; monitoring accounts receivable and tracking down overdue payments, dealing with copyright issues.
  • Negotiating terms with bookstores and distributors, including discounts and return privileges.


There’s nothing inherently wrong with these tasks, but authors must balance their writing and client-service time with the minutiae involved in bookstore distribution and fulfilling individual orders.


The Author Task Preference Worksheet helps you identify your “fit” with the tasks involved in self-publishing.

Conclusion

As the above questions show, choosing the right publishing alternative involves more than simply “going with the flow” or choosing the most popular alternative. The right choice of publishing alternative involves carefully balancing their goals and resources with the realities of each publishing option.

To help my clients, I’ve created several worksheets, like my Self-Publishing Expense Planner, shown above, to help authors realistically run the numbers and make the right decisions. (E-mail me if you’d like to see a sample.)