Thursday, March 24, 2011

Guest Post from Lillie Ammann: Subsidy Publishing? Self-Publishing? It’s All Beginning to Blur

Part IV: Subsidy Publishing? Self-Publishing? It's All Beginning to Blur

I'm thankful that my friend and fellow blogger, Lillie Ammann, was able to take time out of her busy schedule to contribute the following article - and the last part of my series on publishing.  Her first-hand experience and perspective as a professional editor as well as writer and publisher of her own books, truly shows in the following article.  I hope you enjoy it and find it as useful as I found it to be:

Not long ago, authors had three distinct choices in publishing: traditional publishing (either a NY House or a small press as described in Lisa’s earlier post), subsidy publishing (often called vanity publishing), or self-publishing. Today, lines between subsidy (other than vanity) publishing and self-publishing are beginning to blur. In fact, authors who self-publish and authors who publish with a subsidy publisher now call themselves “indie authors.”

In subsidy publishing, authors pay a company to publish their work. Many people call subsidy publishing “vanity publishing” because it appeals to authors’ vanity—to their desire to see their name on the cover of a book. Some say that authors who pay to have their books published “have more money than talent or sense.”

Vanity publishing is always subsidy publishing—because authors pay a company to publish their work. However, not all subsidy publishing is vanity publishing. If the subsidy publisher provides the services authors need with good quality at reasonable prices, subsidy publishing can be a legitimate choice.

Vanity publishing can be very expensive with little return for authors. Everything costs money—editing, cover design, interior layout, printing—either as part of a package price or as individual charges. If authors are able to choose the services provided, many skip editing to save money because they don’t realize that without editing, the quality of the book will end up somewhere between awful and mediocre.

In the days when all printing had to be done on offset presses, authors often paid exorbitant prices to have 1,000 or even 5,000 copies of their books printed by a vanity publisher and shipped to the authors’ homes, only to sit unsold, gathering dust.

Self-publishing used to mean that authors did all the work and paid all the costs to publish their own books rather than paying one company to do it all. The authors still ended up with thousands of copies of books with no way to get them into bookstores—distributors and booksellers wouldn’t even consider self-published books. In addition to being great writers, self-publishers had to be exceptional marketers and find innovative distribution methods if they hoped to become successful.

In the last few years, the advent of print on demand (POD) has changed the publishing landscape. POD publishers can print one copy of a book from a digital file for the same unit cost as they can print 1,000 copies. That cost is generally higher than the unit cost for 1,000 copies of an offset press run, but the advantages of POD can compensate for the slightly higher cost. 

Authors can pay a POD company for the services they want or need, such as editing, custom cover design, and interior layout. They can use cover and interior templates provided by the POD company to design their own cover and interior. Or they can do what self-publishers have always done and contract with different providers for the services they need, using the POD company simply as a printer.

Now the lines between subsidy publishing and self-publishing begin to blur. Authors who hire their own editors and contract with their own interior and cover designers certainly qualify to be called self-published, even if they use a POD company as their printer. On the other hand, authors who simply pay a POD company for a package of services and have no further input into the production of their books might be considered subsidy published.  But what about indie authors who hire freelance editors but create their own covers and interior layout using templates provided by the POD company? Or authors who pay the POD company for editing and interior layout but provide their own book covers? The distinctions are no longer quite so clear. Indie publishing better describes the spectrum of subsidy publishing, self-publishing, and the blurry space in between.

The two most popular POD publishers are CreateSpace (a subsidiary of and Lightning Source (a subsidiary of the book distributor Ingram). These companies and others like them enable writers to publish their own work much easier than old-fashioned self-publishing using an offset printer.

Lightning Source Inc. (LSI) is used by small, medium, and large publishing companies to print and distribute books. The company charges a setup fee for each title published. Publishers (including self-publishers) can order books in any quantity to sell themselves as well as opt-in to distribution through the Ingram catalog to booksellers (for a fee).

CreateSpace offers a range of services from printing only to full service, including editing, cover design, and interior layout. Printing only is completely free—authors pay only for the books they buy, and they receive royalties for the books CreateSpace sells through its site,, and other retailers. Authors can provide their own ISBNs, making the authors the publishers of record—true self-publishers, or CreateSpace will provide ISBNs, making CreateSpace the publisher of record. Many indie authors find CreateSpace easy to use and cost-effective.

Just a few years ago, all my self-publishing clients did a print run of 1,000 or 2,000 copies with an offset printer. Today, I recommend to most of my clients that they use a POD printer. Typically, I edit and layout the books, and the authors contract with a cover designer. However, for memoirs and family histories that are written primarily for family and friends, my clients may generate covers from the POD company’s templates. Everyone has been pleased with the results.

Subsidy publishing with a POD publisher may be most appropriate when some or all of the following conditions apply:
  • The author has no desire to get involved in any aspect of publishing
  • The target audience is a small group, such as family and friends of a memoir write
  • The author doesn’t expect to write additional books

Self-publishing with a POD publisher may be most appropriate when some or all of the following conditions apply:

  • The author wants control of all aspects of publishing, including the cover and interior design 
  • The target audience is the general public
  • The author plans to write additional books and wants to build readership for future titles
And then there’s the vast blurry middle—in which authors pick and choose what they do and what the subsidy publisher does, making indie authors truly independent.

There is no one best way to publish. As Lisa has pointed out in earlier posts in this series, each type of publishing has advantages and disadvantages. Authors must weigh the pros and cons, evaluate their goals, and determine which publishing method is best for them and their work.
Lillie Ammann is a writer, editor, and book midwife. She is the author of three romance novels, including the romantic mystery Dream or Destiny, and several how-to e-books. She edits manuscripts and works with self-publishing authors to deliver their bouncing baby books. Lillie blogs about writing, publishing, books, and more at A Writer’s Words, An Editor’s Eye.

Friday, March 18, 2011

NY House Publishing Versus Small Press

Part III:  NY House Versus Small Press

Picture this.  After a satisfying dinner out, you and your spouse decide to while away the rest of your evening at Barnes and Nobles.  You walk in the door and there, conveniently located by the registers is the loveliest piece of reinforced cardboard you’ve ever seen.  It’s the book display designated for your very first published number one bestseller.  Oh what a feeling!  

What writer doesn’t dream of becoming a household name?  Exactly how does that happen anyway?  Well, there are a lot of contributing factors, but certainly the odds of achieving this status are much greater if you go with NY House Publishing.  As I said in the first part of my publishing series, NY House is any one of a number of publishers located in NYC.  Popular names include Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and many others.  

The advantages of having your book published through NY House are numerous.  They are:
  •   Larger cash advances
    • The publisher helps market and sell the book - resulting in bigger sales. 
    • Your book ends up in bookstores and supermarkets everywhere.  This is really a part of what the publisher does to market and sell your book, but it's significant.  Greater exposure helps sell your book and even make your name familiar among readers of your genre.
    • Greater royalties from your book.

    As with most things writing, publishing with NY House isn’t easy and there are drawbacks to this method as well.  

    The problem is NY House publishers tend to be very unapproachable for new writers.  Many times they won't even deal with a writer without an agent.  Plus, it's uncommon for them to accept unsolicited manuscripts.  Even after a manuscript has been accepted, it can take up to two years before it actually hits the shelves.  That's a long time.  

    Other drawbacks include the fact that there's little control over the outcome of your book, and you relinquish all rights to your book.

    In light of the fact that traveling the publishing road to NY House is so difficult, many authors choose to go with small press.  Not a bad choice at all.   There is an estimated 50,000+ small or independent presses in the US, making them a much more viable option for new writers.  And even though they may not pay the huge advances that the major publishing companies pay, there are certainly great advantages to going this route.

    One of the biggest benefits is that since small press publishers usually only publish ten books or fewer a year, their schedules aren't cluttered with meetings, deadlines, and other time constraints.  For you, that means more one-on-one time, more input on details like what your cover will look like, and a faster turnaround for your book.  Furthermore, they are far more likely to take a risk on new authors or books that are considered "out-of-the box."

    The cons are that it's harder to have a huge success when going with small print.  They are much more limited in finances and what they can do for you in terms of marketing.  Here are a couple more disadvantages. 
    •  Due to the huge expense of printing, it isn't uncommon for publishers to print fewer than a couple thousand books at a time.  Consequently, if few books are printed, it’s harder to get distributors to purchase them. 
    • Smaller and shorter print runs also make it harder (albeit not impossible) to hit the bestseller list.  
    • Smaller advances – if any at all, and lower royalties.

    So there’s a brief breakdown of the pros and cons of NY House v. Small press.  Both paths are difficult, yet with hard work and diligence, and of course, a great book the potential for amazing results is great. 

    Be sure to be watching for the final post in this series when my friend and fellow writer Lillie Ammann from A Writer's Words, An Editor's Eye contributes the last post in this series on subsidy/self-publishing. 

    Wednesday, March 09, 2011

    Advantages and Disadvantages of E-Publishing

    Thanks to Lillie Ammann at A Writer's Words, An Editor's Eye, I know that March 6-12, 2011 is officially Read An E-Book Week.   In light of that fact, I thought it would be ideal to continue my series on publishing on the advantages and disadvantages of publishing "e-books," or in other words "e-Publishing."

    Perhaps one of the most surprising facts about "e-books" is that they are celebrating their 40th birthday this year.  Michael S. Hart created the first "e-book" as part of Project Gutenberg back in the early '70's, before the internet had really taken hold.  Initially, he manually typed the text of the Bible, Shakespeare and many other classics in an attempt to encourage literacy and give as many e-books to the public as possible. 

    Today, electronic publishing, or e-Publishing is growing like wildfire.  It is defined as the digital publication of e-books and other reads like short stories or collections via the internet.  Files may be viewed online, loaded onto CDs and electronic readers, or even emailed directly to your computer.  There are an amazing number of advantages to e-Publishing.  Here are a few:
    • From a financial standpoint, it is often a great option.  Because there are fewer overheads for the publisher, as in printing and distribution costs, the writer can often make out better with royalties - sometimes making as much as 70%.  Also, due to lower overheads, a publisher will many times be more willing to take a risk on an unpublished author or even a book or character idea that might be a little dicey.
    • The actual time it takes for a book to get published is much faster than in traditional publication.  Where going the "old-fashioned" way might take up to two years, e-publishing can be as quick as three weeks to only a few months after acceptance. 
    • Storage in itself is a great advantage to this form of publishing.  Unlimited space on the internet makes it easy for everyone to maintain files.  Plus, since most e-publications are sent via PDF files, or compatible word processing docs, it's even quick and easy to go in and make changes to a publication.  Traditional publishers are often unwilling to make changes to a manuscript because it involves so much extra work.  
    • Where paper publishers usually try to obtain as many rights a possible, the e-Publisher usually retains none.  That means the writer keeps the rights to his work and even has the option to take it to a paper publisher at a later date.  
    • It's a great way for a new writer to build a platform or create a following before going to paper.  
    • e-Published docs can be sent all over the world in a matter of seconds.  This is a huge advantage to both the writer and to the reader who does not like to wait. 
    As with anything, there are also disadvantages to e-Publishing. 
    • There is a lot more responsibility resting on the writer to market his own work.  With paper publishing people can visit libraries, bookstores or even see a book in a storefront window and make the purchase.  Not so with this method.  
    • Even though royalties can be better, there is no advance in the beginning.
    • It's true that the overheads are lower for the publisher, but that doesn't mean the cost of the book itself is less.  An expensive e-book might not always seem appealing to potential buyers.
    • Some might argue that the quality in writing of an e-published book doesn't compare to that of a paper book. 
    • Sales for e-books are not as great as they are for paper.  In the e-book industry, a writer is considered successful if his e-book sales hit 500.    
    • Online publications may review e-books, but newspaper and magazine reviewers tend to stick with paper.  This is just one more reason why the writer must work harder at promoting himself. 

    Despite the disadvantages of e-Publishing, it's certainly a worthwhile consideration for new writers, or for those who've been published and are looking for additional ways to build on their platform and get their name out there.  Oh!  And if you haven't had the experience to read an e-book yourself or you'd like a chance to win your own reading device, be sure to check out the Read An E-Book Week link!  

    Wednesday, March 02, 2011

    Book Publishing: What Are Your Options?

     Writer’s Digest recently ran an interview with one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott.  In it she touched upon the positive and negative changes she’s seen in the publishing industry over the years.  She felt that an ever growing online community has had an incredibly positive impact for writers or anyone looking to share their lives or histories on the internet.  There’s no disputing that.  There’s quite literally an online community for every person with every plausible interest out there.

    On the negative side though, Lamott notes how the publishing industry has grown the “big time” publishers to the point that the numbers of small-press-run books are beginning to decline.  Her comment made me think about publishing companies.  Most people know that if a book is bound and set to print, a company somewhere must have published it.  Come to find out, there are several kinds of book publishers, each serving a different need or purpose.

    Vanity or Subsidy Press:  A vanity press/subsidy press is a publisher or publishing house that puts out books at the total expense of the author. Most often the author has no say on details like paper color or binding style, but he retains all rights to his work.  These companies do little to no editing or promoting and often inflate all of the costs for what minute amount they do.  Vanity or subsidy presses are usually not taken very seriously and should never be mentioned as a source of credibility in the writing world. 

    Self-publishing:  Self-publishing is when an author essentially becomes his own publishing company and takes on the responsibility of proofreading, editing, promoting, and all other activities that go along with publishing a book for sale.  It is done entirely at his own expense and often done with print-on-demand technology.  It’s especially ideal for niche markets like regional cookbooks or histories, how-to and other books of the sort.  There is certainly something to be said for the hard work and perseverance that go into making a self-published book a success.  

    E-Publishing:   E-publishing is relatively new and certainly one of the most up-and-coming methods of having a book published.  E-publishers offer their books in several different formats including those that can be downloaded to computers, phones, readers and other devices.  Some also use digital technology to make books available in print.  This is an ideal option for anyone who seeks to promote themselves, their business, or even to keep a book circulating that is no longer sold in print. 

    Small Press Publishing:  Small press publishers, also known as “indie publishers” or “independent press” usually print a limited number of bound books and have annual sales below a certain level – in the US it’s $50 million.  Many times they do not publish more than ten titles per year and they usually cater to a niche market like library market, nonfiction, or mystery.

    Small press publishers don’t pay very high advances, but are more enthusiastic about promoting their authors’ works than larger companies, have more flexible schedules, and are well-informed in the area of social media marketing – which can help a lot with promotion. 

    NY House:  Anybody who knows anything at all about book publishers has heard of Random House, Penguin, Simon & Schuster and several other big names like these, including some independents like Dorchester.  They are located in New York City (hence the term “NY House” or simply “New York”) and they are the crème de la crème of the industry.

    NY publishers can pay million dollar advances and get an author’s book in every bookstore, library, or supermarket imaginable.  Of course, going with NY House doesn’t necessarily mean that this will happen. 

    In the following weeks I will write a series of posts, each one breaking down the advantages and disadvantages of going with each approach to publishing.  Until then keep in mind that all of these methods (except Vanity or Subsidy Press) are credible ways to get a book out there and available to the public.  Excellent writing, hard work, perseverance and impressive promotion are sure to get it on the best-sellers list.