Many writers dream of having their work published someday. And those dreams follow different courses to fulfillment.
Some attempts are met with piles of rejection letters from literary agents and publishers, while the rare gem finds its way through the slush pile and onto a bookstore shelf with the backing of a “traditional publisher.”
Other authors forego that route in favor of publishing their books on their own. Sometimes, this is because they have more time than money to invest in the process. And other times, it’s so that they can retain creative control of their work.
And then there are those authors who opt for a middle ground, where they hire the services they need performed so they can focus more on their writing than on the publishing process itself.
As an author, our founding partner, Tara R. Alemany, has six titles to her credit, and each was indie published in a variety of ways. Some, she self-published. Two, she went with a so-called “vanity publisher,” and the others were anthologies she contributed to that were independently published by other people. And it was her frustrating experiences with each that led her to start Emerald Lake Books, simply to provide a better alternative to other authors than those she’d experienced herself.
With so many different avenues to go from a manuscript to a finished book, things that were once clear no longer are.
When we talk about publishing today, you’ll hear terms like “traditional publisher,” “self-publishing,” “indie publisher,” “vanity press,” “small press,” “service publisher,” and many other variations.
There’s a reason for all that murkiness…
Publishing itself has changed
The clearly defined roles and responsibilities of publishers and authors have changed.
We’ve been advocating for a few years now that it’s really all just publishing.
You’re taking a manuscript, designing it, publishing it, and distributing it so that it reaches the hands of appropriate readers.
All of the other terms used to refer to that process are describing the business model used in your publishing arrangement. Are you paying for services rendered up-front, like with a service publisher? Or are you paying for services rendered out of sales of your book, like with a traditional publisher? Alternatively, you may choose a blend of the two by working with a hybrid publisher, where you pay some fees up front and the rest from a royalty share.
Or you may not pay any fees at all by doing all the work on your own. For authors who have taken the time to learn how to create a professional product, this puts all of the money in their pockets, which is great! We see this work well for a lot of our friends who are fiction authors. Their business is the business of selling their books. So, they take it seriously, learn how to do it properly, and create some great, enjoyable material.
Unfortunately, it’s also an option that is often chosen by people who have no other publishing opportunities, but who also lack the skills to do it right. So it can be a source of lower quality material making its way to the marketplace as well.
So who is responsible for what?
A common lament of traditionally published authors is that they are responsible for the bulk of the marketing efforts. They find it frustrating to only see 10% of the royalties from book sales, while they do 90% of the work to sell it.
However, that’s a somewhat short-sighted complaint when you consider that the publisher invested the necessary money to edit, design, publish, print and distribute the book. They saw value in what was written and took a chance on it, which means you get to have your book published, but they need the author’s efforts to make back their investment.
At the same time, if the publisher has gone that far with it, why don’t they do more marketing themselves to ensure their investment works out?
Similar questions can be asked of the other publishing models. It always comes down to two things: time and money—and the best way to leverage them.
We are often asked why we charge fees up front and take a royalty share, and the answer is simple. Our business model is to be paid for services rendered. But our work doesn’t end there. Once the book is published, there are on-going things we do to support both the author and the book, and we get “paid” for that out of the results of our efforts. If we simply handed the book over to the author and had nothing more to do with either the author or the book, then receiving a royalty share wouldn’t make sense. But that’s not how we work. Instead, we build long-term relationships with our authors that are mutually beneficial. And when we’re both working to sell the book, we both should reap the reward.
That said, every author has to find the business model that “feels right” to them and that fits their current needs and circumstances.
Finding what works
How you publish your book is one thing. What you do with it afterward is another.
Marketing, promotion, social media, reviews—it seems like there’s a never-ending list of things that need to be done. This lead to a common complaint we hear from authors, “There’s no time left to write!”
The problem we see is that people aren’t certain what works and what doesn’t, so they try everything they hear about, hoping something will lead them to the Holy Grail of book sales.
And as the industry grows and changes, what worked last year may not work this year.
That’s what led us to wonder…
- What was your publishing experience like? And how does it compare to other authors’ experiences?
- What worked for you? And what didn’t?
- Are you happy the results? Or would you do things differently if you were to do it again?
Rather than just wondering, though, we felt that information was valuable enough that it should be captured, recorded and shared. With enough insight into “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of the Authors’ Publishing Experience,” we might be able to help improve the industry for both authors and publishers.
As far as we know, there’s no other survey like this one around.
Sure, there are other industry surveys that cover sales figures, which formats sell best, and in which parts of the world. But we have yet to find a survey that assesses the author’s experience when publishing a book, no matter which publishing model they went with. We want to know: What worked? What didn’t? How can we improve what we, as publishers, do? Where can authors make more of an impact on the success of their book? Does the outcome improve with experience? What is the best use of your marketing budget?
An invitation for you…
All these questions and more are covered in our survey, and we are very interested to explore your opinions and ideas. It doesn’t matter how you published your book, or whether it’s your first or fiftieth book. All that matters is your willingness to share your experience with publishing your book, so we all may learn from it.
If you’d like your voice to be heard, please visit emeraldlakebooks.com/survey to get started. The survey itself will be open until February 14, 2018, and should take approximately 20 minutes to complete, but everyone who completes it will be given the opportunity to receive a copy of the results when the survey is done.
And if you’re inclined to share the survey link with others, we’d truly appreciate it!