These companies are on extremely hard times right now because of the enormous competition from small press and self-publishers. They used to have a near-monopoly on sales. Nowadays, with bookstores failing and online sales soaring, their control of the marketplace is fading. On the other hand, they still have incredibly high-rent offices in areas where eating out for lunch can cost more than most of us pay for our monthly car payment.
When you look at ebook sales from the start of 2016, 60% of those sales did not involve a traditional publisher. Thatís an enormous change from even five years ago.
Itís important, if you do web research, that you check the dates of whatever information you read. Things change INCREDIBLY quickly in our online world. For example, slight tweaks in how Amazonís Kindle payments were handled by Amazon sent some authors tumbling from incomes of $10,000 a month to $1,000 a month with the exact same inventory. Other changes did the reverse. So you canít look at an article from 3 years ago and think it accurately conveys the current state of things. Itís good to build up a community of writers who are actively using the systems youíre interested in to hear about how things are right now.
So, back to traditional publishing. The companies have enormously high rents in New York City. They generally have to pay high salaries to their employees for the same reason. So their focus is on finding and marketing best sellers. They donít care if you labored on your book for thirty years. They donít care if itís the most insightful book ever written about an African American person struggling with muscular dystrophy. Their main concern is is it going to sell millions of copies. Because they can only handle X books in a year Ė and they need each one to sell a LOT.
In order to achieve this aim, the company is going to try to forecast what is going to be ďhotĒ in the coming year. Will it be zombies mashed with cyborgs? Tragic stories set in Appalachia? Whatever they figure that must-have combo is going to be, thatís what they want. Itís sort of like the fashion industry. If the industry decides peach is going to be the new color, it doesnít matter if you have the most perfect lavender ever seen. Youíll have to wait for lavender to be perfect.
It also means if you bring them something that is pale pink that they are going to want to edit the heck out of it to make it into that best seller.
In my case, when I brought a company a romance that they enjoyed the writing style of, they had decided hot sex was the selling point for the year and they wanted me to add in hot sex. Itís not that they thought my story was bad. Itís that hot sex was their target for the year and they needed stories to match that target. As I wasnít willing to edit my story to fit that template, they easily found other authors who were willing and moved forward.
Letís make clear Ė when a publisher pays you an advance for your manuscript they are not paying you free money. They are paying you out of the sales they expect. So letís say you sign a contract with a company and they pay you $10,000. That seems huge! But what this means is that they expect you to earn $10,000 of your own profits from sales of that book.
The average big publishing house gives the author 10% of the NET proceeds per book sale. So if a book sells in a store for $15 a copy it might sound like youíre getting $1.50 per book sale as your share. But itís not! First they have to take out all of the money they spent on editors, cover designers, marketers, secretaries, and so on. It could easily be that you end up only making 10 cents per sale as ďyour share.Ē
Since they already paid you $10,000 up front, that means the publisher now has to sell 10 cents * 100,000 books = $10,000 before they cover the advance they paid you. You, as the author, only start to see more money after a full 100,000 books have sold. And thatís books at full cost. Many books go down to discount markets or secondary markets after the initial release. So your profit share gets smaller and smaller.
You might not care. You might be happy with the $10,000 and if the company has to eat the remainder of the books it doesnít matter. However, keep in mind the other side of things. If they lose money with you, and donít sell those books, theyíre not likely to work with you again. So this would be a one-shot deal for you.
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... Cons of Traditional Publishers
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... Cons of Small Press Publishers
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... Cons of Vanity Press Publishers
... Pros of Self Publishing
... Cons of Self Publishing
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