In today’s publishing world, a revolution is happening between traditional publishing and indie publishing. More and more authors are turning to indie publishing to get their work out into the marketplace and into the hands of their audiences. A question I get asked frequently is; what exactly is the difference? Let’s start with defining what each type of publishing is.
Publishing companies produce and widely distribute to bookstores, online stores, and massive chain stores such as Walmart or Target. They also provide tools to craft the book, such as editing, graphic design, and marketing. These efforts and connections are done in-house, but the author is still expected to sell books via signings and book expos as well.
An Indie Publisher is a self-publisher, usually an author or a small group of people. Those who walk into the world of indie publishing will wear many hats. Not only do they do the writing, but they have to oversee and manage the publishing of their own books. They have to hire editors, a graphic designer to layout the book cover, a book designer to layout the interior, and they have to set up the distribution. Most importantly, they have to do extensive marketing of the book.
NOTE: The children’s book market is highly specific. Though the actual steps of publishing are the same for both types of publishing, you must know what road you want to travel.
In traditional publishing, an author grants a set of rights to the publisher, such as which country and language the book will be published in. This also includes points such as electronic rights and merchandising rights. Depending on the rights granted, the publisher will “advance” the author a sum of money.
Please know nobody is giving away (or getting) “free” money. This advance will have to be paid back in full via book sales before the author sees a dime of royalties. Also, the book’s production cost will be in the payment distribution, i.e., editors, graphic design, distribution set up, and marketing. The “advance” is like a loan, except the author doesn’t have to pay back the advance if the book doesn’t sell well. They don’t need to “pay back” their advance; however, they won’t make any royalties. The advance is solely a payment for granting the publishing rights.
Once the rights are granted to the publisher, the publisher, in turn, takes the financial risk of investing in the book instead of the author. But don’t be mistaken in thinking that you will make profits sooner if you take less of an advance. The author is granting rights, and there is a specific payment for those rights. If the rights become too extensive without payment, the author is taking the risk, not the publisher. Remember, it’s the publisher who takes the financial hit if the book doesn’t do well, not the author.
As an indie publisher, you retain all of the rights to your book and will benefit from those rewards once the book is published. It’s true you won’t get the “advance” at the front in, but you will get your reward. On the flip side, as the publisher, you will also take the risk if the book fails. You will also take on all production costs, such as editing, artwork, graphic design work, distribution set-up, and marketing. As an indie publisher, you have a two-fold investment: Time and Money.
At the end of the day, an indie publisher retains all of their rights, has creative control of their project, and takes all of the risks. But with risks also come rewards.
Though I may hire certain people to help me with my book projects, I retain all of my rights and pay a fee for their services. My goal is to recover these expenses with my future book sales.
At this point, indie publishers have an advantage over traditional publishing. An indie publisher has a bigger audience to sell to and a larger window to do it from. Traditional publishers depend on bookstore shelf space which is highly limited space and time. A new book has an expiration date will be removed to make room for the new releases.
The traditional publisher needs to make their profits quickly. An indie publisher may have a hard time getting into bookstores, but they have unlimited online bookshelf space.
An indie book can take as long as they need to make its profits back. Some books just need time to gain momentum or are “ahead of their time.” Plenty of stories about well-known authors who didn’t hit their stride and start selling large quantities of books until they were 7+ books into their career.
Indie publishers usually know their audience personally, and using social media, video, blogs, and online communities can help to grow their audiences personally. Through this audience, they can quickly grow into best sellers on such places as Amazon and Barnes & Noble
Royalties are done in very specific ways. In Traditional publishing, you will not make any royalties until the advance and production cost has been repaid. Depending on the book, this is usually around 9000 copies sold. Traditional publishers also do not pay out except every 6 to 18 months, making it nearly impossible to write books for a living.
In indie publishing, the profits are yours once the distribution costs are taken out at the point of sale No one to pay back but yourself and any support staff you have brought on the project.
Valarie Budayr is the founder of the independent publishing house Audrey Press and co-author of The Ultimate Guide to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Fox Diaries: The Year the Foxes Came to our Garden. She is also the co-founder of Multicultural Children\’s Book Day. Valarie is passionate about making kid’s books come alive and bringing back the joy of reading to young and old alike. You can find her doing that on her popular blog and website, Jump into a Book.
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