Monday, November 22, 2010

Publishing Books -- What's Best?

This guy thinks so, though he argues only for self-publication.

I've published six books now -- three with three different publishers (American School of Needlework, Voyageur Press and the Kansas City Star), and three self-published. One book (Hanky Panky) went into 13 printings -- almost unheard-of for a craft book.

    My own experience has been that each book is different. Today's post is on having a publisher publish your book -- tomorrow, I'll give my take on self-publication.


First, there's the effort of interesting them -- and getting a contract. You may get an advance, which helps fund your lower-income writing periods. (Then again, that advance comes out first before you get a cent of your royalties.) And if the book sells well, the royalties come in handy, and they continue to flow until your book goes out of publication. (About 3-5 years, if you're lucky.)

Don't think, however, that the publisher will do a lot of promotion for you -- they won't. A prominent mention in their sale catalog, yes. A full-page ad or two when the book first comes out: maybe. Review copies to various publications and blogs: only if you initiate it. (And insist on it. I knew of publishers that automatically sent their new books, when I was the book review editor at Quilter's Newsletter. My publishers, however, have not, although Voyageur Press was willing to ship to the list of people I suggested.)

   But the primary benefit, as a teacher, judge and appraiser, is much more subtle. People read your book -- and want to meet the writer. People read your book -- and decide that you are an authority on that subject. Or your expertise is worth trusting more. Those assumptions all lead to more gigs teaching, judging and appraising. A further bonus: I can sell books at these venues, giving me even more income. (Not to mention added royalties.)
    You don't make a lot of money selling books -- it costs a great deal to get them wholesale. After I pay the publisher, I only get a limited amount of $$ per book. And the money is tied up in those books, until they're sold. If a rainstorm from an open window damages them -- as happened recently to a pile of Quilts of the Golden West -- well, Brickworks is out of pocket. Too bad.

The final issue is copyright. When I first started publishing with others, it was assumed that I would retain the copyright. When I approached ASN in the past few years with another book idea, though, they insisted they would hold the copyright. My words, my patterns -- their property forever!? I don't think so. (Had that book been accepted, I would have countered by offering the copyright for five years -- then it would revert back to me. I think they would have gone for it, but there's no way of telling for sure.)

So -- is it best to have someone else publish the book for you? On the plus side:
    *You make royalties -- and sometimes an advance, as well
    *They'll do a great job (pick your publisher carefully, for this reason)
    *Their distribution network is generally much larger than yours
   *They'll do (some) advertising
   *Having a book published by a reputable publisher doesn't hurt, status-wise

And on the negative side:
   *They may be difficult to work with -- or make changes you don't want
   *They may demand the copyright
  *They may not keep your book in print for very long
  *They may do little -- or no -- advertising, or sending out review copies

Tomorrow -- What about Self-Publishing, Instead?

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