Eight Options for Publishing Your Books

by John Kremer

You don't have to sell the rights to your book to a big New York publisher who will ignore it to death. You don't need an agent. You don't have to self-publish. As a book author, you have options. Here are eight options I know of and have used. I'll add more if I think of them later.

You have eight options in publishing a book:

1. Self-publishing. Get your own printer, publish your book, and market it. That's how I've published six editions of 1001 Ways to Market Your Books.

2. Set up your own publishing company and self-publishing your own books (plus, perhaps, publishing other books as well). For example, my company: Open Horizons.

3. Print-on-demand printer. You self-publish but you use a POD printer to produce copies 1 to 100 copies at a time. For example, Lightning Source or AdiBooks. In this case, you act as the self-publisher or publisher of your book and use POD as a printing option.

4. Print-on-demand publisher. You pay a POD publisher to publish your book. For example, iUniverse, Lulu, Xlibris, Infinity Publishing, etc. For example, Infinity publishes John Kremer's Self-Publishing Hall of Fame (also available as an ebook download from BookMarket.com).

5. Sell rights to a small publisher and let them publish and promote your book. For example, New World Library, Santa Monica Press, etc. I sold the rights to High-Impact Marketing on a Low-Impact Budget to Prima Publishing (now part of Random House).

6. Sell rights to a large publisher and let them publish and promote your book. For example, Simon & Schuster, Random House, etc. I sold rights to The Complete Direct Marketing Sourcebook to John Wiley.

7. Self-publish your book only as an e-book. Now with the proliferation of ebook readers and stores, this is a real possibility: Kindle, Nook, iPad Books, Kobi, Sony Reader, Google Reader, etc.

Of course, you can also publish your ebook as a Word document or PDF. For example, my ebook on distribution: Book Marketing 105: Choosing a Book Distribution System - This vital mini-guide includes criteria for deciding how you will distribute your books. Also includes complete information on 30 book distributors, 4 library distributors, 89 book publishers who also distribute for other publishers, 3 sales representatives to the chains, 27 bookstore wholesalers, 34 library wholesalers, and 23 Spanish-language wholesalers. Plus a sample book distribution contract. Ebook download, $30.00.

8. Blog your book. Rather than publishing your book on paper, you could simply blog it using a free or paid online blogging service. I'll be doing several books like this in the coming months.

I could easily write a book on these eight options. In fact, if I were to write the book, I'm sure I'd come up with three or four more options.

The option I have always liked the best is forming a publishing company and self-publishing books. Most of my books have been done that way and that option has clearly been the most profitable for me.

“Each has pros and cons, and apart from major strokes of luck each option needs some (actually, quite a lot of) knowledge to get the best result for you. The option you choose will depend on your objectives, your personality and the book(s) you want to publish.” — Arabella McIntyre-Brown, http://publishersangst.blogspot.com

Publishing Unwrapped Interview

The following interview with John Kremer (that's me) was designed to feature publishing options for authors, so I thought I'd include it here as well:

What is self publishing?

Publishing a book on your own.

What is vanity publishing?

Paying someone else to publish your book.

What is Print-on-Demand publishing (POD)?

A tool that anyone can use to publish books one at a time or in small quantities. Authors might use POD to self-publish a book. Publishers use POD for galley copies, to keep older titles in print, and to experiment with new titles.

What is subsidy publishing?

A form of vanity publishing, but where you might have a greater stake and responsibility in publishing the book.

How do the above models compare to traditional publishing?

For authors, all of the above models involve paying to have your book published while in traditional publishing, the publisher pays you for the rights to publish your book.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

Vanity publishing has no advantages. Lots of disadvantages, too numerous to mention.

Subsidy publishing, if done with a good company and for good reasons, might pay off.

Self-publishing, whether via POD or regular offset printing, is a good option.

Traditional publishing is, however, often the best option.

Self-Publishing advantages: Control over content and packaging, fast turnaround, control of all subsidiary rights, opportunity to sell reprint rights to traditional publisher for more money if book is successful as a self-published venture

POD versus Offset advantage: less money commitment upfront

POD versus Offset disadvantage: much higher cost per book sold

Self-Publishing disadvantages: Costs money, takes commitment of time and resources, not as good bookstore distribution as traditional publishing, not the same reputation as traditional publishing, publicity may be harder to get

Traditional Publishing advantages: they pay you, better bookstore distribution, better reputation builder, more publicity opportunities

Traditional Publishing disadvantages: takes a year or two to publish, loss of control over content and packaging, give up more of the subsidiary rights income

How long does it take to get a final product out to the reading public in these various options?

Vanity Publishing: 3 months to 2 years

Subsidy Publishing: 3 months to 2 years

Self-Publishing, Offset: 3 months or more

Self-Publishing, POD: 2 days or much more time (generally depending on the POD service used and the author’s turnaround time and cooperation)

Traditional Publishing: 6 months to 2 years

How does the quality of the output compare?

Vanity Publishing: poor

Subsidy Publishing: can be equivalent to traditional publishing

Self-Publishing: variable, totally dependent on editorial, design, and printing choices

Traditional Publishing: generally good, sometimes great

How does a writer check the reputation, legitimacy or quality of a publishing company?

Ask booksellers and librarians. Consult with me (John Kremer).

What are the pros and cons of e-books vs. paper-based “tree-books”?

E-book pros: fast production, low or no cost, downloadable sales, opportunity to change content continuously and rapidly

E-book cons: nothing to hold on to, hard to give as a gift, no retail store exposure, generally harder to read for long periods of time, not collectible, not as likely to get reviewed by major media

Tree book pros: nice feel, great tradition, holds value longer, collectible, reviewable, signable, giftable, retail sales, reputation builder in a way no e-book can match

Tree book cons: longer production time, higher cost, must be shipped, shipping costs, not amenable to fast or frequent changes

Why has the publishing world changed over the years, and how do you expect it to change further in the future?

Changes in past 35 years that make self-publishing economically possible:

1. Better distribution, more distributors servicing the market

2. Better knowledge and support via publishing associations, books like mine, consultants and publicity services, web sites, etc.

3. Short-run printing. More printers have opened to serve the needs of shorter runs. And now, with POD, the costs to self-publish are even lower.

4. Computers have made it possible to design and typeset your books at little or no cost compared to $12 to $20 per page former cost. Computers also make it a lot easier to track and handle direct sales and customers, with specialized software being developed for the needs of smaller publishers.

5. The Internet has opened up the world to smaller publishers and self-publishers. It has made it possible to sell foreign rights economically, sell books to overseas customers direct, and develop promotional campaigns that cost little money.

What kind of stigma is attached to self-published books vs. those published by a major publishing house?

Some media still ban self-published books, equating them with vanity presses. Very little other stigma applies as long as the books are well edited and well designed. There have been many, many self-published bestsellers. See John Kremer’s Self-Publishing Hall of Fame at http://www.selfpublishinghalloffame.com and http://www.bookmarket.com/selfpublish.htm.

Earning Potentials

How much money involved in each publishing model, both in terms of what is spent and what is potentially earned?

Vanity Publishing: Spend: $3,000 to $25,000. Earn: very little.

Subsidy Publishing: Spend: $1,000 to $75,000. Earn: variable.

Self-Publishing: Spend: $95 to $80,000, but generally around $5,000 to begin with. Earn: From $10.00 to millions. But the typical self-publisher does not make his or her money back. I would guess (this is an informed and reliable estimate) that 70 to 80% of self-publishers lose money on self-publishing when printing via offset and spending money on promotion. 50% of those who self-publish via POD probably break even or make some money.

Traditional Publishing: If the author is paid an advance and spends no money on promotion, the typical author probably makes $10 to $15 thousand.

If an author is accepted by a major publisher, should they still consider self-publishing?

Yes. There are good reasons to self-publish. The most important ones being greater control over content and faster turnaround. If the book is timely and needs to get out right away, traditional publishing will rarely work. If your market is very specialized and you know it well, then self-publishing also makes more sense.

Who holds the rights to the content in the various publishing options, and why should the writer care?

Vanity Publishing: Generally the vanity press holds the rights and shares income (if any, which is rare) with the author.

Subsidy Publishing: Negotiable, but generally shared.

Self-Publishing: The author holds all rights unless really stupid.

Traditional Publishing: The author grants most or all rights to the publisher and shares in the income, which can sometimes be substantial.

The author should care because subsidiary rights can bring in significant income. Even if going with a traditional publisher, the author should negotiate to retain as many rights as possible.

Personal Experience for Writers

As a writer, which publishing models have you used (and why)?

Self-Publishing: Because I wanted books published and couldn’t wait for a publisher to make a decision. Because I knew the market better than any publisher.

Traditional Publishing: Because I wanted better distribution or was through doing the self-promotion for the book.

Which publishing model would you choose for your next book (and why)?

Which model I would choose would totally depend on the book, its need for wide distribution, its content, its audience, and how much the publisher would be willing to pay me for the rights.

What kind of earnings have you been able to make from various books?

From several million dollars to $5,000.


How does someone know if they really should embark on writing a book?

Do they have passion for the subject? Do they have time and commitment to write a book? Can they go on living without writing the book?

How does a writer know if they’ve chosen a good topic?

If they can’t sleep at night because their book is always on their mind. If they wake up in the morning raring to write. In general, the writer does not chose the topic; the topic chooses the writer.

What style should modern books be written in?

Short and sweet is the key nowadays. Shorter sentences, shorter paragraphs, shorter books. As for style, keep your own voice. If you don’t have one, develop one by writing a journal every day.

Formatting and Printing

How should the manuscript be formatted for self-publishing?

In self-publishing, you format so the book is camera-ready or PDF ready. That means typeset at some point, with an appropriate choice of type fonts. If using a typesetter, then formatted double-spaced in any type font.

What software is required (word processor, MS Publisher, PageMaker, Quark, PDF writer)?

I currently use Ventura Publisher, but if I were to make a choice today, I’d use Adobe’s InDesign software for typesetting. If you are going to hire a typesetter or type designer, then you can use any word processing program for input.

How does an author choose a service provider (publisher, printer, etc), when there are so many options available?

Make use of the many listings at http://www.bookmarket.com/101des.htm for book cover designers, layout professionals, and typesetters; http://www.bookmarket.com/101print.htm for book printers; http://www.bookmarket.com/101edit.htm for editors, proofreaders, and ghostwriters; and http://www.bookmarket.com/ondemand.htm for print-on-demand printers and publishers. Then query them with requests for quotations. Also do your due diligence and check out their references.

What is the editor’s role, and how does a writer find an editor (or proofreader)?

Almost every self-publisher needs a substantive editor, a copy editor, and a proofreader.

A substantive editor edits the book for clarity, structure, style, etc. A copy editor checks for spelling, sentence structure, grammar, etc. A proofreader reads the typeset copy to make sure no errors have slipped through the process of editing and typesetting.

After Publishing

Where should books be marketed and sold?

They should be sold wherever the audience buys books. That might be bookstores, but it might also be other retail outlets, the Internet, direct sales, book clubs, catalogs, TV, etc. It really depends on the book. There are a 1001 Ways to Market Your Books.

How important is it for books to be found in major bookstores?

Depends on the book. If it is a gift book or novel, very important. If it is nonfiction how-to, much less important.

How important is it for books to be found at online retailers like Amazon?

Absolutely imperative. Also easy for anyone to set up.

Why is there a trend of moving away from bookstores towards alternate niche-market outlets (like a flower shop for a flower-arranging book)?

Because bookstores can’t begin to stock the number of books available. The largest physical bookstore stocks 150,000 titles. There are 6 million titles in print. It’s not hard to do the math.

How does a writer get their book into various outlets, including bookstores?

Persistence. Good cover and interior design. Lots of publicity. Read chapters 13, 14, and 15 of 1001 Ways to Market Your Books.

What are some of the best methods an author can use to sell books direct to customers?

The Internet, email newsletters, blogging, direct mail, publicity, radio interviews. There are 1001 Ways to Market Your Books.

What kind of promotion is the author responsible for?

These days, if the author wants her book to sell, she needs to get out and do a lot of promotion. She should take complete responsibility while still making use of whatever resources her publisher offers her. For more options, read Chapter 8 of 1001 Ways to Market Your Books.

Book Marketing 101: How to Create a National Bestseller - How to out-sell the New York Times bestsellers without breaking the bank. This is an inside guide on how other authors and self-publishers have created national bestsellers with persistence, elbow grease, and some investment of time or money. Also includes John Kremer’s insight on how to create a bestseller. Ebook download. $30.00.

Book Marketing 102: Editorial as the First Step in Marketing - An incredible book about creating effective editorial that will sell a book, when you should publish a book and when you should not, how to get the best testimonials, creating selling book titles, and more. 78 pages, ebook download, $20.00.

Book Marketing 103: Designing Your Books as Sales Aids — You can sell a book by its cover. Learn how to design both the inside and outside of your books for most effective sales. No other investment can increase the sales of your books more than effective cover designs. In addition, learn how to price your books for greatest sales and ask for the order. 60 pages, ebook download, $20.00.

Book Marketing 104: 192 Marketing Ideas I've Learned from Other People - In this mini-guide, I describe 192 marketing ideas I’ve learned by reading bestselling books and magazines, attending seminars, and watching TV. Learn the seven successful strategies of every bestseller, guerilla marketing for writers, the meaning of success, a bestseller’s take on selling books, the ten secrets of publishing success, Mohammad's guide to gaining paradise, how to be a good talk radio guest, how Terry McMillan became a bestselling author on her own, and how Elmore Leonard became HOT! Ebook download, $20.00.

Book Marketing 105: Choosing a Book Distribution System - This vital mini-guide includes criteria for deciding how you will distribute your books. Also includes complete information on 30 distributors, 4 library distributors, 89 book publishers who also distribute for other publishers, 3 sales representatives to the chains, 27 bookstore wholesalers, 34 library wholesalers, and 23 Spanish-language wholesalers. Plus a sample book distribution contract. Ebook download, $30.00.

John Kremer

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