Ask yourself this: Do you really NEED a publisher?

This is a post by Pavarti K Tyler

In my day-to-day life I’m an accountant. I spend all my time looking at numbers, tax law, and planning strategies. One of the most important skills I’ve had to develop is being able to do a Cost Benefit Analysis. In super simple terms this is just asking yourself, “am I getting enough from X to make it worth doing?”

This is something we subconsciously do all the time, but in terms of publishing it seems the emotional reaction to having a publisher or agent sometimes outweighs the math of the situation.

No longer are we constrained to a system where you cannot publish without a publisher, and no longer are we in a position where without an agent no one will talk to us. Quite the opposite in fact! The technological revolution of the past few years has completely changed the way people are looking at and buying books. And yet emotionally, many of us still long for the credibility and endorsement that goes along with having a publisher or agent.

Let’s break it down by the numbers. Right now it is possible to get 100% of your royalties. From that you need to pay out to distributors and possibly offer discounts. However you make the decision about what you will be paying for. This is one of the driving forces in the Create Space vs. Lightning Source debate. Create Space is cheaper but takes royalties. LSI charges you for everything but takes no royalties.

Say you’re publishing a book for $10. Subtract printing fees of $5.41 and the remaining $4.59 is all yours! However, you had to invest some capital in the book before making those royalties including editing, cover design, interior formatting, distribution, etc. Those items are all your cost of doing business.

With a publisher, I would assume those capital investments would be made for me. However, I’m seeing more and more small publishing houses that are asking their authors to contribute to the initial investment, and yet they still take a substantial portion of the profit.

The question is: What are you buying?

Like any transaction, each party is ultimately looking out for themselves. While we like to give altruistic motives, and there may be a few people out there truly selfless, few people would be in business if they weren’t looking at their bottom line. As authors, you should too.

The cost benefit analysis will be different for each of us. Perhaps you find the whole process tremendously stressful and having someone else spearhead the project is worth the loss in royalties for you. That’s completely reasonable. Perhaps you don’t have the money to invest in those items so letting someone else carry the risk makes sense.

For me, I’m a completely co-dependant and anal retentive author. I want control over the project, and even if I had an agent or publisher chances are I’d still be as hands on. I like using my editor and I like using my book cover designer. I can format ebooks and get a kick out of learning new things. For me, so far at least, the cost benefit hasn’t worked out.

That’s not to say I would never consider a publisher, I’d just have to ask myself, what am I buying? Exposure? That’s certainly worth a lot, and being with a credible, known entity can get you that. Marketing Assistance? That would be great, but again, I’m such a loon I’d likely still do a lot of it myself. Unfortunately fewer publishers are offering marketing budgets or assistance unless their cost benefit analysis tells them they are going to make a return on that investment. Leaving most authors, even with big name publishers, to either pay for or do their own marketing efforts.

So before you sign anything make sure you know what you’re getting and boil it down, in real dollars and cents, whether your potential cost is proportional to the expected benefit.


About this post’s author:

Pavarti K Tyler, Marketing Department DirectorPavarti is a member of the Novel Publicity Team as a PR Campaign Manager. She also provides content editing as a consultant or for her Novel Pub clients. Her unique experience as a dramaturge, both on and off Broadway, has provided her the opportunity to work closely with many playwrights and directors, allowing Pavarti to consider both the literary and audience perspective. Pavarti K Tyler’s novel Two Moons of Sera is a Fantasy/Romance and is being released in a serial format. Her next novel Shadow on the Wall is scheduled for release in early 2012. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or her website.


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