Lessons Learned from the Publishing World

The Real Costs of Self-Publishing a Book | Mediashift | PBS www.pbs.org

The Real Costs of Self-Publishing a Book | Mediashift | PBS

With the changing world of the publishing business, authors must learn new lessons or be left by the wayside. Over the past year, I experienced more than one “lesson” as I moved forward in my career.

Since late 2008, I published my novels with Ulysses Press, named five times as one of Publishers Weekly’s ten “fastest-growing small publishers.” My time with Ulysses was wonderful in the aspect they took a complete unknown and presented her multiple contracts. They financed many of my public appearances, including one at the Smithsonian, and I would be happy to remain with them, but they made a business decision no longer to publish fiction. As such, we parted ways in 2014.

That left me with the choice to either self-publish or look for a new publisher. I am not opposed to self publishing, having released a number of titles on my own, most prominently, the later part of the “Realm” series after Ulysses decided not to continue with the books, but I wished to prove to myself that I could locate another publisher willing to contract my work. I realize it was a bit egotistical, but I knew I had nothing to lose. I am not overly agitated when someone tells me “no.” I cut my losses and move on.

All that being said, in my search for a new publisher, I discovered some cautionary tales that I would like to share.

1) Many of the larger publishers now have “side” POD (print on demand) presses that they use for those who they think will require a bit more work to bring to the table. These subsidiary POD presses charge the author for editing, cover design, interior design, etc. Be aware as a beginning author that you know the parameters of what is being offered before you sign anything.
2) Most publishers are converting files to POD to eliminate the cost of books setting in a warehouse. This affects the contract and the possibility of the author purchasing the hard file for the book when the contract expires.
3) Many of the contracts for a book are now only for 2 – 3 years rather than the traditional seven years.
4) The author is expected to generate outlets to publicize his/her book. Smaller presses, but large ones, as well, have cut their staffs ,and there is no one to assist with publicity. Generally speaking, I find most publishers are willing to assist, but the responsibility for generating the ideas often must come from the author.
These are some of the questions I was asked as part of several different marketing surveys sent to me by potential publishers:

*What is it that makes your book compelling, special or unique?
*What is the author’s backstory? What makes you uniquely qualified to tell your story?
*What inspired you to write the book? How will your story inspire readers?
*Do you expect your book to be financially profitable for you? Do you understand how royalties work? What are your financial expectations regarding your work?
*Do you have a plan for marketing your book? If so, please elaborate on your plan?
*Do you have a budget for marketing your book? Have you set money aside for this purpose? Are you prepared to purchase no less than fifty copies of your book for personal marketing?
*Have you determined the primary market for your book? Is so, please describe your ideal reader. Is there a secondary market? How will you reach these readers?
*What is the age demographic? Gender? Culture? Political? Professional? Describe your ideal reader in those terms.
*Does your book have a “built-in” demographic? Students? Schools? Employees? Professional Organizations? Social Networks? Book Clubs?
*Do you have any background at public speaking? If so, please detail experience.
*Do you have any background at marketing? If so, please detail experience.
*Do you have any background at running a business? If so, please detail experience.
*Do you have any media connections? Newspapers? Magazines? Television? Film?
*Detail an experience in your life in which you have demonstrated tenacity and ingenuity.
*Can you demonstrate how many books your title will sell within the first ninety days of publication?
*On what date will you be ready to begin marketing your book?

[If you have not thought about some of these questions, perhaps you should. They are the way of the future.]

5) Many publishers expect the author to purchase large quantities of books for giveaways, other promo items, etc. They are sold to the author at a reduced price, but some demand the author purchase as many as 1000 copies. This goes beyond the customary purchases. I do LOTS of book festivals, author events, etc., and regularly purchase copies for those book signing opportunities and for giveaways, but I balk at the idea that I must purchase 1000 copies of a book before the publisher will consider me as an author. It is the blending of the POD presses and the traditional publishers that is creating such issues.

6) Several publishers do not offer complete copy editing. They will edit only the first 50-75 pages and then send the author a “summary” of the type of mistakes he/she regularly commits. I spent years and years in an English classroom, but I do not catch ALL my errors. We all know we read what we think is on the page. If the author wishes for another to edit the full book, then the POD business model kicks in again, with a charge for the services.

7) Up front royalty payments are becoming a thing of the past being replaced by a higher percentage of the sale, with no holding funds for returns, etc.

8) Many presses will no longer accept returns, which makes bookstores hesitant about ordering the book. This affects the choices readers experience at a bookstore. Fewer “new” authors are showing up there. Only tried and true authors appear on the shelf.

I have a few more horror stories to share from my search, but I will save those for another day. I did find two new publishers, and the books will soon be released, but I made concessions based on MY needs. Not every format works for every author. We are individuals and must discover what works best for each of us. Happy Writing!
Released April 13, 2015

UnknownElizabeth Bennet’s Deception: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary

What if Fitzwilliam Darcy refused to approach Elizabeth Bennet when he observes her upon the grounds of Pemberley? What if Elizabeth permits Mr. Darcy to think her the one ruined by Mr. Wickham? What if love is not enough to bring two souls together?

FITZWILLIAM DARCY’s pride makes the natural leap to ELIZABETH BENNET’s ruination when the lady appears, without notice, upon Pemberley’s threshold to plead for Darcy’s assistance in locating his long-time enemy, George Wickham. Initially, Darcy cannot look beyond the pain of lost hopes, but when Charles Bingley demands that Darcy act with honor, Darcy assumes the task. Even so, the idea of delivering Miss Elizabeth into the hand of Mr. Wickham leaves Darcy raw with anguish.

Yet, Darcy loves Elizabeth Bennet too much to see her brought low. He sets his heartbreak aside to save the woman he loves, but it is not long before Darcy realizes Elizabeth practices a deception, one Darcy permits so he might remain at her side long enough to convince the lady only in each other can they find happiness. Their adventure takes more twists and turns than does the original “Pride and Prejudice,” but the reader will enjoy the devotion displayed by Darcy and Elizabeth as they bring Wickham to the line in Lydia Bennnet’s defense, as well as their working their way through multiple misconstructions and vulnerabilities. Darcy’s final wooing of Elizabeth brings two very private individuals to a very public declaration of their love.

Released April 16, 2015

Unknown-2Mr. Darcy’s Fault: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary Novella

What if an accident prevents Elizabeth Bennet from reading Mr. Darcy’s letter of apology? What if said letter goes missing and ends up in the hands of George Wickham? What if Mr. Wickham plans to use the evidence of both Georgiana Darcy’s ruination and Darcy’s disdain for the Bennets to his benefit? How will Darcy counter Wickham’s plans and claim happiness with Elizabeth Bennet?

When he notices his long-time enemy in the vicinity of Hunsford Cottage, FITZWILLIAM DARCY means to put an end to an assignation between ELIZABETH BENNET and Mr. Wickham, but Darcy is not prepared for the scene which greets him in Rosings Woods. Elizabeth lies injured and crumpled beneath one of trees, and in order to save her, by Society’s standards, Darcy must compromise Elizabeth. Needless to say, Darcy does not mind claiming Elizabeth to wife, but what of the lady’s affections? Can Darcy tolerate Elizabeth’s emotions being engaged elsewhere?

Compelled into an engagement she least desires, Elizabeth Bennet thinks it impossible she could ever care for the arrogant Mr. Darcy, but the man proves more irresistible than Elizabeth first assumes. Yet, just when Elizabeth begins to believe happiness is within their grasps, Mr. Wickham reappears in her life with a “proposal” Elizabeth cannot refuse, and it is all Mr. Darcy’s fault.
Released May 12, 2015

Unknown-1His Irish Eve
When the Earl of Greenwall demands his only son, Viscount Stafford, retrieve the viscount’s by-blow, everything in ADAM LAWRENCE’s life of dissipation changes. Six years prior, Lawrence released his mistress, Cathleen Donnell, from his protection, only to learn in hindsight that Cathleen was with child. Stafford arrives in Cheshire to discover not only a son, but also two daughters, along with a strong-minded woman, who fascinates Stafford from the moment of their first encounter.

AOIFE KENNICE, the children’s cousin and caregiver, appears impervious to Stafford’s masculine charms, as one of England’s most infamous rakes. In truth, Aoife is not immune as she pretends; rather she cannot imagine herself as the object of more than a flirtation on the part of the viscount. On balance, they are worlds apart: Aoife is the daughter of a minor Irish baron and the opposite of her beautiful cousin Cathleen, who possessed all the skills to lure in a handsome viscount. To make matters worst, Aoife maintains the family’s sheep farm to support Stafford’s family. A “lady” Aoife is not.

Set against the backdrop of the Peterloo Massacre, a battle begins: A fight Adam must win-a fight for the heart of a woman worth knowing, his Irish “Eve.”
Released May 27, 2015

HAHSHis American Heartsong

LAWRENCE LOWERY, Lord Hellsman, has been the dutiful elder son his whole life, but when his father Baron Blakehell arranges a marriage with the insipid Annalee Dryburgh, Lowery must choose between his responsibility to his future estate and the one woman who makes sense in his life. By Society’s standards, MISS ARABELLA TILNEY is completely wrong to be the future baroness–she is an American hoyden, who demands that Lowery do the impossible: Be the man he always dreamed of being. (A Companion Novel from the Realm Series)
Arriving June 16, 2015

PoMDC Cover-2-2The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin: A Pride and Prejudice Mystery

Fitzwilliam Darcy is enjoying his marital bliss. His wife, the former Elizabeth Bennet, presented him two sons and a world of contentment. All is well until “aggravation” rears its head when Darcy receives a note of urgency from his sister Georgiana. In truth, Darcy never fully approved of Georgiana’s joining with their cousin, Major General Edward Fitzwilliam, for Darcy assumed the major general held Georgiana at arm’s length, dooming Darcy’s sister to a life of unhappiness.

Dutifully, Darcy and Elizabeth rush to Georgiana’s side when the major general leaves his wife and daughter behind, with no word of his whereabouts and no hopes of Edward’s return. Forced to seek his cousin in the slews of London’s underbelly, at length, Darcy discovers the major general and returns Fitzwilliam to his family.

Even so, the Darcys’ troubles are far from over. During the major general’s absence from home, witnesses note Fitzwilliam’s presence in the area of two horrific murders. When Edward Fitzwilliam is arrested for the crimes, Darcy must discover the real culprit before his cousin is hanged for the crimes and the Fitzwilliam name marked with shame.
Regina-270x300Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of 25 novels. She writes cozy mysteries, Austenesque pieces, and Regency romance. Join her  on … 

About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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2 Responses to Lessons Learned from the Publishing World

  1. juliaergane says:

    Regina, Actually, you skip the most important first thing: get an agent. Even though there is good word-of-mouth on a number of authors, the fact that you are in fact publishing through a “vanity” outlet does have a lot of drawbacks. I am forever irritated at stupid editorial errors (dropped words, words that have been misplaced, etc.). I’m further irritated at errors that are so huge that the book should not even have been published at that certain point. I am, I believe, a writer, who is currently researching for an historical novel. This process I know will take me at least 2 years. I want to get this right, not just out there as quickly as possible. An agent can in fact keep a lot of the bookkeeping you go through straight. If it is good enough s/he can get international rights & translations set up. There is so much more I can say right now but I’ll bring it to a close.

    • Julia, the piece was written as a “caution” to those who do not know the ins and outs of the publishing world. I commend you for your tenacity to “get this right,” but there are many who would be better served with helpful words of encouragement rather than censure. Not everyone’s path to publishing is the same. As to the concept of “getting an agent,” the doors are closed to many who would choose to go that route if possible. An agent looks for specific types of works to place at specific types of publishing houses. What if the author writes a piece not within the agent’s “guidelines”? That does not mean the piece should never be published? Should the author forget his hopes? I can tell you from being published with an traditional publisher for many years that an editor for a publishing house is not always going to correct the “stupid editorial errors” you mention in your comment. To cut costs, many pub houses hire students straight out of college with English degrees, but who have not had a class in grammar in many years or if ever. The world of publishing is not perfect. Wading through it takes a person with a good head on his shoulders and a bit of forewarning.

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