Publishing Alternatives for the 21st Century, Part 1, Definitions

Posted May 2 2010, 5:12 pm in , , , , ,

Do you write off the beaten path? Is your book a hard-sell to New York publishers because it doesn’t fit? Did you write a book for one of Harlequin’s lines, make it all the way to the final editor, only to have it rejected? Should you put that book under your bed or in the dusty recesses of your computer and forget about it?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Today’s authors have a great deal of publishing options at their disposal. Well-written books which don’t fit in the mainstream are finding niche markets and small presses are eager to satisfy those niches.

Two years ago, I posted a series on Publishing with a Small Press. I’m going to repost that series under a different title and expand it. Next week, I’ll post Part Two.

Please post your comments, additions, corrections. This is a collaborative post.
First, I want to start with some definitions:

New York Publisher (large press): These publishers typically have offices in New York City. They do large print runs for their author’s books, which are distributed to book stores. They pay royalties (a percentage of the book’s cover price, usually about 6-8 percent). The author gets paid an advance before the book hits the shelf.

Vanity Publisher (Self-Published): These presses typically publish anyone if you have the money to pay them. You will be expected to pay for things or provide your own, such as cover design, editing, and marketing. They may have limited distribution, if any. They’re good choices if you’re publishing something for a targeted group of people, such as a family history.

Small Press (epub or Epublisher): These presses operate like NY presses. They do not charge any fees to the author. They provide editing, cover art, and distribution. The distribution varies between publishers, as does the quality of editing and amout of marketing. Small presses are becoming a home to niche markets. Fiction which only serves a specialized group of readers isn’t a good risk for large publishers. The writers might be as good or better than writers for big publishers, but they’ve chosen to write in an area which is not popular with the masses.
I find that there are two primary types of small presses:

Electronic or ePubs: Their books are primarily available electronically. They usually do not pay an advance unless it’s quite small. The author earns royalties (usually about 30-40 percent) from the cover price of the book sold in the small press’s bookstore and royalties from the distributor (usually a percentage of what the publisher receives). Many of these presses also offer their books in print via print on demand (see definition below) and through distributors such as Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

Traditional Small Presses: These presses do small print runs. Their books may or may not be available via other distributors. They may or may not provide an electronic format. They may pay a small advance.

Other Definitions:
Print Run: NY pubs do a print run of each book published. The books are then distributed to bookstores. Unsold books can be returned to the publisher for a refund. Returns of fifty percent or more are not uncommon.

Print on Demand (POD): This is a green alternative to print books. Over half of the books printed by NY pubs are not sold and are destroyed. Print-on-Demand books are printed when the buyer places an order, usually in a trade paperback format. At this time, they’re more expensive to buy as the process is more expensive than a print run. POD books are rarely available in bookstores because in most cases they are not returnable. Small publishers and vanity publishers often uses a POD press to print their books.

My next post will include the pros and cons of small presses.



2 responses to “Publishing Alternatives for the 21st Century, Part 1, Definitions”

  1. Laurie Ryan says:

    Very informative, Jami. I can hardly wait for the next installment. Thanks for re-posting, as I apparently missed this the first time around. 🙂

  2. Hey Jami,
    Thanks for posting this. I look forward to your next post. I write for a small press and my only regret is that I waited so long to submit to them.