Our mission at Publish Your Purpose is to elevate the voices often excluded from traditional publishing. We intentionally seek out authors and storytellers with diverse backgrounds, life experiences, and unique perspectives to publish books that will make an impact in the world.
Just like with other industries, and like life in general, people in the publishing business often don’t like to talk about the financial side and costs of publishing with new authors. Money is a sensitive topic because while it can be a motivator for authors wanting to earn revenue, it can also be a huge deterrent when discussing what it might take to actually get one’s book fully developed and published.
While I understand the hesitance around the conversation topic and acknowledge that it can sometimes be a minefield, I feel as though we owe it to first-time authors and those just wading into the world of publishing to be upfront and honest about what they might encounter. I cannot tell you the number of times I have seen first-time authors misled by people who don’t know what they are talking about or go into deals with misconceptions that could have easily been resolved. The purpose of this article is to start unraveling some of those publishing fallacies and also explain why authors should be investing a fair amount of money in publishing their books.
No One Really Publishes a Book For Free (Except Maybe Oprah)
A lot of first-time authors come into the world of publishing with a mindset that can only be described as traditional publishing tunnel vision. They have grown up consuming popular media, which glamorizes the publishing industry as a place where any author can easily walk through the doors of one of the big five publishing houses, drop off their completed manuscript, and have their book edited, designed, and marketed without needing to spend a cent of their own money. And while this dreamlike scenario might be the case for a handful of hot-shot authors or a celebrity author like Oprah, it is not the reality of nearly every other author trying to publish their book.
Traditional publishers do not sign many big contracts in the first place, but deals with these houses will likely become even more of a rarity due to the merger of multiple traditional publishers. Just in the past year, Penguin Random House and Simon and Schuster, two of the five big traditional publishing houses, have been working towards unifying. No one can really know what this merger means, but experts have predicted fewer contracts offered to new authors and lower payouts for those who do get signed.
Another thing that novice authors might not know is even if they beat the odds and are able to secure a contract with a traditional publishing house, they will still end up paying a price for publishing their book. With traditional publishers, the true cost of publishing with them is hidden. Unlike hybrid and self-publishers, you won’t receive a bill asking you to cover the cost of an editor or cover designer. The real place that you lose money is in the amount of money you will make from your book sales. Traditional publishers will often only offer royalties that are 10% or less of the profits made off of your book and most of the time 5% of those earnings will be contractually promised to your agent who helped you secure the contract. In addition, a lot of authors don’t ever see any royalties from publishers because they won’t sell enough books to cover the cost of their advance (a portion of the expected sales from a book that is given to the author before they even publish).
Traditional publishers aren’t blindly robbing authors by only offering 10% of royalties. You have to remember that they are the ones paying for the production of your book so they have to cover the expense somehow. The loss of revenue when working with a traditional publishing house just goes to show that you will have to pay for your book to be published one way or another.
In addition to losing money on the back end, nowadays traditional publishers don’t carry the same weight in promoting a book as they once did. Publishing houses may ask authors they sign with to fund the marketing for their book all on their own, meaning you will still be paying out of pocket to get your book into the world even when you work with a traditional publisher. I’ve personally had conversations with traditionally published authors that were required to spend over $20k with a public relations team to promote their book upon its release.
Why You Should Invest Money In The Production of Your Book
Once authors come to see the reality of traditional publishing and realize the inevitability of having to pay some sum to have their book published, the question that many have is: “Why would I pay to publish my book when the whole reason I am writing it is to earn money and not spend it?” The next logical leap for many authors is wanting to do the rest of the production themselves. They might use a free graphic design program online to make their cover and then ask an English teacher that they know to go through and make minor edits to the grammar. And while this approach might save them money in the short term, it will hinder their profits in the long run.
- Your Book Will Lead To More Sales (Meaning You’ll Earn a Bigger Profit)
As much as we authors would like to believe that people don’t judge a book by its cover, we all know that notion goes flying out the window as soon as a person walks into a bookstore or starts scrolling on Amazon. The quality of a book’s content may be what sways a consumer into actually making a purchase, but its cover plays a huge role in whether it was picked up or looked at in the first place. Research has shown that the human attention span only lasts around 8 seconds, meaning people will likely only glance over the cover of a book before deciding whether or not to move on. Your cover has to be interesting and attractive enough to initiate that first contact with your book and you’re truly only going to get that kind of cover using a professional designer.
Relying on free graphic design programs online might seem like the easiest and less expensive route, but it might be the thing that puts your book at a permanent disadvantage for its entire life on the market. Just as you are an expert in your field, the businesses that design covers for books are experts in making designs that cater to what customers are looking for. Investing in a well-reviewed cover designer will pay for itself when your book is purchased more due to the aforementioned benefits of having a unique and aesthetically pleasing cover.
While it may not be as blatantly crucial as investing in the cover of your book, you also cannot forgo a professional editor. After your cover grabs the consumer’s attention and draws them in, that 8-second clock basically resets. The description of your book on the back cover and its first couple of paragraphs are what make or break that final decision to purchase. An English teacher may be able to read through your manuscript and add needed commas here and there, but they are not trained in how to edit a book that is going to the shelves. Grammar and wording are two of the least important parts of a professional editor’s job. Their main purpose is to help shape and organize your book in a way that is comprehensive and engaging to readers. They know how to help you pick and perfect that first paragraph or that 250-word description. Knowing how to write a strong paper does not directly translate into knowing how to write a purchasable book.
Also, if you are asking a friend or acquaintance to edit your book pro bono, they will probably not have the time or energy to edit your book to the precision that most customers will expect. Just think about it. If you have a 250-page book, it will take countless hours just to do the first edit of the manuscript. It is very unlikely that someone will catch every error if they go one or even two times. Unless your unpaid editor is willing to closely edit your book 4-5 times, it is highly probable that there will be noticeable mistakes that may sour your reputation with readers.
- Having a Well-Polished Book Opens a Lot of Doors
Not only will investing in the production of your book help directly with book sales, but it can also help you earn revenue in tons of other settings. One benefit of having a polished and well-designed book is that it allows you to attend more conferences and events. Having a book in your arsenal of credentials will give you more weight when applying to speak at these conferences and will give you a leg up against the other people applying with similar backgrounds.
Speaking at these events is directly profitable because the organizers might pay for your time and presence. Other events even agree to buy large quantities of your book in exchange for your presentation, which can be equally, if not more profitable than receiving speaker fees. These events are also incredibly valuable because they can grow your client/consumer base and network for the future.
Your book can help you get a platform to make good first impressions and introduce your work to a whole new audience at these conferences. You have to make sure that your book is high quality and on par with the production value of other books being presented because it will communicate your professionalism and work ethic to potential partners or clients. If you don’t invest in the production of your book and you end up with a book that is riddled with grammatical errors, is fifty pages too long, and has a cover that looks like it was thrown together, that will be what people think is reflective of your work.
Just think about it, you may not get a chance to talk to everyone at the conference, but afterward, someone might take a copy of your book home with them or decide to look it up online. Knowing that your book is serving as your resume to countless potential connections when you are not there, what would you want it to look like?
Paying to have your book published thoroughly by hiring an editor, cover designer, and person to do the layout may seem like an unnecessary expense when just looking at the profits you expect to make from book sales alone, but what many people don’t consider is the number of partnerships and business deals that may come as a result of having your book circulating.
Fears about investing money in something with an outcome as unpredictable as a book are completely justified. Publishing costs are not cheap if they are done correctly. However, there is a whole industry of people outside of the ivory towers of traditional publishing houses that are trained and knowledgeable about how to deliver a successful book. If publishing your book is something that you are passionate about and want to see it to completion there are good businesses in the industry that will help you reach your goals. I always tell authors: “Don’t think about it as investing in one product alone; think about it as investing in yourself and your brand.”
If you are still unsure about the right path for you and your book or you need additional guidance navigating the finances/costs of the publishing industry, click below and we can set up a free publishing consultation.