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Writer Beware

Unfortunately for all of us emerging authors, there are many people trying to take advantage of you and profit off of your dreams. Some of them are posing as Independent “Traditional” Publishers (or as agents, as in the post last week).

I have known authors that have lost tens of thousands of dollars to a shady publisher to those who don’t even own their own copyright. Don’t let this happen to you.

Know what you’re getting into.

And please. please. please. please…don’t sign away your rights for nothing. Any publisher worth their salt will offer you an advance, even if it is just a token advance. If they’re taking your rights, then they need to put their money where there mouth is. If they don’t or can’t give you an advance, this is a clear indication that they are not financially stable enough to monetarily invest in your work.

Don’t give them your rights.

Also, if it’s a token advance; i.e. under $1,000.00, keep your eBook/electronic rights unless they can pay more.

I discuss this at length in Publishing & Marketing Realities for the Emerging Author. Here is an excerpt:

ANY PUBLISHER who asks for money up front is not a traditional publisher.

They are a vanity/subsidy press trying to masquerade as traditional publishers. A traditional publisher takes on a huge part of the financial risk, that’s why they get such a big cut (at least 80%, usually more).

Traditional publishers pay for:
•    the editor.
•    the proofreader.
•    the cover artist.
•    the ISBN numbers.
•    the print runs.
•    They format and lay out the book.
•    They deal with the Library of Congress and the US Copyright office.
•    They send out review copies at their expense (both printing & shipping).
•    They help you set up book signings and should have a nice release party for your book.
•    They, hopefully, have distribution, or else your book won’t be available in stores.
•    You will get X# of copies of your book for free, but you will have to buy other copies from them for your own purposes/events. This should most definitely be at least for 50% of the cover price.

                BUT BEWARE
If a publisher says something like:
“The more books you buy from us,
the more it will help us out.”
Very fast in the opposite direction.

This indicates that they do not have the working capital to invest in a proper print run without your (the author’s) financial help. Unfortunately, going with an Independent Press can be the worst choice of your writing career. You will not only lose your publishing rights, but they will overprice your book and your eBook, neither of which you have any control over, leaving you with no option but to abandon that book. I’ve seen it happen, more than once, to talented authors with excellent books that have been lost to obscurity.

The fact is many Independent Publishers don’t have the capital to effectively publish your book and justify their hefty percentage.

Here’s how it works:
•    Publishers get books printed for a fraction of the cover price. Take for example a paperback book of about 250 pages, 8.5×5.5 in size. It should cost between $1.50 and $3.50 per book to print, depending on the size of the print run. The more in a print run, the less the cost per book.
•    For a small print run of 1,000 books, that’s $3,000 at $3.00, a high estimated figure for 1,000 books. If they’re charging you 50% of the cover price (say, $7.48 for a cover price of $14.95[17], because novels are always overpriced with a small, indie press), you’re paying that $3,000 for 401 books.
•    They just got 599 books without *any* financial risk of their own. For free because you just paid for the print run.
•    Yet, they’re taking at least 80% of the sale price from the print run you funded.
You might as well publish it yourself, if this is the case.
However, again, if you just want to see your book in print and not worry about any of the publishing aspect, if you don’t plan on doing much promotion, or if it will just bean after-work hobby for you, this type of publisher can work for you.
Just know what you’re getting into.
Same as with the Big Boys, and every other publishing option, promoting your book is up to you. With the independent publisher, they, too, might have an in-house publicist at your disposal. That’s a good thing. It also means they make enough to have employees, another good sign that they are a viable business.

If you decide to go with any Independent Publisher (or a Literary Agent to try for a NY Big Boy Publisher), check to see what Preditors & Editors have to say about them first.

Protect yourself.


In the book, I explain a personal experience with an independent publisher. What about you? Tell us your good or bad stories about working with an Independent Publisher. Let’s talk!

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