Part of the research I have done into writing a book/series/murder mystery/cozy mystery, has been about publishing. Before I started to read up on it, I had imagined I would go the traditional route. Get an agent, then a publisher, publish mainly in print with ebooks on the side. However, the more I read up on it, the more self publishing seems the way to go.
Traditional publishing seems to take a long time from writing a book to getting it published. You need to finish your book first, then find an agent (who usually expect the full novel if they like your first chapters), then let the agent find a publisher. Then there’s the editing process, cover design, printing, and publishing the book at a time that makes sense to the publisher. Each stage can take months. And the publisher might expect a publishing schedule that is not compatible with your writing speed, or indeed wants to only publish a book a year when you want to publish several.
I am living off my savings currently, I don’t have time for all that. That doesn’t mean that I will be publishing any time soon. I made the decision to write the first three books concurrently, which means that it will take longer to get the first book finished than it would have if I had just focused on writing that one. But as a newbie writer, I think that writing three books (even to draft phase) before publishing the first will make the books all the stronger for it. But, as soon as I am ready, with self publishing I can be published in days.
As I haven’t published anything either in traditional way or through self publishing, I am relying on internet research a lot here. From what I gather (see some of my sources below), publishing traditionally means that the writer gets about 8 % as royalties. This means that if a book costs 15 GBP to the reader, the author will get about 1 GBP of it. That’s before agent’s fee and taxes. I get it. The publisher takes all the risks, does all the editing and book design work and prints a set amount of books without knowing if they will sell. Still, 8 % is 8 %. And you only start getting paid that per book if and when the book advance has been met. So if the publisher gives you a 3000 GBP advance, you won’t see another pence until they have gotten their money back.
Self publishing through Amazon (the biggest, but not only avenue), means that the author gets 70 % of the book’s cost as royalties. So that same 15 GBP book pays 10.50 GBP to the author when self published. What this means is that if the book is self published with a price of 4.30 GBP, the author gets 3.00 GBP, or three times as much as from a traditionally published book that costs over three times as much to the reader. I would imagine that a reader might be more tempted by a book that costs 4.30 GBP than the same book when it costs 15 GBP.
It might be exaggerating some, but the cheaper book might outsell the pricier one 3 to 1, and still net the author three times as much per book. So comparing the two publishing options, the same book might need to sell ten times the number of copies when published traditionally, than when self publishing.
Since I hope to make a living from my writing, money matters. Self publishing is seldom a ticket to huge riches, but for a starting writer it is a very attractive proposal. And think of it this way: when I self publish, you will get to read my books for much less cost than if I had published through a publishing house. Win-win, I would say!
When self publishing, the author can make all the decisions. When and how many books a year to publish, cover design, pricing, re-packaging a book with a new design and name and even offering it for free to attract more readers, you name it. It of course also means you have to do all of the work a publishing house would do for you yourself. That means paying for an editor and proof reader, formatting the book, paying for a cover designer, book promotion and marketing, and doing this all when you haven’t been paid a single pound as advance. And to capture the elusive readers, you better make sure you have the best version of the book when you publish it, rather than publishing something half assed and riddled with typos and errors.
It is an exciting, if a little scary, to have all that freedom. It means, after all, also the freedom to fail. Only a small percentage of published authors make a living out of writing, traditional or self-published. My plan to succeed is to publish 3-4 books a year, rather than just one book ever and hoping it becomes a huge hit. Realistic expectations, that’s the key.
The above self publishing money matters has been about ebooks. Comparing ebooks to hard covers (which might cost the hypothetical 15 GBP) is of course comparing apples and oranges. Print books still dominate the market with about 75 % share in the UK, but it differs genre to genre. 50 % of all fiction books were already read in e-format, and well, my books are fiction, so there’s that. And when it comes to cozy mysteries, few are bought in hard cover. There are ways to create print books that are printed on-demand, through e.g. CreateSpace. That means that the reader can click to buy a print book, hard cover or paperback, on Amazon and the book is printed for them on demand. There is no risk involved to anyone, or unsold books lying in a warehouse somewhere.
I still need to learn more about the different print book publishing options, but I will likely do that as well. If not for anything else, then for me to display proudly in my bookcase at home. See? I did that! But now I best get back to writing. The first step in publishing a book, after all, is to write one.