Writing a book is hard. And time-consuming. And exhausting. You pour your heart and soul into a Microsoft Word document and mentally and emotionally prepare to share it. With. The. Whole. World.
But the hard part is over, right? Right?!
Navigating the publishing world can feel a bit like running two miles one time and then signing up for a marathon. It’s a big commitment and if you don’t have anyone in your corner who has done it before, it can be really daunting.
The team at The Fedd Agency has been around the block a few times and we are pros at getting books to the finish line, so we’d love to help you navigate the publishing landscape and build the best plan for your needs.
There are three main publishing options: traditional publishing, self-publishing, and agent-managed publishing (also called hybrid publishing or agent-assisted publishing). Below is an overview of each option.
The face of traditional publishing has radically changed, especially with the advent of digital publishing. Not that long ago it was conceivable for a first-time author to land a book publishing deal. However, with the demise of “brick and mortar” bookstores, traditional publishing houses are having to compete for ever-shrinking shelf space in the retail outlets still standing. This has led to a “bestsellers-only” mentality whereby publishers can rarely afford to take chances on anything but blue-chip authors.
Even for seasoned authors or those with a large social media platform, traditional publishing might not be the best choice. Today’s traditional publishing contract contains hazards—which can easily be missed by all but the most seasoned publishing veteran. For example, many publishers now require an author to commit to buying several thousand copies of their book within the first twelve months of release, to lower the publisher’s risk of taking a chance on a lesser-known or first-time author. Let’s break this down using some projected deal numbers:
- Advance – $20,000
- Retail price of your book – $20.00
- Author discount (price publisher charges you) – 65% off retail or $7 per book
- Publisher first-year purchase requirement – 3,000 units
- Your payment in the first year for your copies – $21,000
On top of this, if the publisher is not confident that you can write an acceptable manuscript, you will need to use your advance to pay for a freelance editor or ghostwriter, which will cost you a minimum of $10,000 to $20,000 or more. Thus, the advance money that actually remains in your pocket has just shrunk considerably.
While every publishing deal is different, and not all publishers require a first-year author buyback commitment or ghostwriters, the above scenario is not unusual, particularly for first-time authors on smaller deals (i.e. an advance of $20K or less). Of course, traditional publishing can be a viable route to take if you have a sizable platform, understand how to side-step the pitfalls, and can navigate the realities of marketing and monetizing your book.
Downsides of Traditional Publishing:
- You usually need a large platform and social media following to get noticed by publishers, and the onus of marketing will mostly rest on your shoulders.
- First-time authors don’t often get large advances and are sometimes required to use their advances to hire a ghostwriter or buy copies of their book.
- Royalty rates are much lower at traditional publishing houses. Once the advance is met, authors typically receive 20% royalties on the wholesale price of their book (55% off retail price). If your royalty on a $20.00 book is 20%, that means your royalty will only be about $1.80 for every book sold.
- It takes between eighteen to twenty-four months to move from a signed contract to a published book with the traditional model.
- You sign away all rights to and creative control of your book.
Traditional Publishing might be right for you if:
- You have a large platform and substantial following on social media (100k and up)
- You have already published a book that has good sales numbers (upwards of 10,000 books sold in the first two years or so)
- You are not in a hurry to get your book out (willing to wait eighteen months or longer)
Self-publishing refers to an author completing the entire publishing process—including editing, proofreading, cover design, printing, and marketing—on their own or with their own resources. This is done without the assistance and support of a traditional publisher or publishing company.
This option can be the least expensive and quickest publishing route, but authors often lack the connections, resources, and information needed to ensure a high-quality product and smooth publishing process. Like most things in life, freelancers are a mixed bag when it comes to quality and price, so finding the right professionals to take your book to the next level can be a daunting process.
As about two million books are self-published each year, getting your book to stand out from the crowd is very difficult. Without access to all the sales channels that traditional publishers use, self-publishing limits your mainstream exposure which may make it harder to gain a wider readership. Though it has its drawbacks, self-publishing guarantees the author retains the most control over the creative process and the publishing timeline.
Downsides of self-publishing:
- Unless you have access to professional editors and designers, your book may not read or look like a bestseller. A great product is essential to the longevity of sales.
- About two million books are self-published each year, so getting your book to stand out from the crowd is very difficult.
- Research is required to make sure you have all the right registrations and distribution outlets set up.
Self-Publishing might be right for you if:
- You have $10,000 or less to invest in the production of your book
- You are already connected with an editor and designer and have ample time for managing the project yourself
- You want to get your book on the market as soon as tomorrow
With the rise of social media and the explosion of online platforms, there’s been an acute need for a new publishing model to serve social media influencers, authors, leaders, and business executives. Specifically, what many publishing veterans have witnessed are two key changes that make a new model critical:
- Disappearing channels of distribution. With the death of brick-and-mortar bookselling and the domination of Amazon, influencers and leaders with large platforms are no longer dependent upon a publisher’s sales force to distribute their book.
- The rise of social media and access to digital marketing. This has put more control into the hands of the average person to build their brand and garner exposure. (Or, to find their own freelance digital marketing partners to help them grow.)
Fedd Books embraces the new paradigm of content publishing and brings the best aspects of both traditional publishing and self-publishing into one process: agent-managed publishing. In this “hybrid” model, content creators, thought leaders, and influencers have access to five-star editors and designers; Fedd’s industry-leading agents to coach and advise you; and step-by-step guidance on the printing and release process as well as your digital and marketing options.
In a well-run hybrid model, you will pay about $35,000 to get your book published (e.g., editorial, design, printing, Amazon management, etc.). So yes, there is a greater upfront cash investment with agent-managed publishing. However, if you sell your book for the same $20 price, you only need to sell 1,750 books at retail price to break even (1,750 x $20 = $35,000). That’s compared to more than 11,000 units in the traditional publishing scenario!
Agent-managed publishing means you have someone in your corner managing your project for you, saving you time, and helping you craft the best book for your audience.
Downsides of Agent-Managed Publishing:
- Requires an initial investment from the author to get the quality services needed to produce a great book.
- More limited retail distribution options.
Agent-Managed publishing might be right for you if:
- You have at least $25,000 to invest in the production of your book
- You want to retain full creative control and ownership
- You want to publish in less than a year (as little as four to six months after manuscript completion)
- You are still growing your online following and don’t yet have a huge platform, but a book is part of your plan to expand your reach
- You want to retain a higher royalty rate
Every athlete needs a coach in their corner who can help them train for what’s ahead. Whether you want to seek traditional publishing or agent-managed publishing, your coaches at The Fedd would love to help you succeed and get your book to the finish line.