Monday, October 13, 2008

Should an author ever pay to publish their book?

I want to thank TC and Cathy for their comments over the weekend and this question is for you as you are trying to figure out how to handle and maneuver through the publishing industry.

Now, the questions is whether or not an author should ever pay to have their book or manuscript published? This is an easy answer, an author always pays to have their book published. For example, if Random House approached you as an author and offered you a $1 million dollar advance. You would think that is the best thing ever and by the way you should take it, but it is an advance. The truth is that you won't see another dime until you have repaid the advance or your book has accumulated enough from your royalties to repay them. So sure you didn't pay up front, but you and the results from your work are definitely paying for it, just over a longer period of time.

The publishing industry today has many options available to you. You can self-publish, subsidy publish, partnership publish or traditionally publish. All of these are great options, what is more important is for an author to decide what is the best option for them in their situation.

When looking for a publisher, what I would concern myself with the most is not whether or not there is a fee involved, I would concern myself with two things:

1. How selective is the publishing house? A publisher needs to be selective in what they publish, these helps keep the brand quality in tact and makes sure that you won't be lost in an author pool of ten's of thousands of authors. This is one of the main complaints about self-publishers, they take everybody! So make sure there is a submission, review and acceptance process. In addition, make sure that if your manuscript is rejected, that you submitted to a publishing house that can give you feedback as to why, this will help you grow as a writer and make your next attempt even better.

2. How does the publisher market, distribute and publicize their products? See my last post, "What does distribution for your book really mean?" for more information about this issue. The most important things to make sure of are the following criteria. Does this publisher stock inventory with retailers, wholesalers and distributors? Is 100% of the publishers book product returnable? Does the publisher pay for every book put into distribution at no cost to the author? Many publishers claim they have great distribution, but your book will only be listed in a database or on websites. Ask these questions and you will make a great decision for your book.

At Tate Publishing we have prided ourselves in offering authors more than any other publisher in the industry. No one comes close to what Tate offers, they try or make claims, but the difference is huge. I would encourage you to read some of my other posts to learn more and please keep your questions or subjects you wold like discussed coming my way! As always I am praying for you and look forward to future discussions.

Ryan Tate

BTW, we are very sad here at Tate Publishing today since the University of Texas beat the University of Oklahoma in football over the weekend!!! We will get you next year longhorns!


Anonymous said...


Great blog:), options are good, but it really helps to know the questions to ask. Especially with as many self-publishers as there are out there. I also watched your web videos on You Tube, those are great, the Christmas ones especially. Keep it up.

Bryan K

Dan said...

Excellent post! Way to go explaining to would-be authors that if a publisher offers them a six-figure or seven-figure advance that the author is really paying for it because they won't see a single dime until they've sold enough books for the royalties to cover the advance. It's like the publishers treat the advance like it is an advance on royalties or something.

And a lot of authors don't know that even though the publisher is giving them a million dollars that they can put in the bank and keep even if their book doesn't sell at all, that eventually their book would need to sell enough for the royalties to exceed that advance if they want to see a cent more than the cool million they got as an advance.

That's an important distinction.

Ryan Tate said...

Thanks Bryan and Dan! Dan, you are right, authors rarely understand that in one way or another you always pay! Let me know if you guys need anything else or would like any other subjects discussed. Have a great evening!

Ryan Tate
Tate Publishing

Beth said...

Advance: Money paid to the author. It's called that because it's an advance against royalties. Author earns money. Author does not pay money.

Commercial publisher: Author provides manuscript. Publisher edits and proofreads the manuscript, designs the book, provides the cover and any interior artwork. Publisher owns the ISBN. Author receives an advance against royalties. (Very small presses might not give an advance; larger commercial publishers do.) Those royalties range from 4% to 12% of the cover price, depending on the book's format (hardcover, trade paperback, mass market paperback). Publisher provides distribution.

Self-publisher: Author provides print-ready material, ISBN, etc. (Or buys the services.) Author owns the ISBN and sets the price of their book. Author pays for the printing, editing, etc., and keeps all profits. Often used for non-fiction niche-subjects.

Vanity publisher: Sometimes known as a subsidy publisher. Author pays a much higher fee than to a self-publisher. Author does not own the ISBN. Author has little or no control over the cover price. Author does not receive an advance. Author receives a royalty, not all the profits. Publisher provides, at a cost, editing and book design. Distribution is chancy, at best.

Ryan Tate said...

Thanks Beth, great stuff and we even hear vanity and self-publishers described as the exact same. Actually, most see POD, vanity and self-publishing companies as the same. I will run a post breaking down all the different types in more detail. Great stuff!


Ryan Tate said...

Once again thank you so much for all of the wonderful responses and I have even had several direct contacts with some questions. Several of you have asked questions about if an advance is actually paid back and that is correct. We signed an author Ken F. who had been with a division of Random House and one of his biggest frustrations was that he received a royalty advance, didn't sell enough books and actually received an invoice from them at the end of the first year for the amount of money he hadn't sold to cover his advance. While this is unfortunate, it does happen. Now some of you may be confusing a royalty advance with a signing bonus, a signing bonus can be negotiated anyway and usually is just that a bonus that doesn't have to be repaid. All traditional publishers can negotiate advances and bonuses however they want, but these situations do happen and an author should look out for it. I believe Jane S. had the most questions and I hope that helps clear it up.

Ryan Tate

Anthony Woolstrum said...

Dear Ryan,

Great post. I deal with so many authors who were taken in by the smoke and screens and illusory promises of self-publishing companies.

I totally agree that the questions you have listed are the right questions to ask. The authors I have run across who are disillusioned about the publishing process also don't realize how high a self publishing company may decide to set their book list price, how much they are going to charge for shipping, and how unaccountable some companies are for royalties. Those are just a few more traps for the unwary.

Great post.

-Anthony Woolstrum
Adsum Press

Anonymous said...

I need my autobiography to be published and I know it's an absolute winner-"However", I am a single mum with two children and need to find someone who will consider reading it and as you say, "advance' me the tools and financial assistance needed to get it going.I live in San Diego-any advice?" Where should I start? Tahnks- CASSANDRA