The following are my notes from Beth Jusino’s class entitled, “Publishing Facts and Fictions with Beth Jusino,” which I took at the 2014 PNWA Summer Writers’ Conference. If you’d like to learn more about publishing from Ms. Jusino, I highly recommend her book, The Author’s Guide to Marketing (available on Amazon).
Option 1: Big Publishing
The companies we consider the “Big Publishers” are Penguin, who just merged with Random House (and all their imprints), Hachett, MacMillon (Henry Holt, Tor, St. Martin’s Press, etc.), Harper Collins, and Simon and Scheuster. Combined, these make up about ¼ of the traditionally published books that are out there.
Other big publishers that come out with dozens of books per season are Harlequin, Scholastic, etc…
These are big players. They have offices in Germany. They know how to get your book into airports. Big businesses, like WalMart, tend to work together with these publishers, to get your books into the hands of the public. You might not like a cover, but it’s not cheaply done. You might not like the changes to a book, but it has been well-edited.
The Big Publishers are owned by big conglomerates. That means there’s a lot of turnover and they watch stock markets.
It takes anywhere from 12 to 18 months for your book to go from contract to sales. They have multiple books, so you are always sharing their attention with big writers. Regarding advances, you are paid a percentage of every book that sells. An author takes home 10 to 17% of what a book makes.
Let’s say your book will sell for $12 per copy. The big publishers will sit on your book for months before they get it in readers’ hands, so they give you $10,000 in advance. Then when the book comes out, you are credited $1.20 for every book AFTER they get their $10,000 back from the books they sell.
If the advance doesn’t “earn out” (i.e. never makes $10,000), then you never have to pay your $10,000 back. But if it does earn out, then you get $1.20 for each book that sells after it pays out.
Authors for big publishers very rarely have a say in their title and book cover design with big publishers. They may also change the release date without your say. That’s why they don’t take a lot of chances. They turn down a lot of books that they think might not sell in abundance.
They tend to only work with agents, to acquire an author. This is a great thing for you to pursue if you have a large audience already. It’s also a great idea if you have the patience for the long haul.
If you have ambitions to make writing a career, if you hope that this career will support you, big publishing is a way to do that, as long as you have the discipline and momentum to keep that process going. You have to know that you want to make the big time, then the big publishers are a way to go.
It’s not a good idea for someone who has strong opinions about how your book should look or how it’s going to be released. Also, if you have a limited audience who will find your books helpful, then big publishing isn’t for you. If your book is risky or off-beat, it’s going to be a tougher sell.
If you need to feel a personal connection with a team who is invested in you as a person, then big publishing isn’t for you. If WalMart freaks you out, then big publishing is not for you.
(I’ll continue with Beth Justino’s presentation in the following weeks, breaking down each of the different options for publishing in the 21st century. Come back next week to see Option 2: Niche Publishers.)