"I'm an author ready to publish my book. I can self-publish my book on my own. I don't need a publisher. Why should I go to you?"
I've been asked this question many times over the years, most recently on several discussion groups on Facebook. In today's world - with so many options available to authors to self-publish their work - why would an aspiring author want to publish their book with a traditional publisher? Are there any benefits to going the traditional route? How much control does the author retain if they do choose to use a traditional publisher? What are the downsides to using a traditional publisher?
I will try to answer these questions based upon my own experiences as a publisher and author. These responses are specific to Artemesia Publishing - and our imprints - and may not (probably will not) reflect what other traditional publishers do.
First, you should know the difference between a traditional publisher and other types of publishers, such as hybrid publishers and vanity presses.
Traditional: These publishers purchase the right to publish and sell a manuscript (usually together with other rights, known as subsidiary rights) on an exclusive basis. Large houses and bigger independents pay an advance on royalties; small presses often don't. Traditional publishers are highly selective, publishing only a tiny percentage of manuscripts submitted.
There's no cost to the author with traditional publishing; publishers handle every aspect of publication at their own expense. This substantial financial investment is recouped from the sale of books to the public, and from the licensing of subsidiary rights. Traditional publishers are highly incentivized to invest significant resources in marketing and distribution support for the books they publish, in order to drive sales. (Definition from the SFWA.)
Hybrid: Hybrid publishing companies behave just like traditional publishing companies in all respects, except that they publish books using an author-subsidized business model, as opposed to financing all costs themselves. In exchange they return a higher-than industry-standard share of sales proceeds to the author. A hybrid publisher makes income from a combination of publishing services and book sales. Although hybrid publishing companies are author-subsidized, they are different from other author-subsidized models in that hybrid publishers adhere to a set of professional publishing standards. (Definition from the hybrid publishing standard published by IBPA.)
Vanity: These presses charge a fee to produce a book or requires the author to buy something as a condition of publication, such as finished books or marketing services. As with traditional publishing, a vanity or subsidy publisher contracts rights on an exclusive basis, but gatekeeping is minimal, if it exists at all. (Definition from the SFWA.)
Artemesia Publishing follows the traditional publishing model. We work in partnership with authors to publish their book and we do not charge the author any fees or require them to pay for any services. Essentially, all of the risk and costs are on our shoulders. What follows is a list of what we do for each book that we publish, and a bit of our philosophy. This is general information and specific responses can be found in our contract or upon a direct request from an author. ("We", "us", "I" etc. refers to Artemesia Publishing. "You" refers to the author.)
- We pay above the industry average (which is generally 10%) for royalties on print and ebooks. We do not pay any advances. Royalty amounts are calculated from Net Sales and are paid on a quarterly basis if over the minimum amount.
- We provide the author with 20 author copies of the final published book. Additional copies after that can be purchased at a 50% discount off of the book's list price.
- We supply the ISBN for the title, in all its formats.
- You retain the copyright for the work. Our contract is only for publication and distribution of the work.
- We determine the price for the book based upon the print costs and how similar titles are priced.
- We pay to have the book printed. You do not pay for any costs associated with book printing.
- We usually print in trade paperback size (usually 5.5" x 8.5"), though occasionally we have printed in different sizes. While we have published hardback titles in the past, beginning in 2020 we will no longer publish titles in hardback editions.
- We pay to have the manuscript sent to a copy editor/proofreader. Even if you have edited the manuscript to death, we insist that all manuscripts go through a final copy edit. We've learned (the hard way) that having multiple rounds of editing is not a bad thing.
- We perform a thorough content edit of the manuscript making detailed suggestions and edits prior to being sent to a proofreader. I have been told I can be very hard on these edits, but my intention is always to make the book the best product that it can be. I do not expect for an author to accept all of my suggestions - in fact I expect there to be push back - but I think a healthy give and take between author and editor is good for both parties. Again, I see publishing as a partnership.
- We pay for cover design and cover layout. We work directly with the author on the cover design, and want your input into the design, and if there is an artist or designer that you want to work with we will do that. Our philosophy is that you should love your cover and be happy with it. You also know your book the best and should have a good idea of what would catch a reader's eye.
- We convert the manuscript into ebook formats, and if necessary will pay for the conversion.
- We pay for any costs associated with audio book production, if the book is selected to be made into an audiobook. (We have 2 books currently available in audio, so this is a new area for us.)
- We pay for marketing costs. This can be a variety of costs, including signing up for newsletter blasts, web ads on magazine sites, Facebook, etc., or more traditional ads.
- We try to get your title into large book shows through cooperative displays with trade groups. This includes Frankfurt Book Fair, Book Expo America, American Library Association, and others. We also attend regional trade shows when we can.
- We submit books for review to national review sites (Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Library Journal, etc.). However, if the book is submitted to a site that requires payment then we cover those costs.
- The release date for your book will be 9-12 months from the time we accept the manuscript. Part of the long lead time is to allow for marketing of the title before release. We also have a contractual arrangement with our distributor to provide them the basic book information 7 months ahead of publication for marketing.
- Our distributor works with us to sell your book to different outlets, including Amazon, retail brick & mortar stores, chain specialty stores, and libraries. Our distributor also sells to all of the standard distributors such as Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Follett, etc.
- We are an additional outlet for selling your title at the different book fairs and events we attend.
- We work with an agent in Europe to pitch our titles for foreign rights publications. There is no guarantee that rights will be sold but we've established the relationship.
- We ask that you create the book synopsis, book blurbs, and select appropriate keywords. You know your work the best and know how to describe it. That said, we work with the author to edit blurbs down to smaller sizes so they can be used in a variety of marketing formats.
- We ask that you complete a marketing questionnaire that will help us to create the marketing plan for the book. This includes possible places for book signings, trips you may be taking, and sources for advertising. We may occasionally ask you to cover small marketing costs, often related to travel costs for events, etc. We do not pay for travel, lodgings, or meals for you at an event.
- We expect for you to be an active self-promoter for your work, including seeking out review sources, interviews, social media campaigns, etc. If you plan on doing a book tour, or even just to set up events at local book stores, we will assist, but we have found that for a small publisher the best promoter to set up events is the author. We will work with a store/event to make sure that copies of the book are available for the event.
- Our contract does not have any clauses about sequels, subsequent books written by you, or require a first right of refusal on a new manuscript. We would like to publish your additional works but know that you may want to look for other publishers or even try self-publishing. We hope you will give us an opportunity to publish additional works, but do not contractually require it.
- We do not require you to have an agent, though we would not be opposed to working with an agent. (We have never been approached by an agent before.)
Overall, if you want to publish with us what are the pros and cons?
- We handle all the costs associated with the book production, freeing you from the most expensive part of publishing.
- We offer an above industry average royalty rate.
- We form a partnership with our authors to publish and promote your book.
- Increased opportunities for sales beyond just Amazon.
- Marketing of your book at no cost to you with your input as to the best marketing locations and strategy.
- Less control over distribution and book price.
- Less control over creating book promotions (such as free ebook giveaways, etc.). They can still happen but have to be planned well in advance. Can't decide on the spur of the moment.
- Long lead time for book publication. 9-12 months on average.
- While our royalties are higher than average, you are still sharing royalties with us and our distributor.