In part 1 of this blog post series, I explained how I ended up landing my first book deal, signing with an agent, and signing additional book deals. Following is how I came to the decision that I no longer wanted to be involved with traditional publishing.
Deciding Traditional Publishing No Longer Worked for Me
During the production for the second book we sold to a traditional publisher, I received a call from the editor asking me to cut a chapter from the book. “We don’t care which one, but we need to reduce page count to cut costs.” I was mortified. How do you choose a chapter when they’re all important? Didn’t the publisher realize that cutting 20 pages from the book would only save pennies?
I had no choice but to comply, and ultimately turned lemons into lemonade. The end of the book featured a hearty Resources section. I cut that and turned it into a free download that readers could access upon registering on my website. (Today, this is a strategy I use in all of my books—offer one or more free downloads as a way to give readers extra value while also building my email list.)
But, removing that chapter left me with an awful feeling. I didn’t like realizing that ultimately the publisher had all the control. Worse, I was doing all the work with book marketing and book publicity, yet they were reaping the rewards.
I earned an average of $1 per book, and sadly, that’s the current average royalty earned in traditional publishing. The book advances I had received had to be earned back $1 at a time before I ever saw another dime. It was also frustrating to purchase copies of my own books for resale. I knew it only cost the publisher around $2 or $3 to print the books, yet I was forced to purchase them at a wholesale “discount” of 50% off the cover price ($10 each!). I still find it outrageous that the publishers profit from the author’s own purchases.
In fact, some publishers now put into their contracts that authors MUST commit to purchasing a certain number of copies. One author told me that he received a paltry book advance of $5000, and was then required to purchase 1000 copies of his own book upon its release—at a “wholesale” price of $8 each. When you do the math, you see that he actually LOST MONEY on this so-called book deal. And this reputable publisher has now flipped its revenue model to actually generate income from the authors it grants these deals to!
Ultimately, I began questioning whether traditional publishing made sense for me. There was no arguing the math. I earned an average of $1 per book, but self-publishing authors were earning between $4 to $10 per copy, depending on whether the books were sold through retailers or directly.
The Turning Point
After much debate, I decided to fire my agent in the nicest way possible (we remain friends today), and I took back control of my own publishing destiny. I’ve since released five additional titles, for a grand total of nine books, and I have never for a moment regretted my decision to self-publish.
I maintain all of the control and earn more royalties on sales—I would only receive a fraction of those revenues if I were with a traditional publishing house. I make the investment up front to ensure the highest quality production, which includes solid editing and book cover designs that I love. I was already doing all the book marketing, but now I no longer have to share the rewards of those efforts.
Watch for part 3 in this blog series where we will explore how to decide if traditional publishing makes sense for you.