As an author, you want to make an informed decision when deciding how to publish your work. Traditional, independent, do-it-yourself, and supported self-publishing are all viable publishing models, but what is the best choice for you? A basic understanding of the costs of producing a book will help you decide. BookFinder.com reports the basic costs of a hardcover book as follows:
- 12% book cover design and editing
- 10% printing
- 7% marketing
- 10% wholesaler (distribution)
- 10% -15% royalties for the author
This breakdown applies to a hardcover adult fiction book with a 6” x 9” trim size, selling for $15.99. After totaling up these costs, the publisher is left with about $8 in his pocket. The percentage for author royalties goes down for paperback books to a range from 1% to 9%.
Few books are purchased at their full price. Most books are discounted. When a book is discounted, publishers get less. Authors get less too. Boilerplate book contracts provide for a lower royalty rate for discounted books. In general, the author’s royalty rate drops as the price of the book goes down. For more information check out Ivan Hoffman’s Royalty Rate in Book Contracts article.
The trim size of the book matters when estimating cost and various genres have standard trim sizes. Here are a few examples:
- Mass market 4-1/4″ x 7″
- Trade paperbacks 5-1/2″ x 8-1/2″ to 6″ x 9″ range
- Novels and memoirs 5-1/2″ x 8-1/2″
- Nonfiction 6”x 9”
Note that books with illustrations and unusual trim sizes cost significantly more. Look at books comparable in size, format, and subject matter to yours to gauge how to price your book.
The next step to make an informed publishing decision is to understand how books are distributed. Major publishers do not generally distribute their own books, but instead work with a book distributor such as Ingram Content Group and Baker & Taylor. These companies have partnered with major publishing companies to distribute their books to libraries and retailers. Many retailers will not carry books if the retailer can’t get them through these distribution companies. The largest online book distributor is Amazon and anyone can distribute books through Amazon when set up as a vendor or when publishing through Kindle Direct Publishing.
Each retailer has its own process for deciding whether to carry self-published books. For example, Barnes and Noble offers a FAQ page for interested self-published authors. Some authors use supported self-publishing or online do-it-yourself service providers to connect their books with markets. It's important to note that pricing and cost structures will vary by service provider, so do your research and ask questions. Self-published authors can also sell print on demand (POD) books from their websites or in local stores for commission fees. Others find success with book fairs and conferences, where they typically sell their books from vendor tables.
Informed authors will achieve the greatest success. Do your research and uncover what is your best path to publication.
Thanks for this article, I just came on board so, it is useful. Please I will like to ask if going through a publishing company that charge for different packages is better than self publishing my work. I ask because, none guarantee a certain volume of sales but talk about the platforms they have. Thanks
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