Royalty vs. Self-pub—POD is Not the Key
Guest Post from Author Bev Nault of Fresh Start Summer
From some conversations I’ve had lately it’s clear to me there’s still confusion about the publishing process.
I understand, it took me a while to wrap my head around it. Knowing what does and doesn’t separate a royalty-based house from a self-publishing service can be confusing. I’m going to do something unusual. You spend a lot of time learning about writing and getting published.
Now I’m going to teach you how not to do something: Do not try to decide which model a company follows based on whether they utilize POD or not. First a little background.
Royalty-based Houses Come in Many Sizes
Let’s start by looking at the “big six:” Hatchett, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, Random House, and Simon and Shuster. These guys (and all their smaller imprints) are of the traditional royalty-paying you-probably-need an-agent to sell to them variety. They buy your manuscript based on merit. Sometimes they pay an advance (sadly, these are shrinking) and they will possibly spend a fair amount of money marketing while you skip away and write another masterpiece. (Sadly as well, their marketing budgets have also diminished quite a bit.)
Smaller in size are the independent publishers. Kensington, whom I know well now, is the smallest independent. Still a royalty-based house.
Kensington, through to the tiniest of companies, all make up the independents. You may need an agent to attract them. They have a submissions process, their acquisitions editors reject some, accept a few. These companies finance each step toward readying your musings for market. They are royalty-based houses.
To Market, to Market
I believe the confusion arises from dwelling on the process of how your book actually hits the marketplace.
The “big six” and larger independents pay to print lots of copies. First in hardcover, then soft. They may put nifty color photos inside, ship boxes to retailers and send their authors on signing tours. (Co-authors, not so much. We’ll discuss the differences between co-writers and ghostwriters in another episode.)
Smaller publishers will most likely turn your manuscript into a softcover from the get-go. Or they may choose digital format only. They will also finance an artist for the cover (you may or may not have a say in this), sometimes re-name your baby (yes, they have that right) and could ask for lots of changes to your manuscript.
Some houses usually utilize only Print on Demand, or POD processes. They still pay royalties, so…drum roll…they are still royalty-based publishers.
Everyone’s Using POD
Most publishers will convert your book to digital format. I should say, 99% of publishers will. Because, for one reason, that is how e-readers work (Kindle, nook, iPad, etc.). When a reader orders your book in digital format, you still get a royalty. And if your book is printed only after the customer orders it, IT IS STILL A ROYALTY-BASED publisher.
Just because it is set up as a POD does not mean it is a self-pubbed book. Lamp Post Inc. is a POD publisher. Yet, boys and girls, it is still a royalty-based model.
Self-publishers: Show Me the Money
Formerly known as vanity presses, these companies will ask you for money somewhere along the path to publication.
Their website may appear traditional. They may offer “royalties.” They may require you to go through a submission process. They may do a fantastic job helping you edit, find artwork, set up a website, and send out press releases. But this does not mean they are a traditional, royalty-based publisher. They are selling you printing services.
When they ask you for money, they become a self-publisher. Not when they print copies by the POD process.
Remember it this way: You cannot categorize a publisher by the format (hardcover, softcover, e-pub, papyrus scroll). You can only determine where they fall by their business model. That is, who pays for the editing, artwork, printing, warehousing, and distribution?
Now You Know
Choosing which model is best for you is a personal decision and opens up a whole new can of editors…ahem…but now you know how NOT to spot the difference. And stop dwelling already.