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The following excerpt comes to us courtesy of our friends at Greenleaf Book Group, LLC, a publisher and distributor dedicated to independent authors and small presses, headquartered here in Austin.

The first option is to sell your manuscript to a traditional publishing house for an advance and royalties. The primary benefits of this method are that:
■ Traditional publishing requires the smallest up-front investment by the author.
■ Major publishers have solid, nationwide distribution.
■ Some publishers grant new authors credibility and prestige.

The traditional publishing process usually begins with query letters to literary agents.
Essentially, you’re applying to them for representation; if your book is accepted, they will shop your work around to publishers, looking for a buyer. Literary agents have exclusive selling rights and typically require a 10 to 15 percent commission on all royalty payments, including advances. Very few traditional publishers accept unsolicited submissions from authors without an agent.

Next, you write a proposal (or revise the one you used to secure an agent) for publishers who will consider your work. If a publishing house is interested in your project, typically it makes a standard offer:
■ Advances commonly fall into one of two categories: $2,000 to $20,000 or
$100,000 plus. But the six-figure advance is an endangered species in today’s
market (especially for first-time or unknown authors).
■ Through royalty payments, authors usually retain 5 to 7 percent of the cover price
on paperbacks and 10 to 15 percent on hardcovers.
■ It’s important to note that authors do not receive royalty payments until the
advance has been repaid.

What does this mean? Let’s say that you have agent representation and a paperback
book that retails for $10. You received an advance of $10,000 and negotiated a royalty of 7 percent.
■ For a variety of reasons . . . the publisher can expect to get $3.50 to $5.00 for each book sold through standard bookstore channels. While this doesn’t affect your payment, understanding the publisher’s income will give you valuable insight into [Greenleaf’s] model.
■ The agent gets 15 percent of the $10,000 advance, so after paying your agent and
taxes, your net would be about $6,000.
■ Since your agent gets 15 percent of your royalties, your 7 percent is reduced to
only 5.95 percent (7 × 85 percent), or just less than 60 cents per book sold.
■ The 7 percent would pay down the advance you received, so assuming you received
a base advance amount of $10,000, you would begin receiving royalty payments
after 14,286 copies of your book were sold.

Even though the publisher retains most of the revenue, you still have to invest in
marketing. Many people assume that because traditional publishers pay for production, they finance the marketing as well. The Chicago Reader describes the reality of today’s book marketing: “Despite the publishing industry’s tradition of diligent assistance to worthy authors, books are going the way of cars. If you want them to move you’ll have to pump the gas yourself.” While some publishers do spend considerable amounts on promotion, all successful authors must invest time and money in marketing—regardless of the publishing option—and most thriving authors published by major houses finance their own independent publicity campaigns.

Stay tuned for Greenleaf’s take on vanity publishing, new-technology publishing and self-publishing. Find more juicy writing and publishing tidbits on Greenleaf’s Big Bad Book Blog.

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One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] Last week, Austin’s Greenleaf Book Group, LLC brought us the insider’s scoop on traditional publishing. Here, we present Greenleaf’s thoughts on vanity publishing and new-technology publishing, […]

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