Thursday, November 17, 2011

Finding Your Own Publishing Path

Today Stephen Tremp talks about publishing and why he chose his current path.

Hi everyone. Thanks for stopping by. And thanks Diane for hosting me! Today I’m discussing why I’ve gone the self-published road rather than hooking on with a publisher.

Of course, I want one of the New York Big Six (Hatchette Book Groups, HarperCollins, MacMillan, Penguin Group, Random House, and Simon & Schuster) to publish my books, or at least one of their subsidiaries.

But I feel that with publishing, it’s all or nothing. Perhaps I’m missing the point. But I’m not sure what a mid-level publisher can do for me. After querying hundreds of agents and publishers for my novel BREAKTHROUGH, I received interest from a number of mid-level publishers. At first, I was very excited. However, after listening to their pitch, I realized signing on would not be a win-win situation.

Example: First, I would have to do most if not all the marketing and promoting. Isn’t that what self-published authors do? Second, I would have to sign on with them for three to five years (depending on the mid-level publisher). I don’t want to give up that control, unless it’s with one of the New York Big Six. Third, why give someone else a chunk of my money when I’m doing all the work?

I admit I made the terrible, horrendous, bone-headed mistake of originally paying over a thousand dollars to have iUniverse publish BREAKTHROUGH. The problem here is iUniverse makes their money by selling services rather than selling books, and selling books is the name f the game. And their services, from the initial sign-on, to editing packages, to marketing packages (that can cost $7,000 to place your book on a shelf with hundreds of other books at a book fair) are an outrageous rip-off.

I finally woke up and smelled the coffee and left iUniverse for CreateSpace, which was free and gives me a far larger profit than iUniverse could ever do for me. I’m too embarrassed to state what I made off each sale with iUniverse. Needless to say, my commission is far higher with CreateSpace.

Okay, so I’m still querying agents and subsidiaries of the Big Six in hopes someone will pick up OPENING. But I’m under no false illusions. I’m doing just fine self-publishing with CreateSpace, thank you very much. The market has shifted so much the past few years. Little guppies like me swimming in a vast ocean of published and self-published books and ebooks can actually be somewhat successful.

Example: I can buy books directly from CreateSpace for less than $6.00 (including shipping) and sell them for $10.00 - $12.95.  Out of the back of my SUV, to local books stores, and through family and friends across the country and around the world. I’m even working with scores of hotels up and down the southern California coast to carry my book on consignment. And I’m working with the vendors who place books in grocery stores, airports, and pharmacies like Ralph’s (Krogers) and Walgreens. So there is a lot I can do on my own to sell my books at a very mice profit.

How about you. Are you with one of the New York Big Six or their subsidiaries? How about a mid-level publisher? Or are you self-published? I’d like to hear your story and how you got to that place. Again, thanks for stopping by!

Thanks, Stephen! I learned the hard way about subsidy presses such as iUniverse, too. We learn and move on!

Visit him at his blog, Facebook, and Twitter Purchase Breakthrough at Amazon and Smashwords


  1. I haven't gotten this far in the journey yet, but I'm sure learning a lot from my blog buddies about what pitfalls are out there. Thanks for sharing your story. :)

  2. I'm with a small press and couldn't be happier :) I guess we've all just gotta do what feels right. Good on you for listening to your instincts!

  3. I'm with a smaller press and I love it. I work with wonderful editors and designers. They are a great company.

  4. Thanks Diane for hosting me. Always a pleasure to stop by Spunk On A Stick's Tips! I'm going to check out the commenters publishers from looking up their books on Amazon and check out their publishers. Maybe I'll find one that's a good fit for me and vice versa.

  5. I'm with a small publisher and very happy.

  6. I self-published (only e-books so far but print is on the horizen) because I was sick of agents telling me my book was in a niche. Small publishers didn't interest me, because like you said, you have to do all the marketing and publicity anyway.

    I'm doing well, and not about to give up the freedom I have. Sure, I'd love to have an agent, for the prestige of saying, "I have an agent." But what are they to do for me that I can't do for myself at this point.

    Thanks Stephen. Thanks Diane.

  7. I'm not that far yet, but I love this information. I have a Christmas story that one day I would like to make into a book for my family, and who knows I might sell it by way of an e-books.

    Great info, Stephen. Thanks, Diane for hosting.


  8. This is very interesting stuff (as well as the comments it generated). Thank you for hosting Stephen today!!

  9. This kind of insight is invaluable to writers like me who have their sights set on publishing one day in the near future. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Stephen. And thanks, Diane!

  10. Thank you for this Stephen, and for being open and honest enought to talk about iUniverse too.

  11. I've gone self publishing, apart from the cover which has now been corrected all is going well and I should have my books for sale by Christmas.
    Enjoyed reading your point of view.


  12. I'm interested in hearing what mid-level publishers do for authors in terms of marketing and promoting. Do they do anything of significance, or does the responsibility fall mainly upon the writer's shoulders. Do they get your books into bookstores?

    I would like to see more bloggers share what their publishers do for them, other than print their books. I think this would be most helpful to the inhabitants of the Blogosphere.

  13. I still would love to be "traditionally" published, but it wasn't in the cards for my memoir. We'll have to see about the next books.

  14. Thanks for offering insights Stephen into what is a very confusing industry. With your marketing work, it sounds like you are doing the right things to create visibility for your work.

  15. Thanks for sharing you story. I remember when you switched from iUniverse to CreateSpace. I'm not that far yet myself.

  16. Anne, prestige doesn't always translate to money either.

    Stephen, as for your question on what a small to mid-level publisher can do - it's far more than print the book:
    Quality editing
    Professional cover art
    Professional design (interior and exterior)
    Marketing plan and materials
    Connections to wholesalers, distributors, libraries, & retailers
    Media connections
    Access to professional & industry reviewers
    And they do all this while taking a gamble that the author's book will make more profit than the costs
    So yes, a publisher can do far more for a book than a self-publisher because of their budget, contacts, and professionalism.

  17. Thanks Diane. That's a lot. I know people don't like to share their personal financial numbers. I thought I'd share some numbers from CreateSpace. I can make $7.00 a book if I sell them, about five dollars of sold through Amazon, and a 70 percent commission from Kindle. Hope this helps other writers!

    I'm wondering how much these small publishers pay the author per book sold and if the services offered are worth it.

    Breaking your list down, editing, cover art, and design (all very important) can be paid for by the self publisher at a very reasonable out-of-pocket cost. Much they can do themselves.

    Do small publishers do much in the way of promoting and marketing? What I found is some will merely list your book in a monthly publication to wholesalers, distributors, libraries, & retailers along with hundreds of other titles. My concern was a single book would go unnoticed in a sea of countless other books these retailers may not even bother to look at.

    How aggressive would small publishers be at keeping my book at the forefront of all the tens of thousands of other books competing for shelf space and air time.

    if the commission per book is 30 percent or more, then I might lean in that direction. Maybe. Forty percent. Sure. Much (not everything) of it comes down to numbers.

  18. I chose a similar path to you, but have stuck to epublishing so far. Will use Createspace later.

  19. Stephen, there are always tradeoffs. On average, you'll make more per book doing it yourself but with a publisher you'll sell more books.
    Traditional publishers are not offering a service - it's a business. They are taking a financial risk. As Mark Coker of Smashwords said, we need publishers to keep the balance and keep the industry healthy.
    Professional editing, art, & design costs money and sadly most self-publishers don't invest in it or cut corners. A publisher has people on staff who are professionally trained to do those things and create marketable product.
    Small publishers don't have the budgets of big publishers, but they will also promote a title longer than a big publisher. With the big six, your window of opportunity after the release of a book is 6-12 weeks - after that, if the book hasn't exceeded expectations, marketing is pulled.
    A single book can go unnoticed in either venue!
    Physical book royalties are usually 5-15% on net (not retail) and ebook royalties are 25-50% on net for small publishers.
    Many of those who commented here are with small publishers. Ask them about their experiences. Jessica and Alex both have books on Amazon's bestseller list - ask them if they think being with a small publisher was worth it.

  20. That's an inspired idea, working with vendors for grocery stores and airports.

    Can I hire you as my publicist if I ever get this far :)


  21. Nice article. Allows writers to see what we all are experiencing in one way or another with our writing endeavors! You really do have to be creative in marketing well enough to break even or make money on writing.

  22. I have come across you before, Stephen, but it was really interesting to read about your road to self-publishing.

    I haven´t had much say (only a couple of near-contract experiences in Denmark), and in the beginning it may have worried me, but today I have most of my readers in the US (plus some in Australia and Candada) so publishing my own ebooks seems like a very good choice.

  23. Very interesting. I'm not published yet, but every post like this one is educational and will hopefully help me down the line. Good luck on getting your novel picked up by one of the Big Six.

  24. I think there are pros and cons to each choice. I'm with a small press and love things about it. Yes, most of the promo falls on me, BUT you also have a family of authors to shout out for you.

  25. Very interesting post and discussion! I second everything Diane has said about small publishers. It's a misconception that a contract with a large publisher will translate into any more money than any other path. Out of everything they publish, very few hit the bestseller list. If the Big 6 or any publisher knew the secret of creating a bestseller, every book published would get that same treatment! There are absolutely no guarantees regardless of which path a writer chooses.

  26. I'm with you, Stephen, with the self-publishing venture. Doing my first memoir with a small press turned into a win-win and I'm glad they did my memoir as they did a great job with editing; but at this point I'm now doing the self-publish route because I'm too old to wait that long again for the process to play out, especially when today, with any publisher, you have to do most if not all of the promoting.

    It's amazing what you did with Breakthrough. It's great you're able to travel about and do it. I once did the iUniverse thing with Author House, quite a few years back. That's a win for them, lose for you. I learned the hard way, too! And I continue to look forward to your sequel!
    Ann Best, Memoir Author of In the Mirror & Imprisoned

  27. Lots of feedback from various points of view today. I love hearing pros and cons, digging deep into what worked for people and what did not. Thanks Diane and everyone for adding depth to this timely topic.

  28. I always love it when Stephen thinks out loud--or in a blog post as the case may be. I guess how much a small publisher might do for one depends on the small publisher, but I see the point. I had one that sure didn't do much for me. It shall remain unnamed.

    Carolyn Howard-Johnson
    Excited about the second edtion of The Frugal Book Promoter (Expoanded! Updated! And now a USA Book News award-winner!)

  29. I have my romances with a small press and I'm pretty happy with them. I had my fantasy with a mid sized publisher but they weren't doing anything for me and becoming very difficult to work with so I asked for my rights back and self-published. I'm not sure if it will pay off yet or not.

  30. Thanks Diane. Thanks Stephen. Great, informative post. Sorry to hear you lost that money Stephen but thanks for sharing. You may save many others. Create Space sounds good and I admire you trudging around doing all that marketing.

    I wish you all the best.


  31. And Diane, just re reading the comments I'm hearing you about what the small publisher can do for the writer, but more and more authors seem to be feeling they can do it themselves. I am blown away by some of the self-pubbed covers, but others are very blah. I think the cover is one of your best marketing tools, no matter what the publishing decision is.


  32. Interesting post and I can certainly see the appeal of self-publishing these days - the author has all the control.

    My UK publisher does very little for me but I'm published in the US by Carina Press, part of Harlequin and they're great. Self-publishing isn't for me simply because I'd rather be writing than thinking about employing an editor, choosing someone to design the cover, doing all the marketing, etc., but as I said, I can see the appeal.

    Good luck and I hope you sell loads!

  33. Hi Carol, long time no see. Great to see you again!

    Susan, I'm interested how long it took to get your rights back. Was it difficult? WHen I was with iUniverse I had a 30 day non-exclusive contract, so it was easy to leave them.

    L'Aussie, I love the marketing aspect, but could use the help of an agent. And you're right about the covers, especially for self-pulished writers. The artwork has to grab the reader's attention.

    Shirley, thanks for sharing your experiences with us! All great points. I have an awesome editor and my nephew does the artwork, so this part is easy. However, for other authors working from point zero, it can be a daunting and frustrating task.

  34. Great post. Thanks for the information. :)

  35. Karen, you understand!

    Remember Stephen, most publishers don't require agents, only the big ones, and many have their own PR people. However, even with the biggest press, a lot of the marketing will still fall to you.

  36. Loved your post Stephen, and the comments have been interesting too. I don't have any experience with publishers so I can't say, but I love seeing the points that have been represented here.

  37. I love the breakdown of your journey, Stephen. I'm with a press that's smaller than the Big Six and I'm pretty happy.

  38. Thanks Diane for hosting me. Always a pleasure. The comments added so much to the post. This is a topic that can be explored in so many ways.

  39. Thanks for sharing Stephen and so openly about your journey.

  40. To each his own. I'm self-pubbing because I like to be my own boss and also because I don't like to wait to get published. I'm not getting any younger!

    Morgan Mandel

  41. I'm thinking of writing a book! :)

    Hello Diane, hello Stephen.