The news is full of the idea that we should break up big tech. They have a monopoly, after all. They control advertising (Google), shopping (Amazon), information (Facebook), apps, and software (Apple and Microsoft). While there is some debate over whether a breakup is even possible, there is another monopoly that is largely ignored except ty those in the publishing industry: book distribution.
First, let me be clear in saying we are not providing breaking news or amazing information that has come to light, man. We are just stating facts that have already been reported, but hopefully, in a fresh way that lets you, the reader, understand the publishing industry in a new, and hopefully transparent light.
Here’s the thing, and one of the reasons we started Unbound Publishing in the first place: publishers are rarely transparent about how narrow margins are and the obstacles we fact to being profitable. But we think the more that authors, bookstores, and others see these truths and issues, the better we can all work together to solve them. As a result, we want to make a better future for publishing in general.
When it comes to book pricing and distribution, there is a lot that is shrouded in mystery. Here is the low down:
Ingram, Amazon, and Getting a Book in Bookstores
So we have talked before on this blog about print on demand, and how it is the way of the future, but we need to talk about the system currently in place. Because if you think it is easy to navigate and at all fair to authors, publishers, and bookstores, you’ll want to read further.
So let’s look at the options at our disposal. You can print directly through Ingram and offer print on demand. There are some clear advantages, distribution, and promotion being just two of those. There are also a lot of options you can’t get from other print on demand services: interior options for color, hardcover printing, and more.
You can also print through Amazon through a service once called Create Space that has now been migrated to their KDP Print program, although it remains essentially the same. The cost of printing was often lower, but the quality was inferior. There are also fewer options: if you want a cover interior, a premium option is the only one available, and it increased the cost of printing your book significantly.
The kicker of the Amazon printing method is that most indie bookstores understandably won’t order from Amazon. The two are, if you are not aware, pretty much enemies. In fact, it can be argued that Amazon is no author or bookstore’s friend, but when you don’t like the largest bookseller in the world right now, you work with them anyway if that’s where revenue comes from.
But if you want to get in bookstores and libraries, publishing through Amazon, especially using one of their “free” ISBN numbers won’t get you there.
The solution is that many publishers create two paperback editions when possible: one for Amazon and one for Ingram. On Ingram, they just make sure that distribution to Amazon is not checked, and on Amazon, they make sure they don’t opt for the expanded distribution options. That way, you have print books available in both places.
It’s impractical, it’s cumbersome, but it’s the easiest way to make both of the distribution monopolies happy.
The Retail Discount
In order for bookstores to carry your book, you have to offer them a discount from retail. Ingram recommends anywhere from 30-55%. The ideal for any bookstore is a 55% discount and books must be returnable. So many authors and publishers select that option. Because you want bookstores to carry your books, and you want to make it easy for them.
And you think that is what you are doing until you go to your local indie bookstore and ask a few questions. Truth? They don’t get that entire discount. It’s been written about before here and here, but Ingram uses a US-based company called Ingram Content Group to distribute books to bookstores.
They determine the discount a bookstore gets, and guess what happens to that other revenue you offered with the discount? It rarely comes back to the author. Ingram Books keeps it. That’s how they make money. So your local indie bookstore could be getting a 5% discount on your book when they order rather than the 55% you opted for.
How do they get away with it? Simple. Authors don’t really have a choice. Most bookstores order through Ingram and Bowker because books are returnable and they get a discount, and it’s just less cumbersome than ordering direct from each author and publisher (unless the publisher has a huge catalog).
What Do We Do About It?
First, we offer books directly to bookstores and others at wholesale rates, so if you are a bookstore or someone in the industry, and you want to carry our books and get a more significant discount (if you feel you are getting a poor deal from Ingram) please contact us. We really do want to help any way we can.
Second, there are some new players emerging in the print-on-demand space. Draft2Digital and other eBook distributors are experimenting with print and audiobook distribution. This means there could be viable options to both Ingram and Amazon in the near future, ones that would work well with Indie booksellers, libraries, and others.
Third, publicity and a certain amount of backlash on Ingram and others have created pressure to work better with Indie bookstores and others to make policies more transparent, and discounts more viable.
The Pandemic Effect
Lastly, an effect that cannot be ignored is the pandemic effect post-COIVID. Bookstores are slowly reopening, but some have closed for good, unable to weather closures and restrictions, and also either unable or unwilling to look at online operations and digital sales as a solution.
This means that in some areas especially, there are libraries and bookstores that remain closed and may never reopen. Does that mean authors and publishers should be discouraged? Not at all. It means there must be a shift in mentality and creativity to other ways to get books in the hands of bookstores and retailers. Online stores, direct to consumer (DTC) sales from the author and publisher site and more must be considered.
And events will happen again. Bookstores and libraries will open. Readers hungry for content will return in large numbers.
How do we make print profitable and viable for everyone? The move to print on demand and the embracing of modern technology is one answer. So is working with authors, bookstores, and publishers to solve the distribution monopoly problem. We can’t count on government regulation, so we in the market must be the ones to drive change.
Over a decade ago now, a revolution started. We all thought it would be the eBook revolution, and a ton of fiction authors bet their living and livelihood on it. But we were wrong. The eBook revolution never came, not the way we expected. Instead, it became a hybrid of multi-media, print on demand, and digital marketing.
But it did open up options for authors, including me. No longer were we tied to the “get lucky” or “get noticed” system of traditional publishing. Gone were the days of huge advances, and authors slinging books from their ivory towers to the masses unless you already had a big name. But you could build a pretty solid following for your books and your author brand, and actually make a living writing.
Beyond just author opportunities, the “self-publishing revolution” opened the door for other opportunities as well. Editors, cover designers, formatters, marketing, and PR professionals, and more of these professionals began freelance careers. Instead of sitting in an office in New York reading through the slush pile, an editor could be sitting on the beach editing a story they really loved.
With that came Print on Demand. As readers still wanted physical books, Indie authors and small presses needed to provide them for them. But doing print runs of thousands of books was not only not economically feasible, but it was also wasteful. So some companies jumped into the industry, including Amazon and Lightning Source (now Ingram Spark).
Soon small and medium-sized presses latched on to this model too. Why? Well, the answers are simple, and they matter to authors and publishers everywhere.
Print on Demand is More Profitable
One of our goals here at Unbound Publishing is to be absolutely transparent about our process and our profits, and here are the simple facts: we can’t operate as a company for long unless we are profitable. That means that printing books must come with enough of a margin that we can cover our salaries and operating expenses.
This is a part of why print on demand is essential to both paths to publication that we offer: we don’t want to pay for a warehouse to store hundreds or thousands of books that may or may not sell. We don’t want authors to have to order literally hundreds of books to get a discount so they can sell them to friends or family, give them away, or just have some copies for events of their own.
All those things cost money that diminishes the profitability of the company overall, and in today’s world is completely unnecessary. Here’s how it breaks down:
- We can do print runs for bookstores, events, pre-orders, and conferences of any size. We can drop ship orders direct from the printers, and never even touch the books.
- We can larger print runs as needed, or smaller ones. We can avoid doing print runs at all. Either way, we eliminate the structure necessary for distribution, making our company leaner and able to offer authors more royalties and vendors larger discounts.
- We’re not storing returns or bulk numbers of books. We don’t need a large storage area, just a small one to meet immediate demand. Our supply can be replenished quickly and as needed.
That’s how Print on Demand benefits us as a company, but what does that mean to those we do business with?
Print on Demand Gives Indie Bookstores Better Options
Yes, our books are available through standard channels like Ingram, Bowker, and in most cases the gorilla in the room, Amazon. But we, and bookstores, are not tied to them. Bookstores and others can order directly from us, get better discounts in some cases, and have the same benefits of ordering directly from Ingram.
However, we also understand how bookstores, libraries, and others might rather order through standard channels. It makes their accounting and invoicing simpler, and we respect that. Bookstores and publishers alike operate on slim margins, and we want to help our partners. We want the industry to be successful.
Print on Demand lets us offer bookstores and other partners more options when it comes to ordering and stocking books.
Print on Demand is Better for the Environment
So for some of you not in the publishing business, let me share something sad with you: do you know what happens to returned books? Well, if they are returned to the publisher, most of them are simply pulped and recycled. Good news? Sure, at least they are recycled, but all the shipping back and forth and even the pulping process take energy, fuel, and result in greenhouse emissions.
The solution? Don’t print books unless you need them. Fewer returns, less pulping, less waste, all things that are better for our planet. And if we do get books returned from bookstores?
Well, you could call those slightly used books. Then you can sell them for a small discount on Amazon, eBay, or other places, and someone still gets to read them. Other people will sell your books used too, so why wouldn’t you or your publisher?
Print on demand gives publishers and authors the ability to do what is best for the planet, offering products with less environmental impact. That’s good for everyone.
Print on Demand is Better for Authors
What about the authors of the books? Well, first of all, they have more ordering options, and can therefore save money when they order copies for themselves and events they might hold on their own.
Second, when publishers are more profitable, they can pass along those profits to authors in the form of royalties. This is what enables us to offer a graduated royalty system to authors: the more books they sell, the greater percentage of royalties they earn. Everyone can still make a profit, because we’ve eliminated the bloat of infrastructure related to legacy publishing and large print runs.
True, not all publishers pass along profits to the authors who are the backbone of their business, but that’s what sets us apart. We’re transparent about what it costs us to produce a book, the pay now or pay later nature of publishing, and the fact that for any kind of publishing to have a viable future, we need to lean into modern technology like print on demand to make sure it’s profitable for everyone.
Have questions? Have a story you are ready to publish or need help with ghostwriting services? Contact us using the form below. We’d love to chat about what’s next for you and your story, and how print on demand can be a part of your plan.
Unbound Publishing has launched a new partnership with Agent Fox Media based in the UK, and that is great news for many authors. Read the press release below:
The Partnership Press Release
Good News for Authors as POD Publisher Strikes Agreement with Agent
Unbound Publishing LLC (Idaho, USA) is excited to announce it has forged an international deal with Agent Fox Media Literary and Media (London)to publish, promote, and distribute literature from their clients. This relationship capitalizes on the strengths of the two companies to provide opportunities for authors who want the flexibility of Print on Demand instead of the rigid requirements of publishing houses tied to large print runs and bloated infrastructure.
“The mission of Unbound Publishing LLC is to turn storytellers into authors,” co-founder Troy Lambert says. “By being nimble and forging an international, post-Brexit, COVID-era partnership with Agent Fox Literary and Media, we can assist even more potential authors achieve their publishing dreams.
Unbound Publishing LLC provides authors two distinct paths to success. Working with Rick and Beverly Mayston and Agent Fox Media capitalizes on the best path for authors who have an established audience through social media, fan clubs, or simply who the author is. The Print on Demand (POD) path gives the authors more power to make their books viable in today’s market without the demands and financial pressures of conventional publishing paths. Authors receive better compensation without burdening the agency and publishing company with risk, helping ensure the success of everyone involved.
Co-founder of Unbound Publishing LLC Jerry Mooney says, “It’s exciting to bring aboard these new authors. We are the right company to get them the quality of publishing and distribution they need. And working with Rick Mayston, their CEO, has been professional and effective. Our partnership will lead to optimal benefits for all participants: author, agent, and publisher.” Jerry continued, “We are not trying to reinvent the wheel, but we are also evolving from old models which no longer serve the modern trends of the industry. We are constantly working to improve our methods to deliver success.”
The relationship with Agent Fox Media is a natural partnership because we both believe that we succeed if our authors succeed. This creates energy where everyone involved is working together towards the same goals. Using modern techniques, including social media, marketing tools, and relationship building, this joint venture maximizes the resources available to maximize profits and opportunity for authors, agents, and the publisher by harnessing the power of Print on Demand.
Unbound Publishing LLC is able to produce the highest quality products without the bloated overhead of conventional publishing. This model works best when everyone works together to modernize and streamline the publishing model.
To kickoff the partnership, Unbound Publishing LLC will be releasing two memoirs this October, both written by the children of notable British fathers. First, My Dad Was The King Of Clubs, is written by Scott Stringfellow, son of the renowned Peter Stringfellow, international club owner and London legend who worked with and signed acts like the Beatles and Culture Club. This book sizzles with accounts of rock stars and celebrities, but at its core is a heartwarming tale of a father and son.
Scott’s book is due to be made available for pre-order on October 17th, which would have been his father’s 80th birthday, and will release for sale on October 29th.
We will also be releasing No More Kisses For Me by Gayle Hiller. Gayle is the daughter of famous songwriter Tony Hiller. Through letters written to her father after his passing, she shares her story of the complicated relationship between her successful father and his daughter. This story is beautifully written and touches anyone who can relate to a parent chasing success at the expense of their family.
Gayle’s book will be available for pre-order on October 29th and will release for general sale on November 12th. More information about pre-orders can be found on our website here:
We have started with these two books because the contrasting natures of how these two people have grown up because of their paternal relationships is fascinating. We are all shaped by our childhoods, and both books will have instantly recognisable personal issues and experiences that the reader can identify with. Thankfully both Gayle and Scott have turned out to be very well rounded individuals in their own right.
“Agent Fox Media and Unbound Publishing LLC are thrilled to be working together in this way, and it is hoped that POD can continue to be a much more popular proposition for authors worldwide – long after Lockdown has ended,” says Mayston.
“It’s our goal at Unbound Publishing LLC to revolutionize POD publishing to an author-centric small press model that transcends national borders and embraces emerging publishing trends,” Lambert says. “The goal is to establish a sustainable, replicable model that is profitable for both agents, authors, and editors as a ‘new normal’ emerges for publishing.”
Jerry Mooney adds, “Our years of experience have shown us that there is a real need for our approach. Authors put their heart and souls into their creations. Writing a book is like giving birth. A book isn’t merely a commodity, rather it is an expression of one’s self, revealing our innermost thoughts and experiences, rendering authors vulnerable. It can be personal and emotional. We work with our authors from this understanding.”
Unbound Publishing LLC is excited about this relationship with Agent Fox Media and its authors as we continue to develop this model partnership to foster author, agency, and publishing company success.
In the Fox’s Den
A vital part of our partnership is to promote authors and provide them with a tangible video asset to share on social media and elsewhere that will help them sell books. Rick Mayston makes a great host, every episode is fun and entertaining.
You can see past episodes here, and new editing and a new engineer means the program will only be getting better as time goes along. Interested in appearing on the program? Unbound Publishing authors get a special rate, and we can offer the option to others who have an interest as well. Contact us today at info [at] unboundpublish.com.
How does this affect your path to publication?
What does this mean to you? This means that the Print on Demand Path to publication is even more available and viable for a greater number of authors. Frequently asked questions:
- Do I have to apply for the print on demand option? Yes. We are looking for specific types of authors and books to bring into this program.
- Do I have to live in the United States? No, we are interested in ideas from authors everywhere.
- What are you looking for? We are currently looking for compelling non-fiction. That is everything from great business ideas; health, and fitness; stories from the entertainment industry; fascinating stories and in-depth historical research; sports teams and sports figures; and more. Do you have a story or a topic with a social media or club following? We’re interested in talking to you.
Do you have any questions? Do you already have a story to tell? Do you need help with ghostwriting, screenwriting, or are you in need of other author services? Contact us today! We’re here to help you.
It’s time for a bit of honesty and hard truth in the writing and publishing world. One of the things I hear when I talk to new authors is the simple lament: “writing a book is harder than I thought.” Then we start talking about the real cost of self-publishing, and publishing in general, and all the work that goes into it.
Suddenly this individual, who just wanted to write their story and sell a few books, is overwhelmed. I’ll let you in on a secret. No matter how many times you do this (I’m somewhere over two dozen novels of my own, several short stories just this year, and have helped countless authors through this process) you will feel like there’s more to do than you can handle. There is so much to do, and so little time.
It’s one of the reasons Unbound Publishing came about at all. One of my primary aims was to help writers feel less overwhelmed by taking a little of the pain out of the process.
That “pain removal” comes at a cost, and that’s another thing I hear often. “Why is this so expensive?” So let me explain, with a transparency that few publishers will give you, the reality of the business, and some more about our two paths to publication and why we have them.
Time and Skills vs. Money
Just like nearly everything else, publishing is about time and skills vs. money. The first book I edited and even the first book I published was not as good as what I can do now. It isn’t that I lacked skill, but I lacked experience, and tools have evolved and improved over the years.
I’ve also worked to hone my skills and get more efficient, as have most editors, writers, and publishers. Just like in sports there is no substitute for time on the field, in publishing there is no substitute for simply doing the work. The same is true of cover design, book formatting, writing marketing copy, and more.
So can you do them yourself? In some cases, the answer is yes. In others, the answer is a resounding “No.” The real question is whether you have or can develop the skills for doing something and if you have the time to do them. Many authors early in their careers are working day jobs, writing in their spare time, and that time can quickly disappear in marketing tasks, trying to create book covers and all the other tasks that go with writing.
Instead of spending time trying to do all that, you can pay someone to do them for you. They probably work faster and more efficiently than you can, and they are likely more skilled as well. And that is what you are paying for. Their time and skills. So if you spend eight hours trying to create a book cover, and it was a mediocre one, what else could you have done with that eight hours? How much money would you have made, or how much writing could you have gotten done?
Also, think of the person you are paying. What do you make per hour? If it takes someone even five hours to make your book cover, you need to pay them reasonably for those five hours. If they are a skilled editor, how much do they deserve for forty hours spent on your manuscript? However, perhaps the most important aspect is the benefit to your mental health. Even paying others to do part of the work you will sometimes feel overcome with things to do, and I suggest you check out Colleen Story’s great book,Overwhelmed Writer Rescue: Boost Productivity, Improve Time Management, and Replenish the Creator Within.
You get the idea. Writing a book is hard enough and you want to get paid for your time. Add in all the other tasks that go with it, and you have a lot of expenses. But let’s look at costs specific to the publishing industry.
Editing Costs and What they Mean
Over the next several weeks, we’ll be diving deeper into each of these topics, but let’s start with the basics. Provided your manuscript is near perfect when you hand it in to a publisher or even to a freelance editor, it will at a minimum need a solid proofreading pass for grammar and punctuation.
Most editors charge by the word, and even if they are charging fractions of a penny per word to edit your manuscript, it is still costly. If they charge half a cent per word and you have a 40,000-word manuscript, that is still a couple of hundred bucks.
But let’s face it. Your manuscript is probably not perfect, so it needs deeper edits than that. If the editor even spends eight hours on your manuscript for a $200 payday, they earned $25 an hour. If they are an independent contractor, they also pay their own taxes, so that is really the equivalent of around $15 an hour, or what an unskilled worker makes in many cases. On top of that, since the average memoir or non-fiction book is closer to 60,000 words—well, you can do the math.
Of course, the deeper the edits your manuscript needs, the more it will cost you per word because the more time it will take. If you are working with a publisher or agent who does not charge you upfront for those costs, that is a part of their cost for creating your book. To keep it simple, someone is paying the editor for their work, whether that is you or the publisher.
The same that is true for editing is the same as covers, but there are other costs as well. For example, if you have a cover that is put together with stock photography of some sort, that photography must be licensed for use on your cover, and someone has to pay for that, either you or the cover designer.
And think about any graphic designer you know. How much to they make an hour? How many hours do you think it takes to create a great cover? Add to that if you need something that is hand-drawn or painted rather than created using stock photography. How much does an artist get for a great painting?
So when you look at the price of a cover, realize there is a lot of art that goes into it combined with time, skill, and often photo licensing as well. It’s not as simple as slapping a photo and some words on a blank cover. And when covers are bad, they can be really bad.
There are two aspects to formatting a book. One is the digital aspect. E-readers allow a reader to change fonts to meet their specific needs and wants, which can move photos, charts, and other items around if your book has them. Special formatting can make sure they “stay in place” but that takes skill and a good formatting program.
The same is true for print formatting. Those photo plates in the center of a book have to be especially designed and making sure text looks just right can be tricky. Getting it right takes time, skill, and the right software. A truly skilled formatter is extremely valuable.
This is another cost that either you are paying, or your publisher is, but either way, it’s part of the cost of producing a book.
Printing and Distribution Costs
Here’s where things can get a little convoluted because this cost bridges two aspects of publishing: actually printing and distributing your book and marketing. Printing costs are the actual amount it takes to physically create your book, either in hardcover, paperback, or the creation of an audiobook.
But there is also the cost of distribution, which is more than just shipping books. It’s making sure your book is in the right catalogs, that bookstores and libraries know about your book so they can choose whether or not to carry it, and the discount those retailers demand to make their own business viable.
Many self-published or even published authors feel they are doing libraries and bookstores a favor by “allowing” them to carry their books, and they approach librarians and others with this “entitled attitude.” But the opposite is true. Libraries and bookstores are doing authors a favor by carrying their books and giving them shelf space, especially if they end up on an endcap or a “front-facing” position.
With print on demand, we try to keep these costs as low as possible, rather than the expenses of doing a giant print run. But it still costs money to execute.
We’ll cover this in more detail on this blog in the future, but you can start by reading this post about dealing with Indie bookstores and libraries as an author.
Keeping Up Appearances
Once your book is out in the world, things like inventory management, revisions to your bio, book descriptions, managing ads and marketing, and offering sale prices all go into keeping your book fresh and interesting. There are also things like website updates and changes and simple maintenance.
If you self-publish, this is your job, and it will take you time and in some cases money. If you are working with a publisher, this is their job and an important one. As we’ll explore in a moment, your publisher and your agent if you have one won’t make any money unless you sell books.
Two Paths of Paying for the Hard Work of a Team
So why do we offer two paths to publication at Unbound Publishing? The reason is simple. We have to make money so we can keep helping storytellers become authors. We can’t do the things we do for free: we have mortgages, rent, and all of the expenses that go with owning and running a company, or in our case, more than one.
If we add up all of the expenses above and we pay ourselves something for the time we put in, it costs somewhere between $4,000 and $10,000 dollars to produce. In some cases, the costs can be even higher.
If you have a really rough manuscript and you need deep edits or even the help of a ghostwriter, we can do that for you, but that adds even more to the overall cost. If you self-publish or go with our author services path, or someone else’s, you need to recoup that money to have what we in the business call a positive return on investment (ROI).
As we have talked about on this blog before, publishing is a pay now or pay later game: you either pay upfront for services, and then as a result you get a higher percentage of your royalties, or an even greater amount if you choose to self-publish. Or you pay later, because your publisher, in this case us, keeps a higher percentage of the royalties you earn until we pay back our expenses.
And that is where the two paths to publication come in. If you are confident you can sell books, and you can prove it to us, you can apply to be a part of our print on demand small press path to publication. In that case, you are choosing to “pay later” in royalties.
Of you can pay for everything upfront. You still have to qualify if you want to publish with us. We’re protective of our brand and the quality it represents. But you are choosing to pay now and keep more of your royalties from future sales. If you have a budget and you like to control all aspects of the publication of your book, you can choose this method or just the author’s services you need, priced a la carte.
Either way, publishing is going to cost you something, and since you’ve already put time into your story, making money from it, at least enough to break even, only makes sense.
The Key to Your Success
What’s the key to success when it comes to writing and publishing? Well, there are actually several ingredients. The primary one is you. You have to have a good story. You have to have the desire to tell it. You have to want to share it, not just with family and friends, but with the world.
Essentially, just like when we look at a criminal act, you need means, motive, and opportunity. You need the means to create your story and get it into a package that you can sell. That often means partnering in one way or another with a company like ours. You need a motive, and a reason to share your story or your idea. Whatever that is, it will have to drive you even when things are tough, and they can be in the book industry.
The opportunity? We’ll take care of that. If you’re ready to tell your story to the world, explore what we have to offer today, and then contact us. We’d love to talk with you about the bridge from being a storyteller to becoming an author, and how we can best help you.
When we started this company last year, we had a vision. A small one, and one we had no idea where it would take us.
The idea was simple. We already had a network of people who provided services to authors. If we pooled those resources, plus our own, we could offer some authors, those who could afford it, a path to publication that was an alternative to doing it all themselves and self-publishing and waiting for a publisher to pick them up and produce their books, something with a long lead time.
But why make the author pay for services? Well, it’s simple really. The publishing game is a pay now or pay later game, and plenty of small presses and even large publishers have gone broke trying to manage authors who don’t help market and sell their books, or just have no author platform or audience, and certainly aren’t working to build one.
But now, we’re able to offer another path to publication, what we call Print on Demand Small Press. Let’s look at how publishing works, the money behind it, and why we choose to do things the way we do.
The Self-Publishing Slush Pile
For those of you not in the know, the slush pile is the pile of horrible manuscripts that sits on an acquisitions editor’s desk, waiting to be waded through. They are often poorly formatted, poorly written, and are far from ready for an editor’s eye, let alone publication. I used to be that guy and read those drafts. Some of them were just horrible.
Often, if you sent an author a rejection, you’d get this answer: “I’ll just self-publish on Amazon then.” They often did, and their books didn’t sell there either. Although self-publishing grew 40% over the last couple of years, the average income for authors fell significantly. That’s because there are many authors who make less than $1,000 a year, and many actually lose money rather than making it.
The slush pile has moved to Amazon, where hundreds of books sit, many of which never sold a single copy.
The Big Publishers
The big publishers operate on narrow margins. For the most part, they only pick up books they know will sell and sell big. Those big names get most of their support and marketing efforts. The small author, even if you get in as a debut or mid-list author? You’re still the primary marketer for your own work, and the publisher takes a large chunk of your royalties.
Even if you have a book that will sell, it will take months before it is published, maybe years. Got a timely topic? Good luck. You’re going to need it.
With many bookstores and libraries closed, those lead times have gotten even longer.
Small Presses and Intermediate Publishers
This is often the sweet spot for some authors. The small press is much like a traditional publisher, but without the advances or (usually) big names. They often want to be like big publishers, but their limited staff and calendar makes the number of titles they can release limited.
At the same time, they also need to take on authors who can sell books for sure. Those authors who don’t market their work or come with an audience of their own drag down profits and limit the growth of those small presses. I often call them hobbyists: they do this for a hobby, but they don’t really take it seriously. No matter what a publisher invests in them and their work, they can only go so far.
The publisher, already with a limited budget and time constraints, is further constrained by an author who is actually losing them money.
Intermediate publishers do well also, but the slots they have for authors fill up fast too. If you’re a newbie, a debut author, or someone who has one interesting book in them—one about history, your loved ones, your family, a sports career, a career in fashion, or a historical event, you’ll have a hard time getting in the door.
Pay to Play or Vanity Press
Call it what you will, from author services to vanity publishing, what this amounts to is a company that effectively helps an author self-publish. They coordinate things like editing, formatting, book covers, and more. The author pays for these services, the same as they would if they self-published, but they only pay in one place, and the publisher assists them in sourcing these services and in quality control.
The publisher will often publish the author’s book for them, or they can take the finished manuscript and publish it themselves, just depending on how much of the work they want to handle on their own. It’s called vanity publishing, author services, or pay to play because anyone can publish through these services if they have enough money.
Now, some of these publishers have standards the author must meet, and they won’t publish just anything. They’ll even reject manuscripts if they’re awful no matter how much money you have. Those are the ones with integrity. Other publishers will take your money no matter how bad your story is, publish it, and wish you the best of luck.
The good version of this publisher will publish your book but will pay you higher royalties right away, often with bonuses if you actually do sell books, because the author has paid their initial expenses upfront: they don’t have to earn that money back before your book becomes profitable.
That’s a rare thing, but it is a good option for those who want to and can sell books or for those who just want to hold a book with their name on it in their hands, regardless of if they ever sell a single copy.
Our New Option: Print on Demand Small Press
What does this model mean, and why is it different? Instead of paying upfront for author services, the author takes a lower royalty rate for the first 1,000 books sold. Then the rate goes up from there. There are even bonuses for authors who meet milestones quickly.
There are no fancy book tours, although we have some great marketing options. There are no advances. We do take agented scripts, and with a new partnership with an agency (announcement coming soon), we’re even able to direct authors to representation. We do this even if their work isn’t a good fit for Unbound Publishing.
The more the author sells, the more profitable we are, and therefore the more the author earns. This allows us to offer opportunities for editors, book cover designers, formatters, and others to earn money as well. Because we hire only the best.
We want authors to succeed. So there are criteria for this process. You have to apply, which means you need to have an author platform, a following, a good book with a popular topic or subject matter. You need to have a marketing plan or an agent: some way to help us spread the word about your book. We can then partner with you to make you successful.
We’re interested in:
- Sports figures or their relatives and related topics.
- The entertainment industry, the people who made or make it work, and their day to day lives.
- The fashion industry. The rise and fall of icons, the ups and downs and changing attitudes through history.
- History itself. Historical figures, new investigations or angles on events, deeper insights.
- Business and business ideas. Something new, innovative, or ideas shared by thought leaders.
Is this you or someone you love? Do you have other non-fiction ideas you think we might be interested in? You can apply to be a part of this exciting program today.
No matter what your path to publication is, you’re going to pay. Either you pay now, in the form of various services you purchase from others, or you pay later in the form of royalties. We offer both options in a single publisher.
But we also know we’re not the right fit for everyone. We’d love to talk with you and find out more about you and your book. We can help you choose the right path to publication, even if that means referring you to someone else. Whatever your needs as an author, we’re here to help.