A. Publish with a traditional publishing house.
By Patricia de Hemricourt
That, of course, is the Holy Grail of any would-be writer. Is it though?
It is certainly a major booster for the writer’s ego to be identified by a bona fide publishing house as a writer deserving their attention and their willingness to stick their neck out.
Ok, so the ego gets an immediate upgrade.
Now, let’s take a look at what it means for the book’s chance of reaching the shelves of the audience.
http://www.publishing-explained.com provides the following statistics:
• Around 1 million manuscripts are apparently looking for a US publisher.
• Only 1% of these manuscripts will probably be published.
• 70 percent of books published do not earn back their advance.
Assuming that these are accurate, as a writer, even if our book makes it to the one in a million cut of published books – and by published, I mean traditionally published – that leaves us with a 30% chance of having actually produced a successful book.
So, as a non-published writers, our chances of publishing a relatively successful book with a traditional publisher are about 0.00003% . Playing Lotto suddenly seems a fairly realistic alternative to make money .
Actually, let’s look at the money side.
Our publisher has numerous expenses, including financing all the books that did not generate income. So, as an unpublished writer, we might reasonably expect to be offered royalties of 8-12%. Of these, we will have to deduct the 15% cut of the agent.
About the agent, found one already? That takes time and effort. First stage, identifying potential agents, then send them a query letter, with a synopsis and sample chapter/s of the book. Typically, multiple submissions are frown upon, so we are supposed to approach them one by one. Response time varies between 6 weeks to 6 months. That is for someone to agree to receive the entire manuscript.
So, in the best scenario, 6 weeks plus 6 weeks, signing up with an agent will take 3 months. Let’s continue with unabashed optimism, and assume this agent is incredibly efficient and lands a contract with an equally efficient publishing house in another 3 months. We are now fully roaming the realm of wishful thinking, but let’s continue.
Factoring in the editing time, layout requirements, book cover creation, marketing strategy etc. 9 months from contract signature to launching the book, we are still dealing with the Olympic champions of efficiency, both from the publishing house side and from our side as writers to satisfactorily implement whatever modification to the original manuscript they are bound to require.
So, in the super duper best case scenario, the time elapsed from sending the first query letter to an agent to the actual launching of the book is 15 months. The worst, and most likely, is infinity…
Since it is already established that, unlike a fast growing number of real publishing house, ours belong to the category of ideal ones, they also take charge of all the marketing process.
Yet, despite all of its incredible efforts, our publishing house fails to sell more than a few dozen copies of your book during the three months following its launch. There, as all established publishing houses, it decides to stop investing in the book.
So, what do we end up with? A published author whose remaining printed books are gathering dust in the back shelves of some bookstores or being pulped in an effort to preserve the planet’s ecology.
Time to grade
1. Upfront money investment (US$ 10 – US$ 1000)
This covers paper, ink, self stamped envelopes and stamps
2. Upfront time investment (2 hours – infinity)
This covers identifying agent, writing query letter, sending submissions, reformatting sample chapter and synopsis according to agent requirement. Does not include time invested by lucky writer to revise manuscript according to agent/publisher demands.
3. Time line to publication (15 months – infinity)
4. Probability of gaining access to the platform (0.0001%)
5. Copyright retention (moral rights, and other rights negotiable)
6. Royalties percentage for the author (8-30%)
7. Risk of ending with a scammer/unprofessional provider (minimal)
Easy to avoid as there is lots of on-line documentation about agents and publishers)
8. Required self-involvement in marketing (nil – considerable)
9. Probability of rising to best-seller status (0.00003%)