It wasn’t that long ago that self-publishing was called vanity publishing. Authors who couldn’t find a publisher willing to put their books in print were thought of as vain if they stopped to paying for a publisher.
But times have changed, and today it is nearly impossible for a new author to find a publisher unless he/she has thousands of social media followers, a huge tribe in his/her database, or a calendar full of speaking engagements with audiences of targeted readers ready to buy books.
So today, many first-time authors decide to go the route of self- or hybrid-publishing using a fee-for-service model. Instead of receiving an advance against royalties, authors pay for editing and publishing services such as cover design, interior layout, copy editing and proofreading, legal registrations, and printing and distribution.
Many authors are finding that self-publishing may actually put more money in their pockets in the long-term, especially if they are speaking, consulting, or coaching on the subject of their books. When self-published authors sell their books to clients or at speaking engagements, they receive the retail price of the book, less printing costs. So, for a self-published author selling a book that retails for $20 and the printing costs $4, the author is realizing a $16 in profit (80%), while the traditionally published author only realizes a maximum of 50% profit.
Also, authors who want to use their book as a calling card will find that traditionally published books have a more expensive price tag. For example, self-published authors can generally buy their books at cost (say, $3 – $5), while traditionally published authors will pay 50% to buy their books, bringing that cost to $10 – $20, depending upon the selling price determined by the publisher.
Why do authors want to work with traditional publishers? Some authors believe that traditional publishers will actively market their books; however, most authors today will tell you that traditionally published books sell because authors do the work. The authors are paying for public relations out of their own pockets, are getting the speaking engagements through their own marketing efforts, and are working social media for the sales they generate.
Some think that the traditional publishing house has more prestige, more cache. So doesn’t that make traditional publishing the vanity publishing in today’s market?