I was graciously asked to participate in Saskatchewan Book Publishing Week by SaskBooks. Thank you to them for the invitation and experience, and thank you to the libraries of Assiniboia, Ogema, and Weyburn, Saskatchewan for hosting us. And finally, thank you to co-guest speaker Courtney Bates-Hardy – a new writing friend with really beautiful poetry about mermaids and fairy tales.
The two SaskBooks representatives and us two authors spent October 5, 2017 speaking to audiences at libraries in South Saskatchewan communities. The SaskBooks representatives had spent nearly the entire week travelling the whole province to celebrate publishers and publishing in Saskatchewan. I have no idea how they spent that much time in a car.
Libraries matter. They are safe havens and community centres which make the world a better place. Just ask Saskatchewan Author Trevor Harriot. Without libraries, this event wouldn’t have been possible.
Assibiniboia library had a curious group, interested in learning all about publishing, costs, and pros and cons of self-publishing. They also have a lovely art gallery across the street which captivated my interest for a bit before the reading.
Weyburn was a small, intimate gathering with an enthusiastic crowd. They also had a Starbucks in town, which is what my soul is now made of. They don’t tell you this, but as a writer, your soul slowly becomes replaced with coffee.
Ogema won the unofficial prize for coziest library, and the high school students were a very respectful bunch. They learned what the word petrichor means, and one lucky student won a free book of mine.
As a self-publisher and author I was in a unique position to provide insight into all sides of the book publishing journey. From writing the novel to getting the final product in readers hands, I’ve had the privilege of wearing all of the hats involved.
Self-publishing isn’t a quick fix for writers. Traditional publishing isn’t fettering the market by not accepting a writer’s manuscript.
A great deal of work goes into getting a book published. It isn’t just writing the manuscript and then the book magically happens. There are three to four rounds of editing and rewriting. An editor or two have to be hired, paid for, and contracts need to be written and signed.
Once the manuscript is ready enough (because it will never be 100% error free), then you contract the readers, artists, and designers: beta readers, cover artists, illustrators, cover designers, photographers, interior formatters and designers, and artists or graphic designers for marketing materials. That is not an extensive list.
Once you have rewritten one more time, and a final mock up is proofed, then you acquire printer(s) and distributor(s) – or you distribute yourself.
The marketing and communications begins before a book is officially published and never ends: advanced review copies, online marketing, news releases, launch/release event planning and advertising, sales sheets, consignment contracts with each individual book store, newsletters, newspapers, promotional materials creation and ordering. The list is potentially endless.
Then you publish. After, you’re applying for awards and grants to fund your endeavors, attending and hosting author events or radio and other interviews, and signing books. If you distribute, you’re managing those contracts and inventory, and monitoring sales, finding new ways to reach target audiences. You’re building a brand. You’re paying for the books you print to sell. Then there’s the dreaded accounting and taxes. I’m sure I haven’t captured it all, but you get the picture.
It isn’t one and done, and it’s a risk publishers take.
It’s why traditional publishers are careful accepting manuscripts, and limit what they do and do not publish. They know their markets and invest in books that appeal to those markets. They are, after all, paying to take on all of the work, risk, and liability to get a book to readers. They pay thousands of dollars to print your book and get it on bookshelves, so you don’t have to. They also make next to nothing on books. Books don’t yield high profits unless you’re the one in a million like Neil Gaman or J.K. Rowling. Publishers know their markets, they know their readers, and they don’t make a lot out of publishing books.
Yes, that can lead to a market which does publish similar things over and over again. It definitely will lead to many talented writers and amazing manuscripts not getting published. Traditional publishers are taking huge risks on you and your work. They are the business side of your creative endeavor and they do it thanklessly because they are passionate about books.
I chose to self-publish for the creative control, and I enjoy the business side of publishing as well. As a comparison, it costs me about $5000 to get my book to ‘print ready’, it takes me about a year to publish a book, it takes a team of 7 to 15 contracted consultants, and then it takes about $5000 to market, print the first small batch, ship, distribute, and actually get the book to readers. There are no costs for the writing that I do in that estimate. I don’t currently pay myself for that work because I just don’t make enough to. So that’s $10,000 just to self-publish one book in ebook and paperback versions, using print-on-demand.
Traditional publishers usually pay much more than that to get a book published in multiple formats such as hardcover, graphic novels, audio books, and so on.
You are what make the publishing world go round. You pick a book in the hundreds of unique ways: based on covers (we all do it), by flipping to page 37 and reading it to see if it is any good, by scrutinizing the jacket, searching the internet, checking goodreads.com, asking friends… the ways you choose are numerous and beautiful. That choice makes a difference.
Not only do you get to take home a treasure which holds a new universe inside, but you also give a treasured gift when you buy our books or write a review. You help fund the cost of getting that book to you, you help encourage a writer to keep writing, you keep a publisher in business and publishing more awesome books.
Publishers and authors are here because of you. I cannot express the depth of my gratitude to you, dear readers. Thank you because you make the world a brighter, richer place.