Monday, November 22, 2010

What’s Money Got to Do with It? Part 1

Here I come, tardier than last time I visited. Some days just don't seem long enough at this time of year.

I hope you find a few minutes to join me today. Thanksgiving week starts a season of so many opportunities to celebrate that finding time to sit and think about writing may be difficult. I've asked Mary Babic to share her perspective about the financial costs inherent in getting your work published. (Mary is a professional author's assistant.) So, sit back with a cup of something refreshing and see what Mary has to say.

"Big chain stores and have significantly changed the publishing industry over the past decade. The good news for the consumer: Books are less expensive and more readily available than ever. regularly discounts 30 percent off the retail price of books.

Where does this 30 percent come from? It comes directly from the publisher's profits and ultimately from the author's royalties. Industry statistics estimate that only 10 percent of books published are profitable to both publishers and authors. Because this leaves about 90 percent of books that either break even or lose money, publishers have decreased their costs in order to stay in business. Cost reduction usually takes the form of offering fewer services to authors, especially first-time authors. Unfortunately, they are essential services that formerly helped increase the odds of success. For instance:

  • Publishers now give surprisingly little editorial guidance. Writers must be able to communicate and organize their ideas in a marketable way, a skill authors must develop, but at a cost. Usually the cost balances between time and money - learning as you go or getting expert help. Your time is valuable, so even something "free" has an "opportunity cost." (An opportunity cost is the money you might have brought in if you had some other work that you know how to do.)

  • Writers face the significant hurdle of having to market their books. Even if an author writes an outstanding book, without the help of a promotions expert, the book may only sell a few hundred copies. A promotions expert for a modest marketing plan can cost the author $3,000 to $5,000.

Because publishers are no longer able to help bridge the gap between author and reader, the author must be able to invest her time or have the budget to hire the help she needs. Of course, this assumes she can find the right people. The learning curve is so high for a first book that most writers end up frustrated. If they're willing to tough it out, though, they may be more successful with a second book…or they'll never try again."

As many aspiring writers and emerging authors learn, getting a traditional publisher's contract may not mean the cash flows in. Getting a well-written book published and marketed can require more money flowing out than you originally expected. If commercial success is your goal, then be prepared to put money into the machine before you get any results. This can be a risky business with no guarantee of success.

Thank you, Mary. If you want to drop by Mary's web site and check out her services, then go to Next time, Mary will look at the self-publishing costs in part two of "What's Money Got to Do with It?"

Happy Thanksgiving!