Saturday, March 14, 2009

How and Why I Chose A Subsidy Publisher for The Frugal Book Promoter

Recently I was approached by someone who was presenting on e-publishing and asked me to help her with ideas to help her audience with subsidy publishing. She says, " I got a list of the stuff to look out for, but I know you did a successful book with a subsidy publisher. You told me at the time you really have to do your homework. What did you do to identify a good publisher, and how did you find publishers to compare? This is what I wrote to her:

This subject is a whole lot more complex than it seems. Each person has different goals and that will affect their choices. I do an entire two hour workshop on the subject myself! Having said this, this is why I chose my publisher.

 Star came with good references from people I knew personally and I had known the publisher as a Webfriend, knew I could trust her. That’s the value of networking.
 Star right up front tells her authors that marketing will be their responsibility. Having said that, she sponsors an e-group and offers up articles and ideas on promotion--these are a big help to her authors with no promotion experience. That she does this is an extra, not an essential IF one has a good book on promotion to refer to-- like THE FRUGAL BOOK PROMOTER: HOW TO DO WHAT YOUR PUBLISHER WON'T, also published by Star.
 Though I am an editor, I didn't have time (or the interest!) to learn all the other aspects of publishing like formatting and the nitty gritty stuff about cataloguing, online sales, ISBNs, etc. (See more about speed below).
 She works with a marketer who will--at an additional but very reasonable charge--work to get your book into bookstores.
 She accepts returns (which the author must guarantee) so that bookstores will feel comfortable stocking Star books.
 She has a tiered program and one of them fit my needs. My needs were:
1. I needed fast publication because I intended to use my book as a practical text that is light reading--not filled with marketing jargon-- for the fall class I was teaching at UCLA. It can easily take two years to find an agent and then give that agent time to place a book in the hands of an publisher. Add the actual publishing time onto that!
2. I wanted to make an actual profit on this book and in one of her tiers, paperbacks get near-full royalties. That means authors make almost the entire difference between the cost of the book and what it sells for at retail unless they give over part of that profit to Amazon and/or other online or brick and mortar bookstores and/or distributors. I made back my investment within 60 days.
3. Her prices are reasonable but if one factors in the profit margin in number 2 and promotes a book well and has a "book product" that is NEEDED, her fees are not all important because an author will earn back her investment in short order.
5. I needed complete control over my book if it was going to be used as a syllabus/text for my class. No way did I want my name on something that had been diddled with by an editor who never had a book of her own and didn't know beans about promoting one.
6. I needed a publisher who would work with me on special needs, like changing the cover to announce the USA Book News's "Best Professional Book" award. TC, the publisher, had a new cover out within two to three weeks of the announcement of the award.
7. I wanted a publisher who wouldn't take on just any book because the services were being "paid for." The quality of a publisher's other books is a reflection on yours.

Star is at

To compare subsidy publishers, use Google. Use the terms POD publishers, subsidy publishers. Then do a "+ list" and you may even find a whole list of them. Then use an e-group where authors gather to ask them about their experiences. Many I know have been happy with iUniverse. I prefer not to use them, though, because they are too known as a subsidy publisher and there is still some bigotry about self- and subsidy-published books--especially among bookstore buyers. Most readers don't care but some do. Though I believe that an author can be proud of self- and subsidy-publishing and all the publishing models in between if an author's goal is to sell in bookstores, a publisher that is not easily identifiable as any specific kind of publisher helps keep the book from being pigeonholed. That's a sort of bigotry akin to judging a book by its cover but it exists.

Do know that there is a publishing model for every title and for every author’s personality. No one way is right for all. I’ve published many, many ways. I consult with authors on their choices, guide them to the likeliest process for their work and pocketbook. The thing that is important to know is that any author can take control of his or her own publishing career today. No one must be at the mercy of old way, old prejudices. Or new ones for that matter.

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and two how to books, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. She is also the author of the Amazon Short, "The Great First Impression Book Proposal". Some of her other blogs are, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor blog.

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