Decoding publishing

When it comes to publishing books, you have three main options: to do it yourself and pay for services, to get picked up by a traditional publishing house who will pay you royalties and/or an advance for your writing, and independent publishing.

1.Traditional publishing

2. Self publishing (Author's services publishing)

3. Indie publishing

Traditional Publishing

This is how the traditional publishing process generally works in the non-fiction world:

  • Write your proposal and sample pages.
  • Submit those to a literary agent who takes 15% (industry standard but negotiable).
  • Once under contract with you, the agent will submit to various publishers whom they have existing relationships. You can hope to end up with an advance plus 1-2% of sales in royalties. This is current industry standard but negotiable.
  • In lieu of submitting to a literary agent, you can also submit directly to certain publishers as I did with the History Press.
  • Complete your manuscript while you’re shopping the title to the agents or publishers. Be flexible in that certain publishers will want more creative control and may wish to reframe your table of contents and edit your work.
  • Once a publisher says yes, and your contract is complete, here are the next steps for your writing:
  • Complete the manuscript
  • Editing commences
  • Photography is added
  • Design/layout is finalized
  • Sales/distribution/press channels are notified
  • Depending on your contract, their marketing team/publicist or your own publicist will work on special events and promotions to promote the title
  • You conduct book-signings as often as you like and receive royalties once or twice a year

Self Publishing

If you’re self publishing instead, you can follow the same pattern to the above. The main difference is you will be sourcing all of your editing, photography and design work, as well as laying the book out yourself or hiring a designer for that process. You’ll also be sourcing pricing for printing and paying for your books to be printed up front. You’ll be on your own for marketing and distribution, but you may not need either. For example, if you’re printing a small collection of heirloom recipes for a family Christmas project as gifts, you’ll be making a smaller print run that is financially manageable. For some perspective, I ordered 5,000 books for my first run of Trailer Food Diaries and although it was overwhelming to try to warehouse, market and sell that many books. But I did it.

If you’re handy with current technologies and feel that you have a strong sales plan, you can publish your books yourself online through options such as Amazon’s Create Space. If it’s your first book, I recommend going through an Indie Publisher to help you get your bearings in the field and make sure your documents are sized correctly and loaded in the proper format. With Create Space, your books won’t be printed until your customers order them online. This is the print-on-demand model and it works great for certain projects. Be sure to play with their royalty calculator to make sure the size and style of your book puts you in the black instead of the red.

Indie Publishing

With Indie Publishing, you’ll be able to lean on someone who is in the business to get your first project from concept to published book. Several indie publishers offer author services such as editing, cover design, book layout, ISBNs, and marketing. You’ll be able to choose which services you need and they should give you a price quote.

Be aware that indie publishers all operate very differently. Many will not print your books and put them on shelves, but some (like Spellbound Publishers) will.

What is best for you?

There are pros and cons to each of the publishing models discussed thus far. To determine which route is best for you, spend a little time defining your goals, creating your budget and sales projections (if you’re book will be for sale). Downloading a copy of Write Your Own Cookbook lays out a clear action plan that helps you discern which model is best for you, helps you map out your project in a writing calendar, teaches you how to write recipes properly, gives you several samples and resources to be able to complete your book.

How I got started in writing and publishing

When I authored my first book in 2009, I didn't find a publisher who wanted to work with my title in the timeframe in which I needed the book printed. I had developed a food festival that was attracting 30,000 attendees and I really needed copies of the book by a certain date. So I took it upon myself to self publish. I funded my first two book projects through kickstarter campaigns. After they were printed, I got the book placed in several large stores, received decent media coverage and did what it took to get books sold. But that model wasn't built to last. I was constantly having to fund printing several thousand books at a time to get the best price-point and then having to wait on stores to pay me up to 90 days after they were invoiced.

My model was financially upside-down. Crying one night at my writing group, I thought I was going to have to take my books off the shelves. But the next day, I put in a call to the one person I had a connection to in publishing. She was excited about my project and accepted my pitch within the hour. I was totally saved. That the publisher took on my series in such a short amount of time was extremely exciting since most traditional publishing deals take well over a year to develop and execute.

I wrote nine books with that publisher, who ultimately merged with a larger publisher. I struggled with them through this merger for several years before ultimately deciding I needed to be able to take my business back into my own hands and correct the issues that weren't sitting well with me. It was time to launch my own publishing company.

Stay tuned to learn How Spellbound Publishers can help.