April 4

Who will pay for publishing for your book?

    Who should pay for publishing your book? You, the publisher, or both?

    I’ve seen several sides of this discussion table. I’ve worked for a traditional publisher. I’ve self-published my own book on a shoestring budget. And I currently run a company of self-publishing services that works with highly profitable authors.

    I recently sent an email, describing our services that help people self-publish their books, and I received this response…

    “I just think that a writer should not pay to get a book published… they are the talent. YOU should pay upfront for their work… if you want to collaborate! Just saying!”

    And I hear this debate a lot: if you’re the writer, who should pay for the production, printing, and distribution of the book?

    And I think the way we’re even producing, printing, and distributing books has changed so much that it’s no longer clear. There are so many, honestly, good options that it’d be silly to discount any of them, just on principle.

    So, how do you decide who should pay for YOUR book? Here are your major options, currently:

    • You could pursue a traditional publishing deal.
    • You could approach a “hybrid” publishers. 
    • You could self-publish, managing the project yourself.
    • You could hire a publishing team to manage the self-publishing for you.

    Here’s my quick ‘n dirty breakdown of the different publishing types:

    Traditional publishing

    Traditional publishers will pay to publish your book, and they will get your book distributed into bookstores. But, you are basically agreeing to create a product for them that fits their catalogue. Think about it from the publisher’s perspective. They might publish 100 books in a year. They have their reader types that they usually sell to. They need to keep giving their readers books every year. And your book is just one of a hundred. The publisher will pick the title, cover, and sometimes even the content that they think will sell best. 

    And who is going to keep the profits from the book sales? Well, they’re the ones who made the book happen, got it printed, got it into bookstores, and sold it, so, yes they’re going to give you maybe 10% of the retail price. But that’s fair, right, because they created the product and sold it.

    Some authors in recent years have said, “Sure, but I actually end up selling a lot of copies of my own book. I host book signings. I travel and speak. I drive a lot of the sales, too, so can we split the royalties?” 

    That’s where hybrid publishers came in. 

    Hybrid Publishers

    With a typical hybrid, you share 50% of the cost to produce the book, and you split 50% of the royalties. So, yes, you pay to publish, but you get to keep 5x the money from book sales. Some hybrid publishers can also get you into bookstores, so if you do your homework, you can get bookstore distribution with a hybrid publisher.

    In the early 2000s, printers and online tools gave us the ability to more widely for authors to produce books, themselves. Some authors said, “Wait a second, I can create the book exactly how I want to create it and keep all of the royalties? I’d rather do that!”

    And we saw a huge surge in self-publishing. 


    In true DIY self-publishing, the author either does all of the work to create the book himself, so there’s a lot of sweat hours but not much monetary investment or the author hires out the different pieces (editing, design, formatting, etc) but then keeps the royalties on the back-end. 

    Now, we’ve seen people reap all the advantages of self-publishing, but they’re busy with a successful career or running a business, and they just don’t want to mess with piecing together a team of editors, designers, formatters, and figuring out all the self-publishing pieces.

    That’s where self-publishing services have entered the publishing industry. 

    Self-Publishing Services 

    Self-publishing services include a variety of companies and small teams of professionals who create the product (the book) for you. You bring the content, you pay for the product creation, and you keep all the rights and profits of that product.

    But, wow, what a huge perspective shift we’ve taken in, really, just a few decades!

    It used to be that a traditional publishing house was just looking for a product to fill its catalog, and now we have authors who are creating their own products for sale in their own businesses.

    So, the question really isn’t “Who should pay for my book?” It’s a much more strategic question to ask, “Who is going to profit from my book?”

    In my mind, it’s completely fine for traditional publishers to profit from books because they’re actually printing and distributing the book. They’re getting you into all the bookstores and giving you a shot at the bestseller’s lists!

    It’s also completely fine for hybrid publishers to ask you to pay to help print and distribute the book. They’re taking some risk, and they’re asking you to share the risk, share the profits.

    It’s also completely fine to publish yourself for free! I would suggest hiring an editor and a cover designer, but you can definitely bootstrap most of the process yourself, and then you get to keep all the rights and the profits.

    It’s also completely fine to hire a team (which might be called self-publishing services) to manage all of the editing, design, publicity, and launch for you. You can definitely save yourself time and headache by paying professionals to do it for you, and then you still get to keep all the rights and the profits.

    It’s YOUR choice, and I hope that’s deeply motivating for you.


    You may also like

    Author Success Stories!

    Author Success Stories!

    ‘Tis the Season

    ‘Tis the Season

    Which "Publishing Path" is right for your book?

    There are FOUR different publishing paths for the modern author. Ready to discover which one's right for YOUR book?