Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Writing for Publication

Reading An Uncertain Inheritance made me think once again about writing something of my own and publishing it. I have thought about this from time to time over the last few years. I was reading on my Kindle though and publishing for the Kindle is about as easy as blogging or maybe easier. So I thought I might write something and publish it for the Kindle.

The problem with the Kindle though is that not everyone has one. I am not trying to make money by writing but I'd like it not to be too costly either. There are a few people that I would like to give a copy of any book I might write. Mainly these are a few family members and friends. But none of them have Kindles and I am not very interested in shelling out $400 each for them to have one.

So I decided I should do a little research about writing for print publication in addition to Kindle publication.

I discovered that there are a tremendous number of web sites out there on the Internet that offer all kinds of information for writers wanting to publish works of one sort or another. There are some rather new and exciting possibilities, too.

I know some writers. Two of them are also blog friends. They've provided me some really valuable advice and web site URLs, too. One site was Absolute Write and from there I learned about Writer Beware. The latter has a list of agents and publishers to avoid. Because, and I bet no one is surprised, it turns out there are a lot of folks who are trying to make money off writers who would like to be published.

The publishing business reminds me a lot of the commercial land development business. There's the lowly land owner who is very much like the author. Then there are a number of agents. They don't really do that much but they get a percentage of the sale or lease. And they really work for the buyer more than they do the seller but the seller has to pay them out of his money.

The developer is kind of like the publisher. He puts everything together including buying the land and designing one or more layouts and then selling several retailers to commit to taking a spot and so on. I guess the printer is like the architect and contractor. And there's a bunch of engineers and stuff that would be like proofreaders and copy editors and illustrators.

One funny thing I thought of about this is the lawyer presence. Lots of lawyers are in both fields!!

Once the land owner has signed the deed over he loses control of the project. Authors pretty much lose control of their writing once they hand it over to a publisher.

On the other end are readers who buy books. Some books are bought from brick and mortar stores and some from the Internet and some from various other places. Book stores usually buy from distributors of which there are two main ones. And finally the distributors buy from publishers. And everyone wants to be able to send the books that don't sell back to where they came from.

The publishers, the real ones anyway, don't deal with authors directly. Agents get about 15% of whatever the author gets. Then the publisher has to make money and the distributor and then finally the bookstore. Once all that is done the author ends up with 10% to 15% of the revenue at best.

Now that's still a lot of money for John Grisham or James Patterson or any author selling millions of copies. But most books sell only a few hundred copies. I think about half of what they do sell are copies purchased by the author to give away.

I am pretty much inclined to ignore the commercial publishers and literary agents. I think it is too much trouble for one thing. I see scant possibility for making money because the subjects about which I might write are not likely to become best sellers in the first place. I don't like the idea of giving up control of my work either.

Another big problem for me is the self-promotion aspect. I am not much of a self-promoter. I am more likely to tell people why they should buy some other book besides mine. If Oprah called me I don't know that I'd go. Or Jay or Dave either for that matter. That's not very good for someone who wants to sell books. There is little chance of Oprah calling though so that's not a big practical concern.

But there are other ways to publish. Print on demand (POD it is called) is now possible for just about any book if it is planned that way. That simply means that a writer prepares the material electronically for later printing on a high speed document publisher. These machines are a lot like computer printers but on steroids. They load the author's work, print it (with images), bind it, and make it ready for shipping within a couple of minutes per copy. Typically they run at speeds of between 150 to 200 pages per minute. So a 250 page book is done in 1 to 2 minutes.

Now the cost of a single copy is much more than a single copy printed in a run of several thousand on a more conventional press. But the total cost is much less and there's no warehousing of hundreds or thousands of books. Still the cost is not much greater if any than the price of a new hardback book or even a new, high quality paperback. So the reader buyer would not notice much difference. Besides it is possible to sell more directly to the reader and eliminate the agents, publisher, distributor, and stores.

Amazon, among others, has at least two companies that offer such services. Turns out it is a pretty competitive business, too. It is also possible to buy services such as cover design, illustration, proofreading, content analysis, marketing, and so on.

All taken together these services constitute what is now called self publishing. There are constraints of course but I find it a rather exciting possibility.

I haven't made any decisions yet. I'm still thinking about what I want to write about and whether it really might be useful and whether I want to take it on and whether I have the ability and desire.


Lori1955 said...

Just let us know if you publish something. I will buy it!!!

nancy said...

i know you will put a lot of thought into this before you decide the route to go. i agree, i would buy whatever you write, heck i'd even support you going on ophra or jay or dave! we could all say we know him!!!!

Joanne D. Kiggins said...

I love how you compare publishing to the commercial land development business, Terry. Very interesting concept. Glad you took a look at Absolute Write. Sounds like you gleaned a lot of information from the site. Whatever way you decide to go, put me on the list for that book! ;)

~Betsy said...

The publishing industry is a complicated one, that's for sure. My word of advice is to just write. When you are happy with your finished product, then go back and worry about publishing. Just my two cents worth! :)