Books Are Sold on Consignment

If the bookstore sells them – the publishing house get paid money. If the bookstore doesn’t sell them – they can return all the books. It is ok to hold the books for several months and then send them back.

Archaic? You bet. And still, the vast majority of New York houses embrace the model; and authors scramble to enter into these medieval contracts for the “prestige” of being “under contract.” Authors literally give their rights and souls away for the “honor” of being published by a “real” publisher. Here’s the truth: it’s very,
very difficult to get a deal that has any bones to it today. For every Tim Ferris breakout (The Four-Hour Work Week), there are 10,000 wannabes that have books fall on their written faces. Unless you, dear author, land in the top five percent, your big time publishing experience will most likely be one big time let down, sucking wind. Deals are hard to come by; every major publisher is downsizing and editors are downright fearful. We suggest you breathe deeply and consider your options.

The New Big Four Is there hope? Is there an out? Could there be a better way to get published? Absolutely, and we are here to show you why and how.
More and more authors are opting to go solo, creating their own publishing houses. Why—simply this: It’s about quality; it’s about timing; it’s about control; and it’s about money.

The quality of the books published by mainstream publishers has changed. Paper is thinner; interior designs are iffy; and editing is so-so. The reality is, today’s savvy author can create a better product, make money, and have a good time in the process. And not gasp for air.

Authors want input on how their books look and what they say. With a traditional publisher, cherished titles morph; and decisions about how the book will “look” are made without the authors input or OK. Control flies out the window.

Messages and timing are always critical—unless a book has been “fast-tracked” by a publishing house…meaning it’s being pushed to get out What’s What in Publishing Today within a few months—expect a book to be published 18 months after it’s accepted by the publisher. Eighteen months is a long time—when you want your message out now. Your hot idea could be obsolete by the time your printed word appears. Here today, gone tomorrow.

Finally, the money issue can be shocking. Traditional publishers pay between 10 and 15 percent royalties on the net or retail price of the book— it’s all in the contract—contracts after the year 2000, leaned toward the net number. Why is that important? Simply this: the average non-fiction book sells fewer than 6,500 copies. At the end of 2009, reports coming from New York indicated that overall sales for mid-list books (not the Jim Collins, Tim Ferris type of books) were in the 3,000 to 4,000 range. This won’t seed your retirement nest egg.

Indeed. The old days, are, well, old. Dinosaurian. The new model of author, as publisher, has birthed. And we think it’s a very, very good thing.

Reprinted from “Rick Frishman‘s Sunday Tips”
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