“I am designing a book for a client that wants to self publish and I wasn't sure what publisher to use. Max offered me so much good advice and helpful information about the industry and steered me in the right direction. He is so knowledgeable about book printing/publishing. I highly recommend Max as a publishing consultant.”
~ Betsy Goodenough, Heavens to Betsy! Stationery
For those authors that want to set up their own publishing company and publish their own book, BGP (NOT affiliated in any way with B&G Publishing or B&G Publishing group) also offers the following services:
- Trade Publishing — if accepted, we publish your book the good old fashioned way and pay you for it.
- Contract Publishing — your book as a marketing tool.
- Book Coaching — let BGP help you make your book become a reality.
- Request Book Coaching Quote — use this form to get started today!
The Publishing Journey Begins
(Book Coaching, Contract Publishing and Trade Publishing Explained)
For most unpublished writers, the journey begins the minute they find themselves staring at the final draft of their first completed book manuscript. Now on the way to becoming a first-time author instead of just an unpublished writer, a transformation occurs. The range of emotions that follow can be compared to feelings experienced in the first month or two of being in the 1st grade: Suddenly you’ve reached a major milestone; daycare was over half a lifetime ago and you’ve â€œmaturedâ€ since Kindergarten. Pencils instead of crayons. You’ve even mastered writing your own name; now you’re making sentences. Every drawing, a masterpiece — especially to Mom and Dad, who brag about you to anyone that will listen. You get used to your name and the words “bright”, “brilliant” or “genius” being in the same sentence. Whatever your concept was of the Universe at the time, you were at the center of it, and all was good.
For those first-timers who had the foresight to read a Writer’s Market or learn the publishing process, the transformation is a bit different. All the happy emotions are there but it’s more like that point in 3rd grade when you realize that school gets more challenging, homework becomes a part of your life and you’ve got roughly nine more years of it. Instead of being at the center of the Universe it feels more like you’ve found yourself standing on a foggy road that stretches off into infinity.
At some point every first-time author experiences some form of the 1st-grader syndrome. What follows is an almost fanatical desire to do whatever it takes to get that book into print. Consumed by ambition, many tend to disregard the publishing basics like understanding the different types of publishing. Many will make the mistake of haphazardly submitting a manuscript without making sure it fully conforms to a publisher’s guidelines. Some will even happily jump into disastrous vanity book deals with the passion of a suicide bomber. Whatever the circumstances, they come at publishers with all kinds of distorted ideas in their heads, often based on outdated myths and vague misconceptions about the roles that Publishers and the Authors play. My intent with this article is to clearly define the types of publishing that Bohemian Griot Publishing, LLC (BGP) engages in and the Author/Publisher roles in each one.
When it comes to the different types of publishing and publishing services that BGP provides, the distinctions can be summed up by five things:
- who owns the ISBN (thus determines the publisher),
- who has final editorial say-so over the book’s content,
- who puts up the money to cover production and printing costs,
- who manages distribution and sales, and
- who manages the revenue/profit split.
Trade publishers create books for the general consumer and sell them through the distributors, wholesalers, libraries and bookstores. They can be works of fiction or nonfiction, hardcover or paperback. Generally, trade publishing is the most well-known and most sought-after type of publishing agreement. It is also the source of one of the most enduring writer myths: You write the Great American Novel, you send publisher a copy of the manuscript, publisher decides to produce and market the title, thanks to monster book sales the royalties are enough for you to quit your day job and go on a bestseller book signing tour with the first stop on the Oprah show.
- ISBN control: BGP
- Editorial control: BGP with author’s input
- Production financier: BGP
- Distribution / Sales: BGP
- The Revenue/Profit split: BGP receives revenues, pay quarterly royalties to author.
Acting as a Trade Publisher, BGP chooses to invest money and resources into turning a manuscript into a trade book and get it out to market. This means BGP covers all editing, design and printing costs as well as dealing with distributors and booksellers. The author has some input during the editorial process (while working with one or more editors) and that is where the author’s level of input stops with the production or distribution of the book. As with any standard trade book publishing deal, BGP receives the revenues and pays the author a royalty based on sales.
NOTE: We receive manuscripts on a regular basis from first-time authors who either didn’t bother to review the BGP Manuscript Submissions Guidelines or who are so narcissistic they just plain didn’t care. The genres outlined in the guidelines were chosen because of a combination of personal interests, what our collective talents are best suited for, and the markets we believe we have the greatest chance of successfully reaching. Since this company works primarily with independent consultants, freelance talent is brought for each book project in the same fashion that entertainers like Stevie Wonder will bring in studio musicians to produce an album — some come in for specific parts of a song while others are in for the entire project. With that said, there is only one man that ultimately decides which titles BGP will invest money into publishing. Attempting to circumvent his decision is a waste of time. 😉
Contract publishing (sometimes called Custom Publishing) is essentially creating a book that has undergone all editing and production steps as if it is being produced by a Trade Publisher to be sold in bookstores. Even though custom books can be ordered through booksellers and distributors, these titles are not intended to reach their audiences through traditional trade channels. They are often meant to be sold or given away from the author directly to the consumer for the purpose of promoting a company, strengthening brand loyalty, or even as a fundraiser for a non-profit organization.
For example, let’s say you’re a trainer holding seminars to educate car dealership executives on how to get better qualified sales leads from their web sites. A custom book is something that could be sold out of the “back of the room” or worked into the price of admission and given away to attendees. Since the custom title comes from a publishing company it often lends greater credibility to the speaker’s subject matter. The Author/Publisher roles are as follows:
- ISBN control: BGP or Author (depending).
- Editorial control: The author with BGP’s input.
- Production financier: Author invests, BGP provides resources.
- Distribution / Sales: Author with assistance from BGP.
- The Revenue/Profit split: Author receives revenues, pay small percentage to BGP.
The most commonly used custom arrangement is that the author pays the publisher a nominal fee to publish the book but behind the scenes the author covers all costs related to book production and printing. The author maintains full control over the content. The author also keeps most or all of the profits because the book is part of a non-publishing related business model and isn’t distributed or sold through traditional channels.
Although some might assume that this is a thinly-disguised form of subsidy publishing, that isn’t the case. Unlike many of the author mills and ‘self-publishing’ services like PublishAmerica or Lulu, BGP works with the author to structure a business model so that if the author sells out of all copies of a print run, the revenues cover the cost of that printing, the next printing, some overhead and then a little profit. With this arrangement, BGP’s goal is to help the author build a self-sustaining revenue stream off of a one-time investment into production and printing.
The publishing industry is littered with pitfalls that are waiting to capitalize on inexperienced writers, particularly those who are too ambitious to understand that these publishing shortcuts never pay off. Simply put, a Book Coach (or Shepherd) is a professional who understands the ins and outs of the publishing process and brought in to assist a first-time author who wishes to self-publish a book. BGP’s Book Shepherding services include:
- Book cover and interior design from a Graphic Designer with over 20 years of experience.
- Assistance in securing your ISBN number (bar code comes free with our cover design services)
- Assistance in securing one or more editors for your manuscript.
- Title Profit & Loss Spreadsheets — know your expected Return Of Investment before you spend a dime in printing.
- Assistance with where to send your book to get reviews.
- Additional design (custom logos, full-color glossy product slicks, counter displays, posters, bookmarks, and etc)
- Guidance on Guerrilla Marketing techniques — how to promote your book on low-to-no budget.
- Guidance on how to get your books sold through channels like Amazon.com, your own website, and etc.
Think of the Book Coach as your Graphic Designer, Business Consultant, and a Mid-Wife for your book all rolled into one. Using a Book Coach is an optimal solution for those authors who have written books for a niche audience, such as Spoken Word and other forms of Poetry. Unlike with Trade Publishing or Contract Publishing, the Author/Publisher roles are almost completely reversed:
- ISBN control: Author.
- Editorial control: Author.
- Production financier: Author pays, BGP provides optional resources for hire.
- Distribution / Sales: Author with BGP advice.
- The Revenue/Profit split: Author.
As a side note, this outline of the Book Coaching service is specifically geared toward first-time authors. This is because most authors that have already published a book through a standard trade publishing deal — or have already fallen into one of the PublishAmerica-style traps — already know the significance of the coaching role.
> Question: Do you offer all printing and distribution services, not POD printing.
This is yet another area that novice writers almost always get twisted. More often than not this confusion comes from when those authors have read a few articles about self-publishing, just enough to operate on an incomplete understanding of printing technologies and publishing methods. First and foremost, here’s a simple breakdown:
- POD (Print-on-Demand) Printing refers to digital printing, an alternative to offset printing often used for short print runs (i.e. – less than 1000 copies). It should not be confused with
- POD (Publish-On-Demand) Publishers is a bit of slang often used to describe Print-on-Demand Self-Publishing services and
- neither should be confused with independent publishers who happen to use both offset printing or digital (Print-on-Demand) printing to produce their books.
In most cases, when publishers or reviewers have complaints about being able to spot out POD printed books, this has little or nothing to do with the actual printing method. Most of the time, when books are spotted out as POD-printed, the problem rests with the fact that the reviewer spotted any one of countless amateur mistakes that professional Book Designers generally do NOT make. It has little or nothing to do with the printing technology.
In regards to printing, BGP subcontracts all printing out to one of several printers, almost all of which offer both offset printing as well as digital (POD). For book printing, the choice between using one printing method over another depends primarily on the quantity required and secondarily the sales track record of the book. For example, many small publishers and book packagers will use a POD print service to produce anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred pre-publication Advanced Reader’s Copies (ARCs) of a book to send off to Book Reviewers whereas the final print run may be into the thousands, thus less expensive to print using an offset press.
At other times, depending on how much a publisher may need to test the market reception of a title, digital is the most economical approach because it will enable printing less than 1000 copies without the setup costs and expense that come with larger offset print runs. Quite candidly, for most self-published books this is the way to go because large print runs also require storage in a temperature-controlled space (to put it into perspective, 500 5.5″x8.5″ hardcover books will come shipped on a pallet). I should also note that the average self-published title sells less than 500 copies.
With the BGP business model, most titles start out printed digital because it’s less expensive (but has a higher cost per unit) and after so many units are sold it’s time to switch to offset printing. Even though this increases the setup cost and number of books printed, this will also drop the price per unit drastically and ultimately increase the profit margin.
Hope that helps shed some light on the publishing process. Let me know what you’re interested in.
If you’re ready to make get your manuscript turned into a professionally packaged book, please take a few minutes to tell us all about it. We’d love to work with you:
Hours of Operation:
Saturday & Sunday: By appointment only