Book Building: How It Works, Part III
Third in a series.
“New York” Publishing
Authors often want to shoot the moon with their book project, opting for agent representation and a contract with a well-known “New York” publisher. By “New York” we mean the type of publishing house with which most people are familiar: a well known company name, name-brand authors, books we see in bookstores and reviewed in newspapers and magazines. The “New York” publishing house is probably in New York, but it could also be in Boston or San Francisco.
Everybody looks up to the New York publishers, and almost all authors long for a Crown Books or a McGraw-Hill or a Penguin to publish their book. That said, think of the best book you’ve ever read, or have read lately. Who’s the author? What’s the title? You know or remember these easily, right? Now, who’s the publisher? No peeking! Bet you don’t know.
If that’s the case, why would you or anyone else care?
OK, let’s assume you care. You won’t land a contract with a New York publisher unless you have an agent representing you (see the How It Works Part II post, Getting an Agent). However, once you do have a publisher, you’ll be taken out to lunch at chi-chi New York restaurants by your editor, and that’s fun because you’ll be regaled with outrageously funny and interesting stories about New York Times best-selling authors and their antics.
But you will wait a long time to see your book in print. It takes months and months to get an agent, and months more for the agent to get you a book contract. Then it’ll be about a year before your book is published. Is it worth it to wait a year and a half or more?
Well, you say, besides the lunches, there are benefits to going with a New York publisher. Let’s discuss the three most authors cite: editing, marketing, and making money.
Editing. You believe they’ll edit your book and make sure it reads like Malcolm Gladwell. Nope. High-level editing effectively went out with Max Perkins. You’re expected to turn in a manuscript that’s nearly perfect, ready for proofreading. The agent is often your editor these days, helping you revise the book for the market. And even after the copy-editing and proofreading, your are still responsible for every error in the book.
Marketing. Whether you go with a New York publisher or the self-publishing route, you are still responsible for marketing your book. You will always be the marketing guru for your book, simply because no one knows it as well as you do. If you get an advance for your book, we’d suggest you don’t spend it to buy a new boat. You’re going to need it to do the marketing for your book. If you do a good job, and the publisher thinks you’ve gotten some traction and attention, they might help out with some ads or publicity or maybe even an abbreviated road tour.
Making Money. Don’t expect to make big bucks from the royalties on your book. Few authors do. Let’s look at what we call “the 80/20 rule.” If you go with a New York publisher, your royalty rate will be typically between eight and 15 percent of the net on your book. Net? Say the list price is $25.00. The publisher discounts that by 40 percent to the bookstores, so the net is $15.00. Your royalty rate is, say, 10 percent. You get $1.50 per book, and you must give 15 percent of that to your agent, so you end up with $1.27.
Next, in How It Works Part IV, we’ll explore what the 80/20 rule means when you self-publish.