At present, there are three primary ways for Canadians to publish a book: traditional (trade) publishing; vanity publishing; and supported self-publishing. While the trade publishing route is still a respected option for some of today’s authors, many others are choosing supported self-publishing with companies like PPG—and with good reason. In order to fully appreciate the benefits of this new preference, it is important to understand the characteristics that differentiate trade publishing from vanity publishing from supported self-publishing.
TRADITIONAL (TRADE) PUBLISHING
Many writers still envision this process when they consider having a book published: seeking out a Canadian trade publisher that will consider their type of work; mailing a query letter and sample chapter or poem to that publisher with a self-addressed stamped envelop attached; and then anxiously awaiting a response, within three to six months, as to whether or not the publisher will take on the project. More often than not, the unknown author’s work is declined; and he or she must move onto the next submission with the next trade publisher in the hopes the book will eventually be accepted.
Those new to the book publishing industry often view this as a personal rejection of their work. Many give up hope of ever being published at all. The truth is, writing quality is not the only determinant trade publishers use when deciding whether or not to accept a manuscript for publication. Most receive hundreds (even thousands) of manuscript submissions each and every year from which they select fewer than one dozen new authors to work with—a discriminatingly low acceptance rate. Obviously, budget and manpower play a huge role in their decisions. But one must also consider that many of the small Canadian literary presses, in particular, are funded by operating grants. These grants contain strict guidelines as to what types of work they can/cannot publish. As a result, these publishers’ hands are sometimes tied and otherwise gifted writers may be overlooked.
For the writers whose work is accepted, there is a noteworthy implication they may not be aware of straightaway. When a trade publisher agrees to pay for the publication of a manuscript, what they are purchasing is the rights to that work. In other words, the writer must now relinquish much of their creative control over to the publisher. It is the publisher who has final say on editing and design. It is the publisher who has final say on how the book is to be produced and marketed … because it is the publisher who now owns the book. Authors retain only basic “publishing rights” that recognize them as the creator of the written words, and they are paid only a small royalty for any sales made by the publisher—often as low as 10%. As the owner of the book, the publisher keeps all remaining profits.
To put this into perspective, let’s say a book is priced at $15 per copy retail. Ten per cent of that is only $1.50. Even if the publisher is able to sell 500 copies of the book, the author will only earn $750 in royalties.
It makes much more sense for authors to buy copies of their books back from the publisher at a wholesale price of $7.50 each and then try to sell them all direct themselves. Even though they won’t earn royalties on these wholesale author copies, they still stand to earn more per unit if they sell them at full price without a middleman between them and their buyer. Make sense? (Even with a middleman, like a bookstore or retail outlet, the author still stands to earn more per unit by selling their own wholesale copies.)
Aside from loss of ownership, another disadvantage to this type of publishing is the timeline. It can take anywhere from three months to a year for authors to learn whether or not their manuscripts have been accepted for publication; and, if accepted, it can take another full year for their books to be published … sometimes more.
Most people have heard the term “vanity publisher” as the less respected publishing alternative. Vanity publishers have earned their notoriety by accepting and publishing 100% of the manuscripts that are rejected by trade publishers without much consideration to quality or content … the opposite extreme of trade publishing. The best way to recognize a vanity publisher is this: their primary concern is profit so they will publish anything for anyone who has the money to pay for it; they hire unseasoned staff at reduced wages so they can charge enticingly low “publishing package” rates; and they won’t actively encourage their writers to improve the quality of their work.
A vanity publisher will take what they receive and publish it as is … no matter what it looks like. Not only does this reflect poorly on the publisher, but it also reflects poorly on the writer. Books that are haphazardly produced in this manner simply cannot expect to compete in the marketplace against a professional trade publisher’s finished product. There is a noticeable difference between the two.
Another issue with today’s vanity publishers is that the majority are either located in the United States or else they cater to the American marketplace (i.e. authors must pay for their publishing services in US dollars which ends up costing them more in the long run). But perhaps the biggest problem with publishing through an American-based publisher is that most of these companies assign American ISBN numbers/barcodes to all their books. This puts Canadians in “limbo” in the sense that their books are not properly recognized by Legal Deposit at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) as they should be.
Most vanity publishers advertise that authors who work with them will retain 100% copyright ownership of their own books; however, they neglect to mention that the print-ready files for those books will be kept “under lock and key” inaccessible to the authors. This means authors must always go through the vanity publisher to have their marketing materials and books printed; and, because most of these publishers utilize only POD printing technology, authors stand to lose money on the larger print runs that really should be completed on either a digital or offset press designed specifically for larger print runs.
One upside to this type of publishing is the timeline. Manuscripts are accepted immediately upon receipt of payment and can be published in as little as two months’ time. Another upside is that vanity publishers pay a significantly higher royalty rate than trade publishers do on any copies of the book they’re able to sell on behalf of the author. Of course, authors can also purchase copies of their books at wholesale prices and sell them on their own for the best profit margin of all.
One final, notable benefit to this book publishing model is that, because authors maintain primary copyright ownership of their books, they reserve the right to sell off additional rights for additional profit down the road. This is where the real money is—in the sale of rights. To understand why, click here.
The supported self-publishing route combines the quality of traditional (trade) publishing with the flexibility and control of vanity publishing. Writers are considered both the author and the publisher of their own books, and the supportive self-publishing house merely assists them in self-publishing their books by supplying all the tools they will need and facilitating the entire process from start to finish.
A qualified supportive self-publishing house requires its writers to have their work copy edited and proofread in the very least. (Trade publishers usually take it a step further and require each and every manuscript to go through a substantive edit.)
Supportive self-publishing houses utilize experienced talent—graphic designers, ghostwriters, editors, proofreaders, indexers, et cetera—to ensure a professional final result. They also employ modern printing techniques (POD) and modern marketing services (online presence) in much the same way today’s vanity publishers do.
When writers pay for professional support in self-publishing their books, they gladly maintain their copyright ownership and creative control. It is the writer/self-publisher who has final say on everything from design to production to marketing the final product. They are also assured a quality end result that is able to compete in the marketplace … which can make a world of difference when it comes to selling their books and earning any kind of profit down the road.
Like vanity publishing, a major advantage to this type of book publishing is the timeline. Most manuscripts are accepted immediately upon receipt of payment and can be published in as little as two or three months’ time. Another upside is that supportive self-publishing houses pay a significantly higher royalty rate than trade publishers do on any copies of the book they’re able to sell on behalf of the author. And, as it is with every other publishing model, authors can purchase copies of their books at wholesale prices and sell them on their own for the best profit margin.
The most important benefit to this book publishing model is that authors maintain primary copyright ownership of their books. By doing so, they reserve the right to sell off additional rights for additional profit down the road. This is where the real money is—in the sale of rights. For a better understanding as to why this is, click here.
There are four additional advantages to self-publishing through PPG in particular:
Canadian ISBN numbers: PPG will put the author/self-publisher’s primary contact information on each book’s Canadian ISBN application form to ensure the ISBN number is linked to the true copyright owner of the book—the author/self-publisher.
Canadian-tailored payment options: All transactions completed through the PPG Online Store are done in Canadian funds, thereby removing the hassles and extra fees associated with exchange rates. The total price authors see on their online store orders is the actual total they will pay, and nothing more.
Author-tailored printing options: When authors choose PPG to support them in self-publishing, not only will they retain the copyright ownership of their books, but PPG will also give the final print-ready files to the rightful owner … the author/self-publisher. This means at any time authors decide to print larger runs (100+ physical copies) of their books to warehouse/distribute on their own, they can feel free to shop around for the best deal with all the printers in their areas. (For convenience, PPG offers a handy, ECO-friendly POD service for all small orders which allows authors to take advantage of PPG’s online distribution services.)
Modern ECO-friendly book publishing options: PPG operates in a paperless, virtual office environment. The company’s publishing processes are completely electronic which boosts productivity and makes information sharing much easier from any location anywhere in the country with Internet access. PPG produces both eBooks and print-on-demand (POD) paperback books for Canadian authors—two more ways the company is helping to preserve the environment while helping aspiring authors realize the dream of publishing a book.
PPG is a Canadian book publisher dedicated to serving Canadian authors. Visit our book publishing website to learn how you can publish your book today.