Thursday, August 16, 2007

Newsworthy Nuggets from Nightengale Press

Query, self-publish or hire a publisher? That IS the question by Valerie Connelly

So many would-be authors find themselves caught between the age-old process of sending endless query letters, with chapters for consideration only to receive an unending stream of rejection notices, and the option to self-publish or actually hire a publisher. Yes, I said hire a publisher. All in all, the decision of how to publish is yours. It is not easy to determine which option is best for you and your book. The trial is by fire, and the results can range from wonderful to horrific. The reality in publishing is simply this: there is no security, everyone is out for himself, and the middleman reaps the most profit. But, your book may just be the next mega-hit. Or, it may be that you just want to see your work in print. Both possibilities are legitimate. However, you should ask a few questions first. Which option is best for you?

If you believe you can withstand the excruciatingly long time the process of query-send chapters-get rejected requires to get an acceptance of your manuscript from a commercial publisher (the Big Five, one of their imprints or one of the many medium-sized publishers who stay with the commercial model of publishing), if you ever do, then by all means be my guest. But, remember, if you should be accepted, you will turn over all control of your book’s design, content (yes, the publisher can change that, too, without your input) and in the end, your advance, if you get one, is vulnerable to returns and charge-backs. Your royalties are less than 10% of net, and you may see them once a year, if there are any left after costs, including printing AND marketing.

If you believe you can go it alone and set up your own publishing business to produce and sell your own books by self-publishing, then I do believe you should do so. Remember, though, you will have all the responsibilities of layout and design, cover design, buying ISBNs, getting an editor and a proofreader, finding a printer, finding distributors, setting up your website, all PR and marketing, and all the expense. And, and you won’t have to relinquish most of the profit to the publisher; you will reap all the profit. It will take longer to sell enough books to pay for your investment, if you ever do, but you won’t lose fifty-five percent right off the top to the wholesaler and more to the distributor. You’ll have all the control of the design, though you would be well-advised to learn about this or hire a designer. If you are computer phobic, have no graphic design experience, prefer to write rather than sell, and/or don’t have a clue who your audience will be, then forget about this option. But, whatever you do, avoid going to a firm that tells you they can help you self-publish. No one can help you self-publish but you, yourself and you.

If, on the other hand, you want to hire a publisher ― and that is really what it is when you pay a startup fee to get your book into print ― then, by all means, research the fine print costs as you would if you were hiring a mechanic, or buying a house, or signing up for a cell phone plan. The details are what matter the most.

What will you get for your fee? What costs are additional? Does the publisher have an all-inclusive option? Will you have a workable website? Will you have a listing in the bookstore on the publisher’s site? Will your book be listed with BooksInPrint and be available on all the online bookstores and available for order in the bricks and mortar bookstores, or will you have to engage in this effort yourself? Will you receive any marketing advice or support? How often are royalties paid, and what are the royalty terms in detail? When will the rights revert to you? What rights do you share with the publisher? Is the contract exclusive or non-exclusive? What happens if the publisher goes out of business? Who owns the copyright and who owns the ISBN? (Typically, you own the copyright and the publisher owns the ISBN ― a requirement for the legitimate registration of the title in the complex accounting system that drives the trade.) How long is the contract in force? And many more.

The main complaint I hear from authors who publish with the so-called self-publishing author-mills is this: the book is useless to them in the marketplace because they do not own the ISBN, it is poorly designed, poorly made and no bookstore will touch it. These authors often gave up trying to get the corrections made on the proofs ― the stall tactics of some of these firms are infuriating ― and the correction process can cost oodles of money to accomplish: sometimes $15 per correction. Yes, that is fifteen dollars per correction. Run like the wind if you see that in the fine print. These authors should have made sure that they had input on the book’s design, and learned what recourse they have if dissatisfied.

Still, the best feeling in the world for a writer is the heft of his book in his hand, the smell of the paper, the gleam reflecting from the high-gloss cover. They bring him the reality that others can at last read his words. There is nothing else like it ― nothing at all. And it is worth all the trouble it takes to get that sensation, once you have done it.

Ms. Connelly’s years as an advertising copywriter, graphic designer and print shop owner served her well as she founded Nightengale Press in July of 2003. By January of 2007 Nightengale Press has published more than 40 authors, with 57 books among them, and several more coming through the process into print every month. Nightengale Press has evolved into Nightengale Media LLC offering its authors a first class website, bookstore, marketing opportunites and more.
Go to to listen to CALLING ALL AUTHORS live on Tuesdays at 4PM Central or to listen to the archives.
Also, as a member of the National Speaker’s Association, Valerie speaks to writer’s groups and conferences. Go to for more information.
Valerie Connelly’s mystery-thrillers SACRED NIGHT (2003) and SIDETRACKS (2004), her most recent title CALLING ALL AUTHORS --- HOW TO PUBLISH WITH YOUR EYES WIDE OPEN (2007) and her children’s book ARTHUR, THE CHRISTMAS ELF (2006) are all available at and all online bookstores. Visit and for more about the author, her books and her career.


Suzanne said...

Great article. Thanks for the list of things to consider when searching for a publisher.

Suzanne Lieurance
The Working Writer's Coach

Nick Oliva said...

I am glad to see that this vociferous nonsense that I read about self-publishing and Print On Demand publishers is finally being countered by articles like Valerie's. The fact is the readership for literature is at an all time low and the computer is responsible for a flood of people who now have professional programs to express their art. Too much supply, not enough demand has created an opportunity for the POD's and others and I think it is the expectations of those who think that seeing a their book in print gets them a ticket to see Oprah. It is akin to a garage band becoming rock stars overnight. The big publishers will not take a chance on the unknown, hence the flood of celebrity books. I have published what I think is a very thoughtful cross-genre book, that takes some thinking to read. Those factors work against me, however to me the message is important and I have taken much ridicule for using a POD that most bloggers have had nothing but emotional tirades about the things that Valerie touches upon. I am promoting the book. I know the odds, I'm a big boy. If it goes somewhere, great but the fact is that I have it in print during a time that few will get anything published by the five major companies. There are over 275,000 books published each year. The odds are highly against one to get theirs to the top. And if they do get it to the top, there is really not much money awaiting unless you get that "movie deal" and those odds are even worse. So, write for yourself and your close circle of friends but keep on plugging and you never know. That's why we get up in the morning and give it another whirl, or move on and find other things to make one happy.

Nick Oliva
Author, "Only Moments"