Pitching and publishing with a major publisher brings major kudos. It is what we call the most 'traditional' form of publishing, where the majority of the aspects of the publishing process are all taken care of - sounds pretty good, right?
Not so fast. There are lots of other things you need to consider before you decide if this is the right avenue for you and your book.
In this post, I’ll bust some common myths about big publishers and reveal what you really need to know before you pitch your idea.
Major publishers = major street cred. It means our ideas, our framework of thinking is being validated by someone else, that there really is a big market for what you know. How cool is that?
We're also talking about working with people who have decades of experience in the publishing industry, so first let's look at why that's great and who it's great for.
Why choose a Major Publisher
Ease and Convenience
A major publisher will handle virtually everything to do with getting your book to market (except writing it, of course). They'll be a lot less decision fatigue as a result. You will never have to know the ins and outs of how it all works and what goes on behind the scenes - this can be attractive for most people, but not for others who want to have greater control of their book.The other plus point to saving time on all this 'stuff' is that it buys back time to focus on your main source of business and income.
The distribution reach of major publishing companies will be something you just won’t be able to achieve on your own (not without a hell of a lot of legwork and innovative thinking, anyway). We're talking a guaranteed position in physical bookshops, airports and newsagencies. That's thanks to years of relationship building and exposure to both the local and international market. If you’re hoping to gain some brand exposure across international waters, a major publishing house can help you achieve that.
Having your book and your name affiliated with a major publisher gets a lot of street cred and brownie points. Many people still do look at books based on the publishing company associated with them. Publishers have a reputation to maintain, so you can expect a quality finished product when they deal with your book. There is no doubt that you will build your profile and positioning when you choose this option. However, you also have to realise that it is an investment that you are paying for, often one that is quite expensive.
Why not choose a Major Publisher
Lack of Control and Options
While your publisher handles things like design and paper stock, it also means that you are giving up control. Yes, you'll have a say, but ultimately, your publisher will call the shots. This lack of flexibility can be really frustrating for some people. even a deal breaker.
Don't expect to be treated like Harry and Meghan. The reality is that major publishers are in business, the business of sales. They are also pretty stretched when it comes to time and resources. Working with a publisher is seen as a 'partnership', that means they will put in as much as you do, and vice versa. Go into this with your eyes open - it's a business. Marketing is part of the deal, but really you'll be expected to put cash behind a sales and publicity campaign. Any extra ideas you may have in mind such as marketing campaigns, bookmarks and giveaways will rely on you and your efforts.
Costs and Hidden Fees
It absolutely sucks when you’re hit with additional costs and hidden fees that you never knew existed, so make sure you know what's stipulated in your contract. Postage to events and things may be extra. It is pretty rare to be paid an advance for writing a book these days, and most publishers will expect you to commit to buying copies of your book, which may set you back $30 or $40k. Then you'll be paying for things like public relations, promotions, marketing, editing to make sure your manuscript is up to scratch. You will earn some of your costs back through royalties made from sales of your book, but this is minimal. Smart people see this as a marketing expense that will pay off by securing bigger contracts with clients. It's really important to asses where you're at in your business and whether a major publisher is something you're willing to invest in.
Most printing is done offshore because it's cheaper. This means you're book may not hit the shelves until up to nine months after you've written it. This is why you must be absolutely sure you have the right strategy in place for your book and you've written something good enough that will last the distance. Too many people write a book for where they are currently at, and then when they get their copies in their hands, realise their business and audience has changed. That means they are now stuck with a book that is not attracting the market they want AND now they're sinking even more publicity costs into it when really they are ready to write the next book. Given the investment we discussed above, you want to make sure you're getting what you've paid for.
If you're well-established in your market and have an audience already, but are looking to invest in extra reach then this is a great option. It's going to save you time, and get you the goal you desire. Just remember that you're paying for it.
While, going through a publisher is a very romantic ideal, it is a big investment and if you're still learning about your market fit then it's going to be really hard to get buy-in from them. You also want to make sure you write a book that lasts the distance so usually this is seen as something you best step up to after you've written your first book.
Be sure to check out my post on whether you should self publish or work with an independent publisher instead.
You have your own experience and learnings, which may differ from mine, so I would love to hear from you.
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