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The Truth About Publishing and Self-Publishing

You’ve finished it. The next great literary masterpiece. It may have taken you months, perhaps even years to complete. Between late-night writing binges and battling writer’s block, your sweat and tears have culminated to this moment. Congratulations! You should be very proud of yourself.

Now comes the hard part: getting it published.

Making the decision to publish your book is not an easy one. Many authors agonize over whether their work is good enough, whether that third act needs to be more refined, or whether to make the choice to stop writing and editing and finally publish your book.

That process is, at best, daunting, regardless of whether you choose traditional publishing or self-publishing.

Traditional publishing usually requires the help of publishing agents, also known as literary agents, who know the right people to contact and how to negotiate a contract on your behalf. This can be incredibly helpful, especially if you are a novice author, and can help to open doors to new networks. It is also incredibly expensive.

The standard rate for a literary agent is 15 percent of your total income from the advance sale of your book before taxes, though it can be higher or lower. If you are lucky enough to get your book sold in another country, then the standard rate goes to 20 percent.

Landing an agent is a thing in and of itself. Agents’ conferences are held all over the country. Agents who attend give their subjective opinions to a select few who are granted an audience. Each agent provides pointed feedback on how to precisely thread the needle to their client base. Maybe their clients only like sci-fi, or characters named Helen, or midcentury historical fiction. Attendance is not free at agents’ conferences. The cost of attendance generally runs somewhere around $500+.

Without an agent, traditional publishing requires passage through a tightly controlled gauntlet.

Traditional publishing requires you to write query letters, get your book reviewed, seek out comparison titles of similar books, compiling a digital press kit, which should include your bio information, cover art for your book, a website, social media accounts, and even a video, according to some. All of which is expensive and would likely be handled by a publisher or agent—if they choose your book from the sea of query letters they receive. Until then, you have your work cut out for you and your checkbook as well.

Publisher-sponsored contests are another way to get your book published. If you win, you don’t have to do any of that stuff, because you won. The publisher will likely handle all these things for you. Of course, those contests aren’t free to enter. There is an entry fee to most, if not all, publishing contests, and there is a lot of competition.

So let’s say you are chosen by a publisher or you won a contest! The standard royalty rate rarely rises above 20 percent. That means that you will get 20 cents of every dollar. This means you will likely make $6,000 if your book sells 3,000 copies, which would be considered a tremendous success. That’s about $2 a book—maybe…

Or, you can DIY and publish your book yourself or self-publish.

Self-publishing is where you are both author and publisher. Companies like Amazon may help as book distributors, but ultimately only you are investing in the publishing. Your royalties are a certain percentage of the retail price that you set. If you self-publish, getting into bookstores will be yet another hurdle.

Bookstores don’t buy from Amazon; getting into their “metadata” is costly if you are self-published. So you will have to work around that as well. That is another blog post in itself. Long and short, it’s tough.

In terms of cost, self-publishing seems like a no brainer, especially if you just rely on eBook publishing! But keep in mind, as a publisher you need to be the one selling and promoting your book. If you are particularly savvy at public relations, you might be able to promote your book. To be successful, you will need to research and understand the business of how to market your book.

Marketing is more than just the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising. It involves research, such as determining the size of the entire market and the demographics of the people in your market, including age, income, reading habits, where they purchase, and how often they purchase, and how to get your story from wherever it is now into the hands of someone who will likely purchase it. Marketing is like throwing a ball—you want to aim.

Traditional publishing knows how to aim. That’s why they are so very selective.

It is also why the chances are astronomically against most writers to be successful. But like newspapers, traditional publishing was complacent, doing the same thing over and over while technology came along and swept by them. Amazon and others like them stepped into the digital void by offering self-publishers a space to place their offerings.

But how do these online “distributors” handle distribution? To place or position so as to be properly divided and shared according to a plan, especially to make proportionate division or distribution of over or throughout an area. And exactly how is marketing being handled? As it is define, the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising. Is that happening? Either distribution or marketing?

rĀthe has made both happen, but in a different way. By harnessing the power of technology and scale. In a way that is not being done by the existing players.

We were founded by authors who were unwilling to give up 80 percent to traditional publishing or let their work sit on a digital bookshelf under the guise of digital publishing with no plan, action, research, or advertising.

The premise is simple. People, lots of them, are reading on their mobile phones. They are reading Twitter, Facebook, news, and other stuff—in small portions.

We at rĀthe believe if books were packaged to fit our lives, we all would adopt to reading more—not less. We also believe if people could decide “a little at a time”—without committing to anything like buying a book in any format (eBook, audiobook, print) and giving out personal or credit card information—we probably would try it.

Then it will be up to the writer to give us something that holds our attention. We at rĀthe believe in writers; we are one—several, actually.

The author portal for rĀthe® launches July 4, 2019. The app launches September 2, 2019.

Join the rĀthe® revolution!