Independent Publishing Versus Traditional Publishing: A Few Possible Answers

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The Book Kahuna and his Corgi, Derek!

The Book Kahuna

Independent Publisher=Self-Publisher (one in the same for my blogpost)

I just finished reading the newest article on the DBW website:  Author Survey Results: Expectations of Traditional Publishing and Self-Publishing and wanted to weigh in on a couple of things that crossed my mind as I was reading through this wealth of information. In this article that was put together by Jeremy Greenfield and Dr. Dana Beth Weinberg, authors were asked numerous questions on different aspects of the publishing process to arrive at a dichotomy between the two different processes. I thought that many of the statistical findings were interesting but some of them were actually surprising. I’d like to look at just a couple of the statistical answers and give a production/manufacturing viewpoint of why this information might be what it is.

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Having worked in traditional publishing for a good many years the cost differential between self-publishing and traditional publishing can be summed up in one word: Volume. A traditional publisher is not going to be doing one book and then stopping and will have contracted with or have a stable of vendors and suppliers who are always working on particular titles with said publisher. In this way production/manufacturing departments can trim costs from budgets that a self-publisher would be unable to achieve. Also, the production layout for traditional publishing has most of the typesetting and design work done at an offshore facility:  more than likely in the Indian subcontinent. This also helps to ensure that pricing for composition would be much below what the cost would be if completed by a comparable typesetting facility domestically. The way that a self-publisher could minimize these extra costs would be if they were planning a series of books instead of a one-off title. A series of five books could be volume batched and job-costed to various vendors at a lower pricing based on the timeliness of the project making it into the vendor’s shop.

Independent’s Day

Independent publishers are at a disadvantage when trying to get production services completed. They are at a disadvantage cost-wise, but for the most part they are not at a disadvantage quality-wise. A first-time author would not be willing to have the layout of their project completed overseas. This could be a generalization but I am willing to bet that for the most part this is a true statement. Domestic typesetters are more expert with the language they are laying out and as such the author is paying for a product that has the possibility of being at a much higher quality due to this fact. A product that has been laid out overseas needs a much higher level proofread then a project that has been laid out domestically. I have seen more problems when companies try to cut the proofreading process down on outsourced layouts than I can expound on in this post.

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Where independent publishers have a marked advantage is in the process of picking a printer for their print book. An independent can use a print-on-demand operation to get their title into the mainstream market in a short-run digital or one-off situation. Traditional publishers will normally use a web-press printer to print any number of books from 1000 and up. Under a printrun of 1000, the publisher may use a short-run digital press or might put the title into a print-on-demand situation for very short runs.  The independent publisher has the ability to shop around and find the best print pricing to get the number of books completed when and where they want. The traditional publisher may have a contract with an individual print facility and can only expect to pay the amount that was budgeted initially which could vary due to the design, word count and font that was used in the production process. An independent publisher can have a castoff done on the manuscript prior to submission, whereas a traditional publisher is using estimated projections based on budgetary constraints.

In Final Summary

I think Greenfield and Weinberg have put together a wealth of information that contains some fascinating statistics. This is an article that should be read by everyone who is interested in being an author or working with authors.

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