To sign or not to sign, that is the question. Everyone seems to have an opinion about this, nowadays, yet, no-one’s truly addressing the real questions. It’s easy, from an egotistical standpoint: why split my money with someone else when I can keep it all for myself?. And, this is especially true, when it takes only a couple hundred bucks to go from manuscript to ebook, then, pay a small bit for promotions, with the over-all intent that successful ebook sells will lead to a (paperback) book printing budget, at which point you’ll sell hand-to-hand, build a buzz, then formulate a “take over” while paying relatively no start-up costs, overhead, office expenses or taxes. Verily, verily, verily, life is but…
Not to say that dreams don’t come true, or that hard work and effort don’t pay off. I’m only saying that there’s a point where dreams and reality must confront each other or else it’s just a fantasy. And, many of us are living in a fantasy world; one step never quite leading to the next. Perpetually trapped at a stand-still, with nothing more than an ebook link and cover graphic to show for it.
While I am personally signed to Dc Bookdiva Publications and Ben Official Books, it is in no way my intentions, here, to advocate one way or the other, but, simply to offer an open and honest understanding of both options, and what the overall choices entail. It seems kinda dry, to hear people shout about do this or do that, without rightly explaining the overall challenges or taking an author’s, most times limited, budget and reserved introvertedness, into account.
Writing is a lonely job. Most writers are loners but a writer’s success is not measured by the greatness of his/her writing. For, just as the most intelligent kid isn’t always the most popular or successful, there’s a-whole-nother something which must be taken into account. Some might call it the “it factor” but, more specifically: writing a book and making it a bestseller are entirely two different things, for, you see, selling is an extrovert’s job. It’s that stand in front of a crowd “Hey you. Over here!” Approach that gets some noticed, while others are simply ignored. Now, to look at the points of money and distribution.
The cost to create and launch an ebook is relatively nothing at all. Especially where so many simply skip the editing process, go with the most basic/inexpensive cover, pay a little bit for social media marketing and then spread the word to their family and friends. Printing/publishing and selling a paperback, however, is a-whole-nother thing, with a slew of other costs, especially if it is to be done right. These costs include, though are not limited to, the costs of bar codes, ISBNs, book printing, print advertisements, book shipping, packaging, storage, accounting, business/corp. start-up, opening business bank accounts, office services/record keeping etc. Not to mention the countless hours needed to network and develop meaningful
distribution channels. These costs and distribution networks are where a publisher’s meaningfulness is found.
Ebook publishers are everywhere. Everyone and their monkey can get signed to an ebook deal. If you’ve got a book, an ebook publisher will take you on, do a quick test read (call it an edit), split the book into 3 to 4 parts (.99, 1.99, 3.99) slap a cover on it and let’s go! You’ll see your ebook posted and links floating within 30 to 60 days, for 33 to 50% of the profits. What do you gain? The chance to be a part of a large team (usually 15-30 or more authors) who all come in with their own family, friends and legions of followers. These team members will repost your links and yell salute, Salute, SALUTE! And, you won’t have to worry about the little start-up costs either. So, it’s a pretty hassle-free, fun and exciting trip. However, though ebook publishers seem to do okay over time, based on their shear ability to continuously crowd the market with new material and new authors almost every other week, the same can not be said for the ebook author who quickly comes, then, goes, relegated to go sit in a corner, write a part 2, 3, 4 and yell SALUTE, SALUTE, SALUTE for their next team member in rotation. At least, I don’t personally know of any such ebook author who’s managed to quit their day job and live off of the profits. For this crowd, writing is not a career, but, merely an after work hobby that gets them a bit of spare change and gives them a cool group to hang out with on line.
The paperback publisher, dare I say, is a-whole-nother animal entirely. It’s not just about who can cover the print costs or who has the largest following on Facebook or Twitter. A paperback publisher must be more selective, for, they must be willing to go out there on the limb and risk their money and their name on your product. Look at it this way, if a book flops the author can shrug and move on, but, all of the books which don’t sell, the publisher gets stuck with while also tarnishing their brand, image and trust in the eyes of the book sellers in their distribution network. Thus, they are not so quick to skimp on costs such as cover designs or editing, as they intrinsically understand that what sells on Facebook is NOT necessarily what sells in stores. And, that there’ll be no team of people standing by to yell salute this or hashtag that to encourage the purchase. Unlike the .99 ebook craze, which is more like handing a friend or a panhandler a dollar, for a book they’ll probably never read, paperback buyers are a lot more picky and determined to find a good book. They are spending top dollar and they demand to get their moneys worth.
So, in a nut shell, it depends on how far you want to go, how big a network you have, what type of product you’re bringing and what kind of distribution you have available to you. To sign or not to sign? Ebooks or paperbacks? Remember (all costs considered) 10% of 5000 paperback copies sold, adds up to a lot more than 1000 ebooks, or even 1000 paperbacks sold on your own (minus all print, shipping, returns and other costs) and, then, there are those who simply don’t have the time to properly build and push a brand/book as a business or those who are trapped in a cage, or otherwise restricted. In those cases, getting signed is a dream come true. There’s a lot to consider, but, in the end, it’s all about what works for you. However, if you do choose to get signed, be sure to look for someone you can trust and someone with the distribution network to get your book on shelves and not just have you yelling BUY MY BOOK on Facebook.
Trust me, it happens.
Wesley “Godfather” Hunter
“GODFATHER” Hunter is an incarcerated author from Los Angeles, Ca. He has written several books covering a variety of genres, to include self-help/how-to/advisory, autobiography, poetry, urban romance, erotica and street lit. Godfather has even taught urban lit during his many years of incarceration. He makes an added effort to lace his writings with history, social-political consciousness and other such pearls of wisdom while penning in a style which many have compared to the likes of James Patterson, John Grisham and Michhael Connelly.