I Really Need A Publisher – No, You Don’t

Do You Need A Publisher

I need a publisher! Be wary of small publishers offering you more than they can deliver.

I have received a lot of messages and emails from authors who have run into disagreement, problems, or are having serious doubts about their publishers.

This is no surprise really, as the benefits of having a publisher can be difficult to justify, when basic self-publishing tools are easily available, and are also totally free.

In a recent post, I listed 10 questions to ask a potential publisher.

But in the end, no matter what the answers to these questions are, most authors who finally decide to sign with a small independent publisher do so for two distinct, and if I may say so, understandable reasons.

One, because it’s easier for someone else to do the manuscript formatting and uploading to Amazon and Smashwords, rather than spending the time learning how to do it.

And secondly, because they believe a publisher will do a better job of promoting their book.

In both of these respects, the results can vary from quite good to very disappointing.

To be perfectly frank, and without wanting to alienate the handful of new independent publishers who are trying very hard to change the self-publishing world for the better, many small publishers who advertise their services on Twitter and Facebook are themselves self-published authors, and are looking for a way to make a buck on top of their own book sales.

Well, fair enough, why waste an acquired skill?

I have checked a number of these types of small publishers and there are warning signals that should be checked before considering using their services.

One is that they usually have small social media followings, which bodes badly for achieving successful book promotion for their authors.

However, a few have a huge numbers of followers on Twitter, but a quick scan of their followers reveals that that they are mostly bots, and have probably been recently purchased to give the appearance of popularity.

Secondly, these accounts are very often quite new, which is a telltale hint of inexperience.

Very often, these small publishers also have a number of easily recognisable linked Twitter accounts that have been set up to earn Amazon Associates income.

In addition, if they do have a website, which many don’t, there is rarely a mailing list to subscribe to. This is a big alarm bell!

How can a publisher hope to sell books without a mailing list?

If my assumptions are correct, in that some authors really want a publisher because they would prefer that someone else does all the grunt publishing work and book promotion for them is true, then perhaps signing away the rights to their books is what they will decide to do.

But with one minute of logical thinking, wouldn’t it be far better to pay someone to format the manuscript and upload to Amazon and Smashwords for you, and still keep the rights to your book?

This service is not expensive.

You can also buy book promotion on a number of established sites. Sure, it’s not always cheap, but you are in control of what you invest in promoting your book.

Do you really need a publisher, when you can so easily self-publish?

No matter what a publisher may say, no one can promise success.

Don’t rush into signing a publishing contract before considering what you can easily do yourself, or pay for yourself to achieve the same, if not better results.

And even more important, keep the rights to your book.

It’s worth repeating that by signing over you book rights to a publisher, you have in fact sold your book and stand next to no chance of getting your book rights back.

Keep in mind too that the main motivation of some of these new publishers is not necessarily to make your book a success.

It is a lottery for them, which can reap rich rewards.

Of say 500 books they can attract, and that they gain the rights to, only a few need to sell well for them to make money.

500 titles can earn very good Amazon Associates income as well for the publisher, which the author will never see a cent of as it will not be mentioned in a publishing contract.

Even better, they might get lucky in the lottery and attract the next hot book to emulate 50 Shades.

For a publisher, it’s about getting the few winners in their stable that will make the money.

This is exactly the same logic as traditional publishers. Publishing a new book is always a gamble, as only a very few achieve reasonable sales.

So why give them this chance for free by granting these new opportunistic publishers your book rights?

If you are an author and you really want a publishing contract, go the traditional route and find a literary agent, whose job it will be to look after your interests. Sure, it’s tough, it’s hard, but it works.

As for the hundreds of new publishers that are appearing almost daily on Twitter and Facebook, beware.

Signing away the rights to your book is a serious decision, especially when there is nothing at all guaranteed for you in return.

My advice is to take either the traditional route, which isn’t easy, or become a true self-publisher and pay for the services you need. It’s a tough route as well.

But don’t be lazy and think that just because someone calls themselves a publisher that they can make all your dreams come true.

As the messages I have received from authors confirm – it can very often turn into a nightmare.

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Derek Haines

Derek Haines is an Australian author, living in Switzerland.

4 thoughts on “I Really Need A Publisher – No, You Don’t

  • Thanks for this useful info.
    Now more than ever I am glad I decided to self publish and learn the tricks of the trade and do it all myself.
    The only thorn in the side here is if you wish to have book stores etc sell your books on their shelves they are not always happy to purchase outright from your printers.
    I have used Createspace and have heard from other authors that local book stores in UK are not keen to purchase from them. The outlay costs apparently are too high and they don’t take back what can’t be sold. Apparently book stores work on a basis if it doesn’t sell it is sent back to where it originally came from. This applies to self published books mostly. Have no idea how it works for traditional and famous authors.

    • I’ve been told by several book sellers that Ingram is the preferred warehouse supplier for books, simply BECAUSE of the return policy. A local book seller told me he need simply return the covers of unsold books in order to receive credit. Trouble is, if you SP through CreateSpace and wish to convert to Ingram, you lose all production, marketing, and supply chain services provided by CreateSpace/Amazon.

  • Here’s the truth: 99.99% self publish because a traditional publisher rejected their manuscripts.

    Why? Because they’re BAD!

    We have a story about publishing.

    We worked with an agent, but we didn’t sign. Not a good fit. Shopped for more agents. Nothing. But, in the end we found a small publisher that was interested. How? No agent. I called and told the acquisition editor the story. Yep. I called the acquisition editor. She asked for a treatment. A few weeks later she offered a contract. A small advance, but it was an advance.

    It was also validation that our work was good enough that the publisher would spend THEIR money publishing it. It won’t be a best seller, but it is expected to sell at least 5,000 copies in hardback. It will be in a catalog, it will be represented in book shows by reputable sales and marketing people.

    Had we been rejected by traditional publishers the self published route was not an option. Why?

    Because that meant that our work wasn’t up to par.

    I had talked to self publishing companies and my name was on on their speed dialers. It’s a racket and they will puff up would be authors to separate them from their Federal Reserve Notes. It’s a shame that new authors are led to believe that they’re “good enough” and it’s those evil publishing companies who won’t take a chance on new authors. Maybe so.

    My wife honed her craft starting as a English literature/journalism student. The 35 years in the newspaper business as reporter and editor prepared her for writing a book. It didn’t happen overnight.

    New authors need to get published, but to receive validation from a self publishing salesman for bad writing doesn’t make a new author better.

    Bottom line:

    If you can’t get an agent or a publisher to take you on, your writing probably isn’t very good.

    One more thing:

    We have enough paranormal/vampire/secret agent/mommy porn books out there.

    Here’s an idea: try something new!

  • Some great advice for which I am most grateful. I have my latest book now being edited, after which I intended seeking an agent to help get it published. However, as you so rightly point out, if one’s book is just not good enough, an agent will merely reject acting on your behalf, Although I think it quite good, I wrote it so that does not mean that it is good. Apart from numerous small publishing companies, there are some larger ones that will accept an author without an agent. I may well try a few of them to see if my book is as good as I think. The main advantage with self-publishing is that you retain both rights and a much larger share of royalties.


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