What Is Independent Publishing?
Independent publishing is exactly what it sounds like—a means for authors to publish their work independently. With the dawning of Print-on-Demand (POD) technology, now it is easier than ever for writers to see their work in print. This automation has greatly simplified the publishing process, as well as lowered the costs associated with such endeavors. Coupled with the evolution of digital publishing software, POD has created unique opportunities for writers to share their work with a wider audience, all the while retaining complete creative control over their projects. No longer are traditional companies the sole gatekeepers to the publishing world. Organizations like Eber & Wein Publishing allow writers of all genres and varied backgrounds to work directly with editors, graphic designers and other publishing professionals, who will collectively bring their work to fruition. We aim to make the publishing industry accessible to all authors, supporting them every step along the way.
Independent Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing
There are many differences between a independent publishing company and a traditional publisher. From the point a manuscript is received to the printing of the final version of the book, the story can certainly follow many paths.
When an author submits a manuscript to a traditional publisher (TP), usually it must be accompanied by a query or proposal letter before it’s read or reviewed. In many cases, even this is not enough. Often, you need a literary agent to act on your behalf and present your manuscript to larger publishing houses. Expected times to secure an agent range from one to two years on average. Most writers find it nearly impossible to publish through a TP because one of their main interests is commercial appeal. Since TPs often assume the cost of their projects, they also assume the risks, making them particularly exclusive. Again, because marketability is a priority, they may want to change parts of the work to maximize their profit.
Independent publishers (IPs), on the other hand, are far more accessible to writers. Authors hire IPs to complete the typesetting, layout, editing, and printing of their work, and they in turn are free to sell their books, retaining any profit. Because IPs are paid up front for their labor, they have the freedom to take on projects of all types, while allowing authors to maintain complete creative control over their material.
Once a manuscript is accepted, a traditional publisher will offer a contract to the author (usually through a literary agent). One of the main points in these contracts is ownership of, and rights associated with, the work. Traditional publishers may stipulate rights to print in different countries. They may also want ownership of eBook, audiobook, and television or film licensing. In a traditional publishing scenario, authors may be required to give up their rights in order to secure a contract.
With IP companies like Eber & Wein, the author retains all rights to his or her work. Independent publishers are more focused on providing production services, as opposed to securing ownership or significantly profiting from sales. This allows authors the freedom to print their work just as they wish, while retaining all rights to its content.
There are many accounts of manuscripts taking up to two years or more (on top of the time searching for an agent and shopping a book to publishers) to be published. During that time, editors have the right to take apart, rearrange, or even change your manuscript as they see fit after securing ownership of the work. By the end of the process, years may have passed, and the final product may barely resemble the original manuscript.
By working within the IP model, from the point of submission, it may take only a few months for Eber & Wein to create a book remaining faithful to the author’s vision. During every step of the process, authors can give input and be active participants in their books’ design and layout, ensuring their final product will closely resemble their manuscript in its infancy.
One of the points of contention between traditional publishers and IPs is that traditional publishers have nearly exclusive access to retail “brick-and-mortar” stores. Until recently, this was not only the most popular way to sell books, it was the only way. With the emergence of websites such as Amazon.com, no longer do traditional publishers enjoy the monopoly they once had. In fact, now online book retailers sell more titles and have higher overall sales than physical stores each year, with no change in sight. While it might seem more exciting to have a book available on a store shelf, the fact is it’s highly uncommon, since stores do not want to warehouse excess inventory unless a book is sure to sell many copies.
Luckily this is where independent publishers excel. For instance, in all of its publishing packages, Eber & Wein offers automatic distribution through online retailers such as Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. Because of POD technology, your book can be ordered, printed, and shipped—from practically anywhere in the world—with the simple click of a button. The sellers don’t need to stockpile books because orders are printed as needed.
It is true traditional publishers may offer authors an advance for their book, as well as royalties from the sales, but it comes at a potentially high cost. Authors can be forced to give up ownership of their work and share a portion of their sales, not only with the publisher, but the agent as well. With a traditional publisher, an author might see 8% to 10% of their list price for every copy sold.
Conversely, independent publishers allow you to retain ownership while still offering royalties for online sales. For example, Eber & Wein offers authors 35% of their list price, provided their retail price meets the minimum requirement. Authors receive checks quarterly based on their online sales, while book orders are automatically printed and shipped to customers—often within a few short days. Online retail gives independently published authors a venue to sell their books without the hassle of fulfilling the products themselves.
Which Is Better?
While independent publishing might seem like the obvious choice, that may not always be the case. In the end, the right decision will hinge on the specific publishing goals and needs of each individual author.
For a well-known author with an established audience in place, traditional publishing might be the way to go. Because often the largest stumbling block is getting in the front door to begin with, a writer may welcome the pros and cons of traditional publishing just to have an opportunity in that arena.
Ultimately, the majority of authors will not be offered the chance, but that’s no reason to give up on publishing all together. There are plenty of ways to make your publishing dreams come true. In some ways, publishing is similar to being an actor. Few people are going to make it big as blockbuster movie stars in Hollywood, but that’s no reason to give up acting if it’s something you love. Maybe you might have a career in TV commercials, or perhaps you could perform in local or regional theater as a hobby. There are many avenues to achieving your goals, and the same is true of publishing. Not everyone will be a Tom Clancy or J. K. Rowling, and that’s okay! However, it’s always important to remember, for lifelong writers with a dream of seeing their work in print, it is very possible—and Eber & Wein can help!