Before I can answer those great questions, we need to discuss the state of publishing and the democratization of book distribution.
At one time in our recent history, the only way for a book to get published to a large audience was through traditional publishers. Self-publishing was possible, but difficult. When the Internet changed the world, it also changed publishing. But the first decade or two of the Internet was the wild west, good for techies, but unfathomable to average writers (techie writers made a killing). Vanity Press arose, and self-publishing got a little easier.
Then Amazon hit the scene. They had years of maturing to do before publishing would be affected, but finally they created the Kindle and e-publishing exploded (okay, it was a chain reaction slowly building to an explosion). Suddenly, self-publishing was easy, and Amazon made it even easier with CreateSpace and KDP.
Self-publishing removed some key filters from the process, however, so the market was flooded with poorly written, poorly designed books.
That’s where micro-publishing steps in. Before we can do a good job of explaining that, though, let’s take a closer look at the other forms of publishing.
Traditional Publishing: Still the gold standard. The traditional publisher assumes all the costs and all the risk. When they accept an author, they give an advance against royalties. Advances range from zero to millions of dollars, depending on how many books they expect to sell.
They handle editing (less so, now), design of the book and cover, provide an ISBN, and manage the publishing process. Best of all, they provide publicity, with inclusion in wholesale catalogs for booksellers, great placement on Amazon and Barnes & Nobel, and may involve print, digital and media advertising.
No royalties are paid until the advance and overhead is covered. Then the percentage is minimal. On average, authors receive less than a dollar per book, and often only a quarter. That adds up, though, with their greater reach. The agent also gets a cut of this.
Typical time to market is 12 – 18 months, to allow for printing and marketing. Today, you can determine how much publicity to expect from the size of the advance. Even if it’s small, you will still gain the advantage of a well-designed book, eye-catching cover and association with a brand name.
A downside to traditional publishing is your agent and publisher will nail you to one genre and age demographic. If you like to switch genres and reader audiences, expect resistance.
I recommend you always try to secure an agent and traditional publisher. Your agent may come back to you and say she couldn’t generate interest. That could mean you have a bad agent, OR, your book may not be a mega-seller. That doesn’t mean it isn’t good.
Self-Publishing: The opposite of traditional publishing, you do everything yourself. You assume the costs, you design the book and cover, and you handle the distribution. Easier than ever today, and you can hire designers and editors to make your book as good as possible, but how do you know it’s good? You may like the cover and design, but that doesn’t ensure it’s appealing to everyone. You’ll also handle the publicity and advertising, with no brand association. If you’re a sales professional and get excited about selling, this is a good option. If you are a speaker with a wide platform, this can also work for you.
Vanity Press: This is a company that mimics traditional publishing, but without assuming any of the risk. Instead of an advance, the author pays for editors, designers, printers, and advertising. Some can get you into bookstores, some just say they can (remember, all they can do is send a catalog to booksellers, typically with a no-return policy; they can’t make the bookseller buy it, and they likely won’t if they can’t return it if it doesn’t sell, as bookstores can with traditional publishers).
There is nothing wrong with Vanity Press, but the reality is, they have overhead and a driving need for profit. As a result, they’ll take just about any author, whether the writing is good or not. Brand association is often a black mark. One or two bad books spoils the brand association.
Still, if you have an established platform where you sell back-of-the-room books, it isn’t a terrible option. The best vanity presses have good consultants who give solid advice. Is your book the best it can be? That depends on how much you pay, and the quality of the writing you’ve put in. This is NOT a good option for authors who do not have a platform or burning desire to hit the road and sell, sell, sell.
Finally, we get to micro-publishing.
Micro-Publishing: This is my own term, to be honest. Micro-publishing mitigates the harsh points of vanity press. There are no advances, you may pay for required services, but with no overhead to support, and key design relationships, costs are much lower than with vanity press.
The key differentiators are no bookseller promotion; all books are offered as eBooks and POD (Print on Demand) books through Amazon. It’s worth noting that just as the Internet has revolutionized publishing, digital technology has done the same for printing. Print on Demand is a valid option, and any print runs under 500 or so will be digital productions with a flat cost-per-book. Higher quantities can go to offset printing, where cost-per-book drops. For friends who have gone the vanity press route, they have cases of books sitting around. Digital printing should cut down on physical inventory, because you only print what you expect to sell. There is no reason to buy hundreds of books.
Should your book catch fire, and a bookseller wants to carry it, they can easily do so by looking up the ISBN and contacting the micro-publisher. The micro-publishing emphasis is not to amass as many paying authors as possible; it’s to cultivate a community of authors, each of whom draw people to their author page under the publisher banner, where they find other books as well. Turnaround to launch is as little as a month, depending on the services required.
I started Prevail Press as an author with knowledge of publishing. I’m aware of the pitfalls of self-publishing, and can streamline the publishing process. While I would love to make scads of money with my own books, I don’t intend to make vast wealth through publishing. I’d rather be able to provide a platform for good writers, many of whom I know and others I have yet to meet.
Prevail Press is author-focused, and we encourage you to write what matters to you. Hop genres and audiences all you want. Authors retain copyright and may remove their books from Prevail Press at any time. We also reserve the right to end a relationship; however, any design, edits, or books belong to the author as long as payment (if required) is received.
Brand quality is important to me, so I won’t publish every author who comes to me. In fact, if a truly powerful book comes my way, I will encourage the author to go the traditional publishing route. Prevail Press should not be your first stop if you have a blockbuster book.
As a Prevail Press author, you will have access to reasonably priced designers and editors, if required. We will handle the backend publishing stuff most authors don’t even know about, including getting your book on Amazon. You will have an author’s page on www.prevailpress.com/authorsnamehere which includes a book listing and link to Amazon, and a platform for videos and book trailers. You will be coached on publicizing strategy.
If this sounds good to you, click below for submission guidelines.