BECOMING YOUR OWN PUBLISHER
Contributor
A few days ago Robbers Nest Press released Waltzing Jimmy Jackboy. I wrote the novel and created the publishing company to publish it. Why did I create my own press? I almost didn’t. For a little money and a tiny marketing budget, I nearly signed a contract to give up all rights to the novel to a small press. But then the part of me that is a Wharton MBA realized that the economics made zero sense. I could do everything the small press was promising to do but could retain control, rights and upside. Suddenly the idea of self-publishing became more attractive. (From now on, I am taking the “self” out of the word. If you publish a book, you are a publisher.) I had learned by working on Wall Street that turmoil makes for opportunity. Why not take advantage of the uncertainty in the publishing arena to start Robbers Nest Press? WHY DID I NEED MY OWN PRESS? Primarily, I wanted to preserve the ability to publish works by other authors if, using my novel as the first test product, I could come up with a compelling business model. Second, I wanted an entity that I controlled to forever be listed as the publisher. By owning my ISBN numbers, I could easily change distributors and potential buyers would always be able to find me. Given the rapid changes in the industry, I didn’t want to go with Betamax, and then have VHS win out. The cost of setting up my own publisher was less than $400. WHAT DID I LOSE BY PUBLISHING WITHOUT AN ESTABLISHED PUBLISHER? Three things. 1) Supposed superior marketing and promotion expertise. 2) Publisher’s “seal of approval” that the book is worth reading. 3) Upfront capital. Numbers 1 and 2 were not such a loss. Historically publishers have not been great at influencing the reading habits of the market place. Thirty percent of books never make back their advance, despite the superior marketing expertise. The new wisdom in the industry is that authors who sell well create direct relationships with their audiences. Ultimately the author is the brand rather than the publisher or the book itself. So regardless of who published Waltzing Jimmy Jackboy, I would have to do the marketing work. Also the prize I won for my novel became its seal of approval. So then the real value the publisher could have provided me is the upfront capital. In starting Robbers Nest Press, I decided that authors have already taken capital risk, and are the best entity to invest a fraction more in order to reap the rewards of reaching an audience. Think of how much you have spent on writing workshops, conferences, editors. Thousands? Once your manuscript is well-edited, a necessary step even to find an agent, you can publish your book for less than a thousand dollars more. RECOMMENDATIONS IF YOU WANT TO BECOME A PUBLISHER There are three main models you can choose when you become a publisher. 1) You can use iUniverse or AuthorHouse or another full-service publisher for an easy complete package. I rejected that model because they took too much upside, and I wanted to have more control along the way. 2) You can go with Lightning Source, a subsidiary of Ingram. The upside with LS is that you can mimic a traditional publisher using Ingram’s distribution channel. If it is important to you to get your book in bookstores, then that is the route for you. They are also excellent to work with from a technical perspective according to my interior layout designer. 3) The model I chose was based on my view of the best economics. I chose to use Booksurge, a subsidiary of Amazon. Basically I am using Amazon as my exclusive distributor, although they own no rights to my novel, and I can change at any time. In return for the exclusivity, I get to retain a significant upside on each book, including those I sell myself. There is no inventory risk and I am being eco-friendly because I only create and deliver the physical product when ordered. Caveat: they are not as user friendly to the technical people—my designer was extremely frustrated and it probably took us three weeks longer than it would have with Lightning Source—but we did manage to put out a great product. INTERESTED? THEN HERE IS YOUR BUDGET: Creation of Publisher $ Creation of Publishing LLC (State of CO) 50 Register RNP domain name (Dotster) 15 RNP website domain mapping(WordPress) 10 Purchase of 10 ISBN numbers (Bowker) 275 Total $350 Publication of Waltzing Jimmy Jackboy $ Direct Book Cost: Author’s Express Publishing Program (Booksurge) 299 Cover Design 500 Interior Design (Sonya Unrein) 500 Library of Congress Control Number 0 Elect. Copyright Filing (US Copyright Office) 35 Direct Book Cost $1,334 Marketing: Register Website Domain Name (Dotster) 15 Website (annual fee and design: Squarespace) 178 Marketing $193 Total Cost for Robbers Nest Press and Waltzing Jimmy Jackboy $1,877 Note that I hired my own cover designer and interior layout person, but the direct book cost can be $799 if you do it in-house with Booksurge. Also, the above is the bare minimum for marketing, and obviously you will do more. But in the on-line world, the greatest cost is your time. THE UNEXPECTED UPSIDE OF PUBLISHING Shepherding Waltzing Jimmy Jackboy from manuscript to finished product allowed me to again experience one of the novel’s themes: how landscape can transform a woman. The landscape I wrote about in WJJ was the Australian Outback. There the vast bush molds the dreams, desires and reality of its characters. Here, the landscapes that transformed me were twofold: first, a wide open horizon created by the massive shifts in the publishing industry and digital media, and second, the pioneering landscape of Denver, where we take pride in being the first to set out into the unknown, without the approval of the East Coast establishment. Through Robbers Nest Press I have staked a claim in new territory, including my own creative territory. What is RNP’s future? Who knows. I may never make money. But I can dedicate myself to great literature and take a risk on my own work. I have another novel due out next summer. Growth will depend on whether I decide to find good content from other authors, and whether I can develop a working model that allows RNP to be a consultant to authors instead of acting as their bank.

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Comments
  • Teresa Lilly

    Hi there,  I also did the same  and am called www.Lovely Christian Romance.com    One of the things I do to get other authors is to host a writing contest.   We currently have one going and the first prize is $300.   I like to think that I am open to helping other beginning authors get a book out there, when the big companies won't.   A very wonderful acquisitions editor wanted one of my books, but with all the changes she wanted the main theme of my book would have been changed too much and after all the love I put into it, I just couldn't change some things.  But after alot of prayer, God gave me this message.....You were born for such a time as this?    At first I did not understand that, but then I realized He meant    at such a time as self publishing..... I think of the sad ladies of the past who never got to see their books in print...or sell any....  so many lost stories that were truly worth reading.    Enjoy your journey......

  • Jennifer Dinn Korman

    KB, go to Groups on your menu bar and choose Small Publishers and Independent Authors. Click and join us! Please keep us posted especially on your US book tour. Are you going to hit book stores or have parties sponsored by family and friends?

  • Nina Robertson

    This is so helpful. Thank you. Congratulations on having your book out there.

  • KB Walker

    Congratulations, Jennifer, on your book and your excellent blog. I like your style and will also stop referring to myself as self-published. My memoir, A Life Less Lost, has been published in the UK using Printondemand-worldwide, which will print 200 copies at a reasonable cost, £3 per book. That is a risk but a small one and keeps the cost of the book quite low compared to pod here. As I sell most of my books at talks and workshops, I felt it was a risk worth taking, I'm due to order my third reprint soon. I've also published it last month in the US using Createspace and have been very happy so far. I plan on coming over and doing a book tour, staying with family and friends scattered across several states in Feb. I've been inspired by a Washington Post article about Kelly Carrigan who wrote The Middle Place. She was published by a relatively small press (I think) but still had to do all the marketing herself. Like you, I decided if I was going to do the work I would prefer to keep control. The two key things you mention cannot be over stressed ~ pay for good editing, a substandard book won't sell whatever you do, and be prepared to work hard, it's much, much harder than writing the book in the first place. How do I join that new group you mentioned?

  • Jennifer Dinn Korman

    Good question! How to get the word out...I am viewing this as a marathon, not a race, with a goal to sell a fairly minimal amount of books. And the best thing about POD is there is no rush. Book is always available and there is no inventory cost. I am doing a number of local events between now and May, and then the hope is the book will stand on its own. If people like it they will recommend it to friends in other cities. There is also Facebook, local media....I would love any suggestions of course!j

  • Dr. Kathleen T. Ruddy

    Jennifer, now that you've published what else can be done to advertise your book and boost sales?

  • Laura J. W. Ryan

    My Fred and I became fed up with rejection letters and did the same thing as you, we started Field Stone Press in June, and although we're muddling along doing most of the work ourselves (editing, design, covers, marketing), we've put out three of our books so far (mine, Dusty Waters: A Ghost Story, his: Dead Again and SYN) and we decided to go through Createspace for our POD, bought our ISBN's from Bowker and have been finding readers along the way...we're certainly not going to get rich doing it, but hey, we're getting it done one book at a time. It's really been a very rewarding learning experience to strike out on our own like this, and the best thing, we have more books on the way. This is a great post! Best wishes, Laura

  • Jennifer Dinn Korman

    I am happy to share economics, but thought maybe I could do so in a smaller forum. I just started the group Small Publishers and Independent Authors. If you are interested in this topic, please join! Maybe we could use that space for those details? I will post some numbers there. Thanks!

  • Hope Edelman

    Very timely and interesting post, Jennifer! I'm on tour right now and at the same time that it's wonderful and exhilarating to be meeting and connecting with readers, it's depressing and demoralizing to walk into bookstores and not be able to find my books because after six weeks they're already old news compared to the fresh crop of blockbusters and celebrity memoirs that fill all the front tables.
    I'm wondering if you'd be willing to share more of the economics of your choice...such as, what do you sell each book for? What percentage of that goes to you, the author? How many books does that mean you'd need to sell before you're profitable? And are you planning to do any offline marketing, or to do it all on the web and sell through Amazon?
    Creative ventures like yours, I suspect, are where a lot of writers are heading, understandably so.

  • Nina Weber

    Thank you for the post and good luck with your publishing (ad)venture :)
    The name, Robbers Nest Press, speaks to me and I would pick up a book in a bookshop at once if I spied the name on it - depending on the cover of the book, of course. But yours looks lovely. I just miss the publishing house "branding" on the front view (which you display on the internet).

    The name would be very nice for a YA or All Ager Fantasy publisher too. ;-)

  • Jacquie Piasta

    Thank you for this!

  • Margy Rydzynski

    Thank you for your insight. I'm also self-published, although I use Lulu rather than Create Space. I tried both and preferred Lulu's cover quality. Also, Lulu was able to get my book listed on Amazon.

    Even though I'm an entrepreneur, I haven't been very good about promoting my fiction. I'm hoping your examples will give me some inspiration to market Family Secrets more aggressively and to finish the second novel in the series.

  • Jennifer Dinn Korman

    Robbers Nest is an area in Breckenridge where we live. Breckenridge is a gold rush town full of stories about stolen fortunes, and we have been told that stolen gold is hidden on our mountain (thus the name Robber's Nest). My children are convinced we will someday dig up a treasure chest in our back yard. I have always said that books are my treasure...I was thinking of my company as a treasure chest. Our logo is the old key that unlocks the chest...

  • Kamy Wicoff Brainstorming

    Jen, this is so terrific. Being in the midst of writing the business plan for She Writes and deep into the changing publishing landscape, I found your analysis spot-on and so refreshing in its direct, can-do approach. I hope our members can learn from your good counsel, and who knows, maybe some day publish with Robbers Nest Press! Where did you get the name for RNP, by the way?

  • Renate Stendhal

    Very inspiring and a convincing argument. Much good luck with your books! Renate