Friday, September 11, 2009

A New Way of Publishing: Partner Pub


Maybe you've heard of the new publisher-on-the-block, Harperstudio, an imprint of HarperCollins, or maybe read about Flying Pen Press’s business plan: both espouse a version of partner pub. What is partner publishing, you ask?

What It Is Not

Traditional publishing, my understanding anyway, is when a brick & mortar imprint buys the rights to your book and gives you an advance against royalties. They then get to choose the sales and marketing plan, book cover art, and whether it gets sold as an ebook, hardcover, or other format. Their decision. The author does their best to supplement the publisher's marketing efforts. Yes, the book's still yours, but you've lent it away for upfront money plus 6% of list. A lot of books don't ever earn out of their advance.

Partner pubbing is also not subsidy publishing. That's an arrangement by which the author is responsible for fronting the publishing costs. Sub pub has all the downside of traditional publishing (lack of artistic control) and is devoid of the upside: the advance.

What it is
Partner pub is a different model entirely. With the advent of POD (publishing on demand), strategic partnerships with distributors, books can be competitively priced with trade books printed from large offset runs. Publishing without the risky investment in a print run of books, storage fees, etc. Each book is printed one at a time when ordered.

What does that mean for a beginning author? A publisher using this model has less of a gamble with a newbie — like me. There are still costs (setup fees, book cover, editing, et al), but in partner pubbing the publisher assumes the upfront expenses. Thereafter, it's a fifty/fifty split of the profits.

What I Like About It
The book remains my own: I'm a partner, not a hired hand. All those rights that you need an agent to wrestle from a publisher? Mine. I retain them. Contracts vary, I'm sure, but the one I looked has a flexible arrangement. Anything I do to market or make more salable my book lowers the threshold of break even. That means getting my royalties sooner and larger—just like a real business partner. And unlike in traditional publishing models, I would retain artistic control over my book's presentation and be a partner in decision-making over marketing and sales. And unlike sub pub, where they make the majority of their money upselling services and have limited incentives to actually sell the book, partner pubbers only make money when you do.

Why Opt For This?

Every writer dreams of being traditionally published. Certainly there's a lot that speaks well of this model. But if you're a hands-on type (I am), with a niche book, or possibly one that doesn't have the mass market appeal the big boys in New York are looking for, partner pub may be for you.

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