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Archive for April, 2016

copyright 2016 by Sherry Garland

As an author who has written for many different sizes of children’s book publishers, from the largest in the USA to one of the smallest, writers often ask me about the differences among the various publishers.

To be honest, there are pros and cons for both sides of the coin.  Each writer has to consider what he (no, I’m not going to use the singular they) wants in his career.

BIG PUBLISHING HOUSE (BPH)

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Pros: Typically you get larger advances and a larger royalty percentage. The BPH has more funds to hire a great, maybe even famous, illustrator for a picture book or for the cover of a novel. The BPH has a copyeditor to check for mistakes, not only in grammar, but in content. If necessary, they sometimes hire a fact checker. The BPH has more funds for promoting you and advertising your book. Typically, the new author gets some hype to help get them launched. Lastly, the BPH has larger copy runs, therefore the potential for making more income is there.

Cons: The BPH is more difficult to breach.  Some require you to have an agent. Once your book is acquired, the BPH will no doubt have many more famous authors than you in the stable, for whom they will dedicate more effort. The BPH will have thousands of books in the inventory, and yours can easily get lost. The BPH  is less forgiving of low sales statistics. If your book does not sell a certain number, the book will go out of print fast and you will not be the darling any longer. They may not acquire any other books from you.

SMALL PUBLISHING HOUSE  (SPH)

VOWF--cover

Pros: They are easier to approach and rarely require you to have an agent. Nearly everyone, from sales reps to company president, will know you and your book(s). The print runs are smaller, but the books stay in print for a very long time. To the SPH, sales of 2000, may be considered good, while for a big publisher, sales may have to reach 15,000 or more to be considered good. If your first book doesn’t have record-breaking sales, the SPH is usually still willing to give your next book a chance.

Cons: You will not make much money. Advances are lower, from zero to $2,000, as compared to $5,000 and up for the big publisher. The contract often stipulates that the royalty is on the net price, not list price, making your royalties about half as much as the big publishers offer. The SPH does not have a lot of funds for promotion and advertising.  They expect you to do a lot of that yourself. They do not have funds to hire famous illustrators for picture books and book covers.

Mid-Sized publishers fall between the two above,

Which to Choose?

It depends on what you need at the time.  My first children’s book was a non-fiction book written for a small publisher. I received zero advance, and over the years that it was in print, the total royalties came to about $2,000.  Yet, I jumped at the chance to write it because it became a great credential on my writing resume.  It was the book that allowed me to break into the children’s writing industry. Once you have sold a couple of books for a small press, it becomes easier to obtain an agent or to sell to the larger publishers, if that is what you want to do.

Voices of Pearl Harbor

Voices of Pearl Harbor

I am currently writing a historical series for a small to mid-sized publisher. I don’t make as much money as I did when writing for the big houses, but I enjoy writing historical creative non-fiction, and as I get older, money itself is no longer the most important thing to me, although it is still very nice to have.

Not everyone wants to be rich and famous; some writers want the satisfaction and pride that comes with seeing their name on a book cover. I know an author who has a very wealthy husband. She has written about 100 non-fiction books, and says she doesn’t care much about the money.  She just loves the research and the writing process. And she is happy!

Until next time, keep writing.

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